An unprecedented number of legal challenges against the Ministry of Defence is causing uncertainty

The Supreme Court’s ruling last year that military personnel and their families could sue the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for negligence in the case of death or injury has caused an “unprecedented” number of legal challenges against the MoD and could result in commanders withholding troops from battle, MPs have warned. A report by the Defence Committee said that the legal judgement allowing personnel and their families to sue for negligence in cases of death or injury was “incompatible” with soldiering and that the Supreme Court’s ruling last year had undermined the previously well-understood principle of combat immunity. Chairman of the committee, James Arbuthnot MP, said that soldiers needed clarity before going to war. He added: “They must obey the law but in order to obey the law they do need to know what that law is and at the moment it’s very far from clear. “And therefore the uncertainty that is created in the minds of our armed forces is one which is causing concern amongst them and it’s one which the Ministry of Defence needs to deal with.” Shadow defence secretary, Vernon Coaker MP, shared the committee’s concerns. He said “A clear tension exists between the law of armed conflict and human rights law, and we must ensure this does not negatively impact future military operations or the welfare of our forces and their families. “Any resolution must balance the defence of our country with the rights of those Armed Forces personnel who protect it.” The committee has called for ministers to reassess the legal framework for conducting military operations as part of the forthcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review as the current judgement had created an “almost unlimited potential for retrospective claims”. The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Setfords Solicitors are a national full service law firm, with personal injury solicitors in London and across the country.