Ministry of Defence should be subject to Corporate Manslaughter – Philippa Tuckman

A response by Philippa Tuckman, Partner, Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd:

The recommendations in this report will save lives if they are followed by the Government and MoD. I am very proud to have been able to contribute to the evidence on which they are based.

I am absolutely delighted that the Committee has recommended that the MoD should at last lose the immunity it enjoys from prosecution for corporate manslaughter.  As I said to the Committee, it is vital for our clients, their families and civil society that the MoD should be accountable to society for the treatment and care it gives to those who protect us. It is very sad that the MoD has resisted this for so long. I hope they will now acknowledge gracefully that the tide has turned against that position and in favour of  openness and equality of treatment for the members of our armed services  under the law.

The loss of immunity from prosecution is the most dramatic of the recommendations, but the report goes further. We should not lose sight of the less headline-friendly  but equally important ones the Committee has made.

In particular, I welcome the deceptively mild concern the Committee expressed that the MoD has not always got the balance right between adequate training and reducing risk, resulting in life-changing injuries and deaths in training. The solutions the Committee rightly proposes include  a much greater openness and communication with outside experts, but also – and in my view, as I told the Committee, this is key – to encourage service men and women  to feel confident in reporting injuries, concerns and accidents up the chain of command.  This will take a culture change across all the Services, but unnecessary deaths and injuries simply cannot be avoided unless it happens.

I have represented far too many service men and women who have been injured by negligence to be naive about this. Our clients will be protected by the Committee’s recommendations, but only if they are followed by the Government and the MoD.  I would urge both to work with stakeholders including injured personnel and lawyers, such as myself and Hilary Meredith, who have experience of what actually happens in reality. It will be to the benefit of the standing of the MoD in the future.

Philippa Tuckman.

Philippa provided evidence at the Beyond Endurance Inquiry.