Prime Minister pledges to end claims against armed forces
David Cameron had made a vow to work with the National Security Council to put a stop to claimant lawyers ‘hounding’ our armed forces.
Cameron made a statement last week (22nd Jan) where he said that it was ‘clear there is now an industry trying to profit from spurious claims lodged against our brave servicemen and women who have fought in Iraq’.
In his statement, the Prime Minister said that the National Security Council have been asked to produce a ‘comprehensive plan’ to put an end to the industry, whilst also proposing to clamp down on ‘no win no fee’ arrangements, to strengthen the investigative powers and penalties against firms who are found to abuse the system and also to speed up the legal residence test.
Cameron said: “Our armed forces are rightly held to the highest standards, but our troops must know when they get home from action overseas this government will protect them from being hounded by lawyers over claims that are totally without foundation”.
Though Cameron did not mention any specific law firms, London firm Leigh Day have already responded by saying no one should be considered ‘above the law’. The firm are one of many who have brought several high-profile claims of this type.
Cameron had already said that Leigh Day had ‘questions to answer’, in relation to the fallout from the Al-Sweady inquiry, where it became apparent that many claims were false. The firm have recently confirmed that they have been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over allegations that were made about witnesses giving untrue evidence. Though confirming this, Leigh Day strongly deny these allegations.
Speaking after Cameron’s statement, Leigh Day said that many cases of abuse have been made in the last 12 years, since the Iraq invasion. They added that the government have since paid compensation in more than 300 cases.
The firm continued: “The vast majority of serving army soldier do a first-class job in protecting this country but the evidence shows that this is by no means the case for all. We have a system in this country that enables people to obtain justice if they have suffered abuse, damage of loss at the hands of anyone. No one is above the law, not us, not the British Army and not the government”.
Speaking on the matter, the Law Society said: “Solicitors represent both those bringing claims against the state, and those serving in the armed forces, both regular and reserve, as trusted legal advisers. Everyone’s actions are subject to the rule of law – international human right treaties and the law of armed conflict – and everyone’s fundamental rights must be protected”.
They added: “Upholding the rule of law and the proper administration of justice are the first professional duties which all solicitors must deliver, and our members work hard for their client, be they individuals or the armed forces commanders, to ensure that all receive justice”.
‘We wait with interest to hear of the government’s proposals for reforming the law of human rights – and now the plans to be put forward by the National Security Council, but we hope that as rights are universal, they continue to apply to everyone.
‘An independent regulatory system already exists to identify and penalise wrongdoing including any involvement in the fabrication of claims. If lawyers contravene the rules of professional conduct, or act unlawfully, they must be subject to professional discipline. Legal aid contracts already allow the Legal Aid Agency to apply sanctions where there is an official investigation.’