Injured armed forces personnel and veterans will be treated as second class citizens if restrictions to their legal rights are not dropped from a Government Bill, lawyers have warned peers.
Members of the House of Lords will continue to consider amendments to part two of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill tomorrow (11 March).
“After yesterday’s debate, an arbitrary and absolute six-year time limit on negligence claims against the Ministry of Defence remains a part of this Bill,” said Sam Elsby, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) a not-for-profit group, committed to helping injured people.
“This means that our armed forces personnel who are injured needlessly during overseas operations will have less protection under the law than prisoners in this country.
“Only the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will benefit, as it will escape the responsibility of compensating some of those who are injured through its own negligence,” he said.
“We urge peers, during tomorrow’s debate, to support amendments which would still allow judicial discretion in these cases and help to safeguard the rights of injured service personnel and veterans.”
Mr Elsby explained that there are many reasons why people are not able to bring claims within the set time limits: sometimes they are misinformed about their rights; sometimes, the very nature of the injury can make it impossible to bring a claim on time.
“For example, even after receiving a diagnosis, it can take people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) many years before they are able to talk about what happened to them without fear of reliving the trauma,” Mr Elsby explained.
“By the time they are ready to talk and ask for legal help, it could then be too late if this Bill, as drafted, becomes law. Injured personnel and veterans will no longer be able to rely on the unfettered discretion of the courts to allow a claim to proceed after the limitation period has expired. They will be denied the justice they deserve, and to which they should have a right,” he said.
“We reject utterly the continued assertions from ministers that part two of this Bill is beneficial to service personnel and veterans. It is completely without foundation.”