The Ministry of Defence today stands accused of betraying thousands of troops who have served their country on deployments abroad by introducing “back door” legislation to prevent them from seeking legal redress for life-changing injuries.
Under section 11 of the Limitation Act 1980, personal injury claims (including PTSD) must normally be brought within three years of the date of the incident, or the date on which an individual became aware of a cause of action. Section 33 of the 1980 Act allows courts to extend the three-year period if it would be equitable to allow a claim to proceed, and prescribes a range of factors for the court to take into consideration in reaching such a decision.
However, in its latest consultation – Legal Protection for our Armed Forces and veterans serving in operation outside the United Kingdom – the MoD asks whether it would be appropriate to impose an absolute limit for bringing claims for injury and / or death in service by imposing a “longstop” time ban if the incident took place outside the UK.
The Consultation says the Government is “considering legislating to restrict the Court’s discretion to extend the normal time limit for bringing compensation claims for personal injury and/or death in relation to historical events outside the UK”.
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:
“There has been a great deal of debate in recent months about how we can protect our veterans from historic prosecutions.
“Time-barring prosecutions through a longstop is one way in which this can be achieved.
“For the MoD to use the longstop to time-bar claims from service personnel is a cynical attempt to abandon the brave men and women who have served their country – sometimes with their lives – abroad.”
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the current system of discretion by the courts, where Judges have the experience to deal with these matters.
“My suspicion is that the MoD is fully aware that a PTSD time bomb is about to explode as a result of their failure to properly diagnose and treat PTSD within the armed forces.
“As is well known, PTSD is often not diagnosed for years, sometimes decades, after the traumatic event. The MoD is attempting to time-bar thousands of claims and abandon our brave men and women.”
“The MoD owes our troops a duty of care. Their latest proposals would put service personnel in a worse position than civilians. It is a sickening attempt at back door legislation and a clear breach of the Armed Forces Covenant.”