Government’s response to Protecting Veterans Inquiry – our reaction

Hilary Meredith, who acts for service personnel, veterans and their families and provided evidence to the Drawing a Line: Protecting Veterans by a Statute of Limitations Inquiry, has called for all veterans facing investigation to be guaranteed immediate access to independent legal advice.

The Defence Committee yesterday published the Government’s Response to the previous Committee’s report on Protecting Veterans by a Statute of Limitations.

The report acknowledges that there is “a danger that the current approach to legal provision risks the Service community missing out on the accumulation of collective knowledge and expertise. We recommend that the MoD must engage with law firms with long experience of, and proven expertise in, providing counsel to those under investigation, in order to learn the lessons of these experiences and to ensure a more coherent approach to supporting veterans and Service personnel.”

Commenting on the report, Hilary Meredith, founder and CEO at Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester said:

“Veterans and service personnel under investigation need to be guaranteed access to independent legal representation. If their legal advice is coming from the MoD there is a clear conflict of interest.”

Hilary also believes the Defence Committee’s recommendations do not go far enough in ensuring justice prevails for veterans and service personnel.

“In failing to recommend that the MoD takes corporate responsibility for its own failings, the Defence Committee has missed an opportunity to end the great betrayal of our troops,” she added.

“Where there have been systematic failings by the MoD, in failing to provide adequate training for example, corporate responsibility should apply.

“It is nothing to do with shielding service personnel from the consequences of their actions – it is all about the MoD taking responsibility and supporting our men and women.”

Giving evidence to the Committee, Hilary previously spoke about the levels of support provided by the MoD to individuals facing legacy investigations.

“I believe service personnel and veterans facing investigation or reinvestigation should have access to a national helpline, providing free, 24-hour support. I would gladly provide my own time to make this happen.”