The Queen’s speech 2021 – what does it mean for injured personnel?
I was invited to comment on the Queen’s speech of 11th May 2021 for Lexis Nexis, with regard to the government’s intention to reform the service justice system and Courts Martial with the Armed Forces Bill, in the context of personal injury claims. My comments on the consequences of the Bill are shared here, with their kind permission:
The Bill seeks to create the office of the Service Police Complaints Commissioner and enable a regime to be created for complaints against the Service Police which is expected to be modelled on the civilian regime in England and Wales (under the Police Reform Act 2002). Practitioners who have claims involving personal injury which are being investigated by the Service Police will need to navigate this new regime in circumstances where, for example, the investigation has been found wanting and a prosecution/conviction is needed to support a civil claim. This new regime will also play a part in claims where harm has been caused by the Service Police i.e. actions against the police.
The Armed Forces Covenant – The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise between the nation and its armed forces. It is rooted in legislation that sought to guarantee welfare to the families of fallen service personnel. The Bill seeks to make concrete some of these obligations on certain specified persons or bodies when exercising decisions in relation to the welfare of service personnel and veterans (in relation to housing, education and healthcare). Failures to take reasonable steps in relation to the welfare of service personnel or veterans can lead to civil claims, and so this may enhance arguments involving breaches of a duty of care.
Service complaints – the Service complaints system is the military’s equivalent of a civilian grievance process and is sometimes a gateway to gathering evidence in potential civil claims. Somewhat controversially, the Act seeks to remedy the recognised inefficiencies and significant delays in the system by imposing on complainants a stricter regime for lodging appeals (reduced from 6 weeks to 2 weeks) and conferring on deciding bodies the power to limit a complainant’s grounds for appeal. Some lawyers will recoil at the thought of a deciding body limiting the grounds on which an appeal can be made on its own decision, but the Bill seeks to make that thought a reality.
You can read the full piece here.