‘Parasitic law firms’ leave UK troops too scared to shoot terrorists, Portsmouth MP says

British troops in Afghanistan
British troops in Afghanistan

‘UK needs to boost its budget for the military’

  • Campaigners call for a clampdown on spurious legal claims against troops which have mushroomed in recent years
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Fears of being sued have left British soldiers too scared to shoot at armed gunmen and terrorist bomb-makers.

That is the disturbing claim made to The News by Portsmouth North’s MP.

That is the disturbing claim made to The News by Portsmouth North’s MP.

The concerns come amid calls from the chief of an armed forces campaign group in the city for a change in human right laws which he claims are being ‘weaponised’ by the UK’s enemies.

Armed forces minister Penny Mordaunt said there was growing evidence troops’ behaviour was changing because of ‘the threat of being sued’.

She said: ‘It is the behaviour of parasitic law firms churning out spurious claims against our armed forces on an industrial scale which is the enemy of justice and humanity – not our armed forces or the Ministry of Defence.

‘When the courts entertain claims against our forces of the likes of an insurgent bomb-maker suing us for not shooting him in a firefight, but instead taking him prisoner and holding him until we could guarantee he would not face mistreatment in the local justice system.’

Frankly, ‘human rights’ have been weaponised by our enemies and used against Britain’s armed forces.

Andy Smith, chief executive of UK National Defence Association

She added the UK forces must ‘feel free to take the right action’ and that the consequence of legal claims like this would be ‘grave for friend and foe’.

The minister’s comments come after a soldier from Portsmouth revealed frontline troops felt ‘disposable’.

The 30-year-old, who wished not to be named, refuted the MP’s claims that troops feared reprisals from human rights lawyers.

But he did say soldiers had serious concerns over their own rights while serving in conflict zones.

The serviceman, who has been in the British Army for more than a decade and served two tours of Afghanistan, said: ‘A few years ago we were told a soldier’s life is not covered by the Human Rights Act; we’re disposable.

‘We understand the risks and sacrifices, but we are not aptly rewarded for it.

‘When we went there (Afghanistan) it’s pretty galling to be told that you don’t have the same rights as someone back home.’

Andy Smith, chief executive of the Portsmouth-based campaign group the UK National Defence Association, has now called for human rights laws to be changed.

He was angered troops were being ‘hamstrung by threats of prosecution for spurious compensation claims’.

Speaking to The News, Mr Smith said: ‘Frankly, “human rights” have been weaponised by our enemies and used against Britain’s armed forces.

‘It seems there is a whole army of human rights lawyers out there, using every piece of European and UK human rights legislation they can to pursue and persecute British soldiers.’

Since 2004, the MoD has spent £100m on investigations and compensation cases related to the Iraq war, with a further £44m earmarked for new claims.

Legal cases being investigated have mushroomed from 150 cases in 2009 to 1,500 cases now.

Speaking in the House of Commons last month, prime minister David Cameron criticised legal firm Leigh Day for pursuing spurious allegations of abuse of Iraqis by British forces.

However, in a statement on its website, Leigh Day hit back, saying UK authorities ‘are not immune from the law’.

‘No-one is above the law, not us, not the British Army and not the government,’ the firm claimed.

‘This is the British rule of law in action and is surely what our soldiers fight to defend.’

But Havant MP Alan Mak – who backed veterans in a debate on human rights in parliament – said: ‘We send our troops abroad, so we have a duty to protect them when they come home.’