The recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Smith and Others v. The Ministry of Defence has sent commentators on both sides of the argument into hyperbolic overdrive.
The case, first heard in February, passed judgement last week, ruling in favour of the plaintiff and thus setting a potential precedent for future lawsuits and claims against the armed forces.
Armed forces claims have been on the increase since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly in cases of PTSD claims (post traumatic stress disorder) as soldiers seek to rebuild their lives outside of the theatre of war. With the recent ruling, opponents fear that the armed forces will now be inundated with claims that leave them tied up in legality and unable to perform battlefield duties effectively. Extrapolated to the extreme, sensationalist stories have surfaced that ostensibly consider the possibility of keeping troops in base after nightfall for fear of combat in the dark being ‘too dangerous.’
The salacious nature of such reports is undoubtedly mere tabloid fodder, but Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has demanded an urgent review into the burgeoning ‘health and safety’ interpretation of the rules of engagement. Speaking to The Sun newspaper, Hammond stated, ‘We can’t have troop commanders living in fear of how lawyers back in London might interpret their battlefield decisions that are vital to protecting our national security.’
The media response mirrors reactions to the recent announcement by health minister Dr. Dan Poulter that the current ‘rotten NHS culture’ means that people are living with a health service that puts ‘institutional secrecy put ahead of patient safety’. With this similar reaction comes a potentially similar solution; as with the army, work harder to prevent mistakes and clinical negligence compensation claims.
Ultimately, what must be considered is that the ruling last Tuesday now means that soldiers are better protected than ever before under European Human Rights Laws. The decision to offer soldiers greater protection should not be seen as an attempt to mollycoddle them or compromise their ability to act, but rather as positive step that recognises the extremely high risks faced by our servicemen and women every day. Greater protection reinforces the increasingly high price placed on soldiers’ lives, and recognises the sacrifices they make in the line of fire.
Here at Blackwater law we specialise in military injury compensation, so if you have been affected with an Armed Force related injury and seek legal advice, please get in touch today on 0800 083 5500.