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Defence Defence

Protect armed forces personnel from legal claims

Last updated: 09:27am 4 February 2019

We will protect our brave armed forces personnel from persistent legal claims, which distress those who risk their lives for us, cost the taxpayer millions and undermine the armed forces in the service they give.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.41

Our verdict

In 2016, the previous government announced its intention to prevent the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) leading to what it called “false charges against our troops on an industrial scale”. The argument made by leading ministers was that an industry of unscrupulous lawyers had sprung up to enrich themselves by pursuing “vexatious claims” against soldiers following conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the way to prevent this was to derogate from (not conform to) certain articles in the ECHR.

This policy is a continuation of the attempt to put a stop to what the government views as unwarranted claims of misconduct by our armed forces.

The mechanisms proposed in the manifesto for achieving this objective are covered in two related policies:

The first of those aims to release the UK from certain obligations under the ECHR during future conflicts. Our verdict for that is ‘in progress’, although we need to monitor the impact of the UK’s potential exit from the EU.

We’ve marked the second of those policies as ‘not started’, as we can find no evidence of reforms to the legal aid process.

Given the status of those verdicts, and especially the policy on preventing “vexatious claims”, we can’t say armed forces personnel are yet protected from persistent legal claims. It’s possible the UK will not conform to the ECHR in future conflicts, but for now this one is ‘not started’. We’ll keep an eye on Brexit and also look out for legal aid reforms to see if we need to move this to ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for the latest developments.

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