Why time limits aren’t needed to protect our troops from prosecution

Sunday’s Sun Newspaper reports how 2,796 servicemen and women launched legal action against the MoD last year.

The report highlights how the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, while attempting to protect British troops from legal witch-hunts, will put an unfair six-year time limit on claims against the MoD for injuries suffered overseas.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey is quoted as saying that the legislation is “crude cost-cutting” to protect MoD ­budgets rather than safeguard troops from vexatious legal claims.

The key point here is that there is absolutely no need for a time limit to protect our individual serving soldiers.

This is why:

1. The soldiers wrongly accused under Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) were accused within a 12 month period – very quickly. They then went on to face a catalogue of errors and delays through a bungled system of repeat investigations. It was the MoD’s bungled investigations that caused these cases to become historic. Build in a robust system to close down early bogus cases.

2. The foreign civilian claims were fuelled by one bogus lawyer, Phil Shiner, who has now been struck off. Stop this panic over one fraudulent lawyer. Alarm bells should have been ringing all the way down Whitehall as these cases were clearly fraudulent from the outset, but the MoD had developed a distorted “groupthink” mindset that the British Army was “rotten to the core”. Train MoD civil servants to spot fraudulent cases, think independently of each other and work on the basis of “innocent until proved guilty .”

3. Claims from foreign nationals in a country we invade. If we invade a country and have a controlling influence, be aware that there will be “chancers” who collude together to bring false evidence. Claims from a foreign country with language barriers and different cultures need to be investigated by an independent team of experts, recognising that they are very few in numbers.

Hilary Meredith