The Ministry of Defence (MoD), whose proposals are being consulted on next week, want to scrap the legal duty of care it owes to service personnel in the course of combat. Compensation would instead be awarded by an MoD-appointed assessor.
Colin Redpath, father of Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, told the BBC the proposal was “wrong”. Colin’s son was killed in Iraq by a road-side bomb which exploded by his lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rover. After a five-year fight, Colin won the right to sue the MoD, arguing, “At the end of the day, they are an employer.” He explained that regardless of the industry, every employee should have “equipment that works” and “that should be the same for a soldier.”
The law currently allows for claims where someone has been injured in an accident at work and requires the Claimant to prove that their employer has breached their duty by failing to take reasonable care of their health and safety in the course of their employment. But such claims in negligence cannot be brought in relation to battlefield acts or omissions. The MoD proposes to abolish the legal duty of care it owes to service personnel and plans to stop legal claims for negligence against the MoD in the courts all together. There is already a concept of “combat immunity” which means decisions taken in “the heat of battle” cannot be second-guessed by the courts. The MoD is proposing to widen the concept of combat immunity to include all deaths and injuries in combat, including where the failings occurred far from the battlefield, for instance in failing to provide adequate equipment.
In July 2016, Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry Report identified numerous MoD failings in preparing for the Iraq War which were described as “wholly inadequate”. Lawyers say that without the duty of care owed to service personnel there is a real danger that the lessons of Chilcot will not be learned.
Peter Savage, Head of Personal Injury at the Medical Accident Group says, “The government’s plans to remove the duty of care owed by the MOD to its personnel is unconscionable.” Solicitors who have represented service personnel in actions against the MoD make the point that without the duty of care owed to soldiers, their safety is put at risk. Mr Savage went on say, “Furthermore, it would create not only a huge inequality as between the injured party and the tortfeasor, but also a blatant conflict of interest.”
Here at the Medical Accident Group, we continue to seek justice for those who have suffered injuries from accidents at work, including those affected by faulty equipment and industrial disease. Call us for free on 0800 050 1668 to discuss your accident at work with our specialist team, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.