Hilary Meredith, CEO of Hilary Meredith Solicitors, addressed the Scottish Parliament last week.
Hilary was invited to speak by the Armed Forces Legal Action (AFLA) Group, hosted by Ken Macintosh, MSP for Eastwood. Other speakers included Willie Rennie MSP, Alistair Morris, President of the Scottish Law Society and Janet Hood, Council Member for the Law Society for Scotland.
AFLA is a nationwide scheme, founded in July 2013 by Scottish solicitor, Allan Steele, WS, bringing together lawyers from all parts of the United Kingdom to help the men and women who safeguard our country when they themselves need assistance.
Hilary’s address concerned the Ministry of Defence’s stance to widen the scope of combat immunity. Commenting on her presentation, Hilary said:
“At the moment the courts have ruled that in the heat of battle decision making skills can be impaired so no duty of care exists – which is a sensible approach.
“However the Ministry of Defence wants to widen this to far beyond the heat of battle – in fact all the way to Whitehall to include bad procurement decisions to send ineffective or wrong equipment to areas of conflict.
“If the courts are not inclined to widen the concept the Ministry of Defence is currently trying to persuade Parliament to enshrine the concept in Statute on the basis that law on the battlefield is interfering with effective operations.
“I believe this is totally incorrect.
“Ultimately it is the Ministry of Defence, as an employer, who is vicariously responsible for a failure in the duty of care of its employees (senior officers) if things go wrong.
“I am also not convinced that faulty equipment is the responsibility of officers in the field. It is more likely to be the procurement agency back in the UK at the direction of the Ministry of Defence.
“It is another ploy by the MoD to avoid responsibility and make officers scapegoats. It is only when the common law test of negligence becomes so serious it is criminally reckless that an officer should be held personally held to blame.”
“Lastly, if all else fails there is an undercurrent to bring back crown immunity indefinitely allowing for injury and death to go unreported. We simply cannot allow this to happen.”