A DUP member of Parliament has helped to uncover the enormous amount of money spend on legal costs and compensation linked to the war in Iraq.
As a result of a parliamentary question by Strangford MP Jim Shannon, it was revealed that the Ministry of Defence has paid out more than £100 million, a large proportion of which is attributable to allegations brought by the now-discredited Public Interest Lawyers.
The figures were unearthed by Mr Shannon who asked the Ministry of Defence what the cost of responding to vexatious legal challenges to soldiers was over the past three years.
In reply to Mr Shannon’s written question, Defence Minister Mike Penning said: “No precise answer is possible, since the courts do not normally make explicit findings as to whether individual cases are vexatious or not.
“We estimate, however, that the Ministry of Defence has spent over £100 million on inquiries’ legal costs and compensation relating to the Iraq conflict, a large proportion of which is attributable to allegations brought by the now-discredited Public Interest Lawyers.”
Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) represented complainants in the £31 million Al-Sweady inquiry into a 2004 battle in southern Iraq.
It also brought the bulk of cases investigated by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat), which was set up with a budget of £57 million.
PIL boss Phil Shiner was struck off as a solicitor earlier this year after he was found guilty of multiple professional misconduct charges.
Ihat is also due to close this summer, with its remaining cases being passed over to the Royal Navy Police.
Mr Shannon said: “I’ve many concerns about the amount of money being spent on legal costs whenever they should be spent on veterans’ care.
“I know the Ministry of Defence try very hard to ensure money goes where it’s needed, but here’s an example where it hasn’t. Lessons must be learnt from this.
“We need to deliver for soldiers and families of soldiers who most need our help.”