Patrick Benham-Crosswell: The MoD is right to neuter vampiric human rights lawyers

Oh dear. The legal profession is having a bad run of luck with the MoD, which has announced plans to remove the right of soldiers to sue it for negligence. Instead, it will return to paying compensation on a no-fault basis.

While the lawyers complain vociferously about infringement of rights, a quick study of history and the facts means that, for once, the MoD has got it right. Before the repeal of the Crown Immunity, all soldiers got fixed rates of compensation for injuries; £x for a leg, £y for a finger etc. The compensation was produced quickly, with no real fuss and no protracted legal wrangling. And no legal costs.

Since the repeal of Crown Immunity soldiers have had to sue the MoD, which has defended itself vigorously. Net results include a delay to injured servicemen receiving compensation of an average of 2 years, a loss of faith in the MoD’s commitment to servicemen, much stress and, of course, significant legal costs accrued by both the MoD and the claimant. Proving negligence on the battlefield is challenging at best due to the nature of combat and the effects of adrenaline, fear and stress on decision making and memories. No negligence, no award.

Thus the severely injured serviceman undergoing rehabilitation has the additional worry that he may receive little or nothing to equip him for his new life. Worse, the junior commander making split second decisions (and combat happens at pace) will worry that in addition to the trauma of having one or more of the servicemen under his command receive life changing wounds he (or she) may later be in the dock, demonstrating that the decision was not negligent.

This change removes both those problems. There are two significant, but easily solved, concerns. The first is on setting the level of compensation. Given the large number of awards made since the invasion of Iraq, setting baselines should not be difficult. The second is the impartiality of the assessor, who will inevitably in some way be an MoD employee. Again, with no need to consider fault it should be pretty straightforward; “Rifleman Tommy Atkins set out on patrol at 9 am with all his limbs intact. At 11:30 am, following a firefight, what was left of him was airlifted to a hospital which noted that he had lost one leg, one arm and an eye.”  Straightforward. The compensation could be agreed before Rifleman Atkins was discharged. Of course, if subsequent injuries were identified additional compensation could be paid.

Finding an assessor would not be hard. Should anyone lean on the assessor, a quick phone call to the papers would solve it. Better yet, without the need to pay lawyers there would be more money available for injured servicemen.

The human rights legal industry is starting to become beyond parody; the Law Society would be making better use of its time to identify other Shiner-like charlatans, (I very much doubt Phil is the only bad apple in the profession) and develop procedures to prevent repetitions. The MoD has this right.

(Image: David Holt)

Patrick Benham-Crosswell

  • North Angle

    I wasn’t aware of this travesty, Patrick – thanks for telling us all about it! It seems the MoD is regaining some common sense.

    It’s also another nail in the coffin of the likes of Shiner, who I’d like to see in court himself, along with all of his accomplices.

    • Lagopus scotica

      The Human Rights legal industry, brought to you by Tony Blair – is there no end to the man’s “talents” (for wrecking the UK)?

      • North Angle

        I would dearly like to see that man pay for what he has done to the United Kingdom. He’s first against the wall.

        • weirdvisions

          You can hold my coat…

          • North Angle


        • Lagopus scotica

          Nice thought, but as social conservatives we should be careful to uphold the law (as long as it’s sensible).

          It might take a bit longer, but perhaps we should lobby for the reinstatement of the treason law Blair and Straw ended in the late 90s, allowing execution back on the statute books, and then set up a crowdfunding appeal for a private prosecution?

          • North Angle

            It would be excellently ironic if treason was reinstated and Bliar was convicted of it.

          • Craig Martin

            A dream come true.

            Please, North Angle, make it happen!

          • North Angle

            I wish mate, I wish…

        • Rob

          I wouldn’t want him against the wall, too easy
          I want him tried in the Hague for war crimes. any prison time he would wear as a badge of honour. But the label of war criminal adds a fall from grace that stains everything he has done, touched. I think it carries far more stigma.treat him like a leper.

      • Reborn

        And let’s not forget Mrs Blair, who was, I believe,
        a “human rights” lawyer.

        • Lagopus scotica

          A clear case of conflict of interest, but of course that doesn’t apply to those in power if they’re lefties….

          • Craig Martin

            Alison Saunders – CPS springs to mind here.

    • Reborn

      Nobody ever mentions Shiner’s accomplices.
      He could not cause all this distress & spend millions of taxpayers’
      money on his own.
      The whole team should be disbarred for life & made to pay back the
      money stolen from the tax payer.

      • Rob

        Nobody ever mentions Shiner’s accomplices.
        or perhaps his enablers and apologists

        chakrabarti anyone ?

        • markbrev

          Definitely, especially as she’s STILL apologising for him.

  • redduster

    Couldn’t agree more regarding your comments about the Human Rights legal industry. However, as regards military compensation I have always thought of the MOD as sexist.
    A MOD typist can get more compensation for straining a digit than a soldier can for getting his digit shot off. Maybe it will change with women joining the front line.

    • Owen_Morgan

      Yes, well, bear in mind that the MoD employs a lot more typists than riflemen, these days.

      • RingedPlover

        Typist? Is there such a creature nowadays?

  • We treat our servicemen very poorly in this country compared with other western countries. America treats their ‘vets’ with respect, particularly those who have been injured and they often are given discounts and special treatment in civilian life. At one time, France always ensured that it’s disabled soldiers were given a job of some kind, even if it was largely a sinecure. We seem to do almost nothing, once you’re out, that’s it.
    Perhaps the MoD should employ more ex-military. I’m sure that their knowledge and experience would at least improve the chances that the equipment which MoD buys is fit for purpose!

    • markbrev

      “Perhaps the MoD should employ more ex-military. I’m sure that their knowledge and experience would at least improve the chances that the equipment which MoD buys is fit for purpose!”
      Indeed. I’ve always thought the first place any job within the MOD should be offered was to service personnel who are leaving active service. Why for need 56000 MOD personnel (admittedly including the RFA) with only 144,000 in the armed forces is beyond me.

      • Groan

        The Gov. as a whole is a huge employer. It wouldn’t hurt a bit to prioritise ex- service personnel. Particularly as most are so young and prime candidates for work experience of apprenticeships if jobs are hard. But of course so much of the Gov. service is meeting equality targets and graduate entry that I expect servicemen would both ruin the equality stats and not fit in with Graduates.
        I actually work in a labour council area, which is a prime recruiting ground. Being fair it does try to do stuff for veterans, I had a chat about this. its not matched by any similar effort from HMG as far as they are concerned.

  • Groan

    I think the MOD (or parts of it) was complicit in the Shiner affair. I don’t expect the shoddy role of the ministers and officials who rolled with these inquiries to get the scrutiny that they should.

  • weirdvisions

    Not. Before. Time.

    The mouths of parasitical lawyers being wrenched from the public teat can never be a bad thing.

  • David

    “vampiric” — I’ve learnt a new adjective today !

  • Paul Robson

    All of the lawyers in the child abuse racket, for a start.

    • Davidsb

      How true – I can’t watch a Slater & Gordon advert without throwing up…..