Cameron vows to end ‘industry’ of claims against armed forces

Topics: Legal aid and access to justice,Personal injury & clinical negligence,Government & politics,Human rights

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Prime minister David Cameron today pledged to work with the National Security Council to end what he called the ‘hounding’ of service personnel by claimant lawyers.

In a statement this morning, Cameron (pictured) said it was ‘clear there is now an industry trying to profit from spurious claims lodged against our brave servicemen and women who fought in Iraq’.

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Cameron did not name specific law firms, but the London firm Leigh Day - which has brought several high-profile claims of this type - has already responded, saying no one should be considered ‘above the law’.

The prime minister said the National Security Council has been asked to produce a ‘comprehensive plan’ to stamp out the industry, with proposals to clamp down on 'no win no fee' arrangements, speed up the legal residence test and strengthen investigative powers and penalties against firms found to be abusing the system.

He said: ‘Our armed forces are rightly held to the highest standards, but our troops must know when they get home from action overseas this government will protect them from being hounded by lawyers over claims that are totally without foundation.’

During Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this month in the House of Commons, Cameron said Leigh Day has ‘questions to answer’ particularly in relation to the fallout from the Al-Sweady inquiry, where many claims fell apart and there was evidence some claims were false.

The firm confirmed this month it has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over allegations that witnesses gave unprincipled and untrue evidence. Leigh Day says it strongly denies allegations made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

On Cameron’s statement, the firm said many cases of abuse have been made in the 12 years since the Iraq invasion, with the government paying compensation in more than 300 cases.

‘The vast majority of serving army soldiers do a first-class job in protecting this country but the evidence shows that this is by no means the case for all,’ said the firm.

‘We have a system in this country that enables people to obtain justice if they have suffered abuse, damage or loss at the hands of anyone. No one is above the law, not us, not the British Army and not the government.’

In a statement this afternoon, the Law Society said: ‘The protection and promotion of human rights for all is a matter for every one of us. The concept of a universal charter on human rights was championed by Winston Churchill, and the European Convention on Human Rights arose following the world's biggest conflict. It was created to avoid such a conflict, and the atrocities that occurred during that time, from ever happening again. 

‘Solicitors represent both those bringing claims against the state, and those serving in the armed forces, both regular and reserve, as trusted legal advisers. Everyone’s actions are subject to the rule of law - international human rights treaties and the law of armed conflict - and everyone’s fundamental rights must be protected.

‘Upholding the rule of law and the proper administration of justice are the first professional duties which all solicitors must deliver, and our members work hard for their client, be they individuals or the armed forces commanders, to ensure that all receive justice.

‘We wait with interest to hear of the government’s proposals for reforming the law of human rights – and now the plans to be put forward by the National Security Council, but we hope that as rights are universal, they continue to apply to everyone. 

‘An independent regulatory system already exists to identify and penalise wrongdoing including any involvement in the fabrication of claims. If lawyers contravene the rules of professional conduct, or act unlawfully, they must be subject to professional discipline. Legal aid contracts already allow the Legal Aid Agency to apply sanctions where there is an official investigation.’

Readers' comments (47)

  • If only there was some way for the veracity of claims to be tested by a body independent of the claimants, their representatives, the MOD, HMG and their representatives.

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  • And another thing. Does Cameron intend for his misguided 'Thou shalt not sue Our Brave Boys' edict to extend to claims brought against the MoD by members of the armed forces?

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  • Here we go again, the government tinkering again in matters it has little understanding of. If the claims are "spurious" they will fail and the "ambulance chasers " will lose money. Cameron needs to step back and think before he goes launching into the arena of Daily Mail sound bites....

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  • I read that Uncle Vlad Putin has been saying that the British Government report on Litvinenko being poisoned by Russian spies in London is a "nonsense" and "spurious".

    I presume, therefore, that Cameron and Theresa May will immediately apologise in the House of Commons for making such horrible claims against the brave men of the KGB / FSB who put themselves in harms way on behalf of their Motherland; and further refrain from making any such comment again?

    After all we can't have anybody making any allegations against brave servicemen and women.

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  • Surely any "hounding of service personnel by claimant lawyers" must be at the express instruction of claimant clients? Is this a case of blaming the lawyer simply because they're easier for the public to dislike?

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  • I'm shedding no tears for the likes of Leigh Day...bring shame on the legal profession.

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  • The critical point is that surely the legal profession needs to have in place a "rapid response team" of its own in terms of dealing with political statements such as these.

    There is an intimate relationship between the law and politics, and therefore a message could have gone out to the effect, that nobody is above the Rule of Law but, having regard to the extremes present on the battlefield, jurisprudence needs to evolve to cope, and the investigation of such allegations needs also to be undertaken sensitively.

    I thought this up over a cup of coffee- why can't others do the same?

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  • I am shocked by the Prime Minister's blatant interference in the rule of Law. As soon as politicians start deciding who and who not should be liable to be sued in our Courts that is when we start moving away from a "democratic and free" society towards a police state.

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  • Where is the Law Society in all of this? The first reports of this last night said the Government were considering suing Leigh Day & Co for 'millions of pounds', this is intimidation and interference in the administration of justice, when are the Law Society going to speak out?

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  • Steven Templeton

    In answer to your question most of us do not have the slightest idea why the Law Society suffers from such deadly for us lethargy.

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