Curbs on ‘shameless’ armed forces claims within weeks

Topics: Government & politics,Human rights

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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.

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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.

Readers' comments (26)

  • Society trains young men and women to become killers, but then expects the same individuals to become social workers. Clearly there is a spectrum of behaviours to be considered, from split second decisions in theatre to sustained sessions of torture.

    Even as worthy a group as the armed services are not above the Rule of Law.

    The statement by Prime Minister highlights the shallowness of our ruling class. On the one hand they pass legislation requiring law firms to become much more like consumer centric businesses, but on the other hand then complain bitterly when inevitably some law firms process such claims on an industrial scale, as the PM would put it.

    What's its to be-Laws 'r' Us or Atticus FInch?

    Because solicitors are the processors of the Rule of the Law, they suffer the inevitable collateral damage of the changing tides of ill informed public opinion.

    What is clear is that the Law Society while it still remains in its current form must develop a "rapid response team"all of its own to counter the spin of a discredited administration.

    Solicitors in their current demoralised state deserve nothing less.

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  • So what they are actually saying is that the Claims Handling Society, by completely abandoning the moral ground in the provision of Legal Work, have allowed almost unfettered dictation by the Govt., as to who gets Legal Aid and who doesn't, and shortly who gets sued and put in prison and who doesn't. Presumably shortly aft that it will be who gets executed or disappeared (or gets wired up to the mains like in Iraq, Iran or Chile) and who doesn't.

    Isn't it great when you have a supposedly professional body that is more concerned in pretending they have some professional exams, engaging in diversity issues, and feeding ABS's and MDP's, than its role in information to the public and persuasion and fighting for the real moral providers of Legal Services in its profession....

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  • Somewhat ironic that a UK government is flexing duty of care musculature given the way it defended the Iraq personnel cases isn't it...

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  • ‘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.’

    Does anybody on here have the Evidence or Statistics to hand that purportedly back up/ support these allegations please? Only I for one would very much like to read it.

    Much Thanks in advance

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  • Well, the SRA is prosecuting Leigh Day, while the Law Society wonders how to handle all this.

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  • I agree to al these comments above.

    How did we ver get to a point where a once mighty profession touts for business in this way (and in GP's surgeries)?

    Despicable.

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  • What they really need is some sort of independent way of assessing any claims made, which subsequently makes a ruling on whether someone is entitled to damages, based on the available evidence. Almost like a Court system, for example. I could get behind that.

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  • It is just Cameron looking at putting another nail in the coffin of Solicitors he has no evidence and any stats would be made up.

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  • There is no evidence he wants rid of Lawyers full stop

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  • I can't help but think some of the impetus to go after Leigh Day is political. They've never been afraid of going after people and companies with great power.

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