The grandfather of a soldier killed in Iraq has said government proposals to reduce legal protections for British troops are “disgusting”.
New plans would prevent service personnel from suing the Ministry of Defence for negligence, leaving decisions about compensation to an MoD-appointed assessor.
David Godfrey, 73, who launched a campaign called Operation Braveheart to fight for truth and justice after the death of his grandson Rifleman Daniel Coffey, said the proposals are “appalling”.
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the 21-year-old’s death, which occurred when his four-vehicle patrol of Warrior and Bulldog armoured vehicles were fired on near Basra on February 27 2007.
Asked about the proposals, Mr Godfrey, from Cullompton in Devon, told the Press Association: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting, because the MoD, I believe, are shirking their responsibilities to our forces.”
Referring to the MoD-appointed assessor, he said: “Well, that says a lot doesn’t it? If they appoint someone on their behalf then what chance have our soldiers got? Where are they going to get all the finances for legal battles and goodness knows what else? I think it’s appalling.”
The MoD plans, which are currently being consulted on, would also include a “no fault” compensation scheme for injured troops and family members of those killed.
Last year, the Chilcot Inquiry found a string of MoD failings in the preparation for the Iraq War, including a delay in replacing the lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers, which are vulnerable to bombs.
Mr Godfrey, who is building a memorial garden as part of Operation Braveheart, said of the MoD: “They’ve lost the respect of our forces, they’ve lost the respect of families, they’ve lost the respect of the public.”
Lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, who has represented the families of some of the service personnel killed in Snatch Land Rovers, believes the proposals focus on the compensation rather than the protections that will be removed from soldiers.
She said: “The consultation proposes an extension to ‘combat immunity’ to cover all deaths and injuries in combat, even where the failings occurred far from the battlefield. The impact, and possibly the intention, of this change is to protect the MoD from scrutiny by the courts regarding equipment failures.
“If the MoD are immune from legal action, there is a real risk that safety standards will fall.
“It is telling that the first step by the MoD in response to the highly critical Chilcot Report isn’t to introduce new measures to protect soldiers, but instead measures to remove their own duty to operate a safe system of work where our troops are deployed. It is a shameful response.”
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the changes would “remove the stress of lengthy legal action” and ensure more money for compensation.