Defence Secretary calls for an end to litigation abuse against British troops

24th Jun 2015

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon vowed (full speech) to end abuse of the Human Rights Act by law firms that are lodging cases on an “industrial scale” against military staff deployed in countries such as Iraq.

The Defence Secretary’s announcement follows the conclusion of the Al-Sweady inquiry, in which Sir Thayne Forbes’ final report concluded that the murder and torture claims advanced on behalf of their clients against British troops by law firms Leigh Day and Public Interest Lawyers were based on “deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility”.

According to former Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, the inquiry cost taxpayers £31 million, including millions of pounds in publically funded legal aid used by the law firms in the case against the British Government.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, an MOD dossier states Public Interest Lawyers have lodged over 900 judicial review claims against the Ministry of Defence since June 2014 and are preparing another 200 cases.

In January 2015, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, an independent regulatory body created by the Law Society, announced it was investigating the two law firms for supplying false information and late disclosure of vital data that would have resulted in the refusal of publically funded legal aid, and “would have spared the service personnel a further six years of uncertainty and anxiety”.

According to the October 2014 Conservative Party’s paper “Protecting Human Rights in the UK”, and a recent speech given by Fallon on the Conservative Party’s defence policy, the next Conservative Government would make sure that the Armed Forces “are not subject to persistent human rights claims that undermine their ability to do their job”.  And, Fallon made clear that his intention is not to put Armed Forces above the law, but to “stop spurious claims and the worst form of ambulance chasing”.

This case is yet another example of excessive litigation in the UK, and the type of litigation the Justice not Profit campaign is fighting against, because it erodes the legal climate at significant cost to British tax payers.

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