Curbs on ‘shameless’ armed forces claims within weeks
Measures to curb legal claims against members of the armed forces are likely to be introduced this month.
Defence minister Penny Mordaunt (pictured) told the House of Commons this week that the government is hopeful of publishing reforms, some attached to pieces of legislation, before local election purdah on 24 March.
The issue of legal claims against armed forces has been taken up by sections of the national media and prime minister David Cameron has given his personal backing to efforts to end what he called an ‘industry’ of claims.
Mordaunt assured MPs that legislation is not being held up by its possible impact on the forthcoming EU referendum and that action is imminent.
She said: ‘Where there are allegations of serious wrongdoing, they need to be investigated, but we are very aware of the stress this places on our service personnel and we must honour our duty of care to them.
‘This will involve funding independent legal advice and pastoral support. We are also aware, however, that a great many allegations are being made on grounds of malice or by some law firms for profit. We will shortly bring forward measures to close down this shameless and shoddy racket.’
Mordaunt confirmed the government is looking at ways to recoup the £31m cost of defending the al-Sweady case, where many allegations about British forces' misconduct in Iraq fell apart and there was evidence some claims were false.
National firm Leigh Day has previously confirmed it has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over allegations that witnesses gave unprincipled and untrue evidence. The firm says it strongly denies allegations made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Mordaunt said reforms were necessary to prevent stress to individual service personnel, to stop corrupting of operations and ensure that international humanitarian law is not undermined.
The Law Society has said any proposals, developed by the National Security Council, should protect everyone’s fundamental rights. Chancery Lane has stressed that regulators already exist to identify and penalise wrongdoing where it is found.