Hilary Meredith backs calls for overhaul of Inquest system

Hilary Meredith has backed calls for reforms to the Inquest system – specifically in relation to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Justice’s latest report, When Things Go Wrong: the response of the justice system this week called for urgent reform to major inquests and inquiries, saying the current system often leaves bereaved families and survivors feeling confused, betrayed and retraumatised.
Among the report’s 54 recommendations are a statutory duty of candour, including a rebuttable requirement for position statements, which Justice says would help foster a ‘cards on the table’ approach.
Commenting on the proposals, Hilary Meredith, Chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester, said: “So often in military inquests when the truth eventually emerges, the circumstances of death are revealed as totally different to the explanation given to loved ones. This fuels anger and further heartache for the bereaved family.
“The same mistakes are being made, with tragic consequences, time and time again. With the MoD protected by crown immunity, the maximum sanction the Health and Safety Executive can impose is a crown censure, which in reality is no more than a slap on the wrist. This lack of accountability by the Ministry of Defence has resulted in an arrogant, blasé culture.”
In 2016, the Beyond Endurance Inquiry, which was set up after the deaths of three army reservists during a training exercise on Brecon Beacons, agreed with Hilary Meredith’s evidence that the MoD should be stripped of its historic immunity from prosecution when personnel are killed during training as a result of a serious failing in its duty of care. In its response, the MoD rejected this proposal.
Continued Hilary: “Crown censures against the Ministry of Defence have no teeth. They are a totally ineffective sanction.
“I would welcome an overhaul of the Inquest system so the truth is told regardless of the consequences. Systemic failings need to be urgently addressed. Until this happens, lives will continue to be lost unnecessarily.”