Combat, claims and the ‘compensation culture’

One of the issues on the new PM’s agenda is, to put it briefly, how to put claims against the UK armed forces on a different footing so as to cut out speculative actions, thereby preventing time and resource being spent on such cases. Taking this sort of action was a clear commitment in the Conservative 2015 Manifesto: “We will ensure our Armed Forces overseas are not subject to persistent human rights claims that undermine their ability to do their job.”

[Perhaps we should not read anything into Mrs May being pictured on Mr Cameron’s right ‘wing’ on the front of the manifesto booklet.]

This is a highly political topic that touches on human rights and the so-called ‘compensation culture’. Ministers have rebuked some law firms in public for taking on claims against the armed forces, a line of attack which has provoked criticism from the Law Society and other quarters. It is probably a point for another forum as to whether that row engages article 16 of the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers” issued by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.

My colleague Jef Mitchell, formerly Chief Claims officer at the Ministry of Defence, has written a paper – too long for a blog post – which provides fascinating background to this issue and in which he offers some possible solutions that Government might adopt. What he suggests will be of interest to those dealing with claims arising from any sort of police or civilian detention and, more generally, to the handling of ’mainstream’ injury claims. Please do get in touch by emailing if you would like a copy of the paper.

About the Author

akAlistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.

Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.

He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).

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