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Helping the Armed Forces Community - the Time is Now!

The armed forces community should enjoy the same standard of, and access to, health as that received by any other UK citizen in the area they live. Those injured in service, whether physically or mentally, should be cared for in a way, which reflects the nation’s moral obligation to them whilst respecting the individual’s wishes. For those with concerns about their mental health, where symptoms may not present for some time after leaving service, they should be able to access care with health professionals who have an understanding of armed forces culture. Sadly, sometimes, this is not the case and there are a number of ex service personnel who have both mental and physical problems as a consequence of their military service. The government has addressed this by means of the Armed Forces Covenant, which describes how public services broadly should support current serving personnel, military veterans and their families.

The government has a particular responsibility of care towards members of the armed forces. This includes responsibility to maintain an organisation which treats every individual fairly, with dignity and respect. As part of the government’s work to make the UK the best place in the world to be a member of the armed forces, the Minister for Defence, Leo Docherty’s statement made on 22 September 2021 says that he is “committed to ensuring that all veterans who may be struggling are able to access dedicated support”. This statement was made in relation to the increasing numbers of veterans who tragically take their own lives. Read more here.

Mr Docherty continues saying that “The UK government is working to develop a new method for recording and reporting cases of suicide within the veteran community.” This new method identifies statistics of veterans who die by suicide each year in England and Wales. This new work will ensure that the government is meeting its responsibility of care towards the members of the armed forces and to better understand the tragic issue of suicide to implement “future policy and interventions in support of the veteran community”.

While the government undertakes its new method, it is also best to know what help is out there. We as a community can assist by signposting members of the armed forces to various support organisations.

If you know someone who is a member of the armed forces, within your family, friends or acquaintances who are dealing with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, there are many organisations out there that provide specialist treatment and support from every service and conflict, focusing on those with complex mental health issues related to their military service. Here are some notable organisations we have referred our armed forces clients to:

In this week's podcast episode we welcome Andrew Preston, a veteran who has to live with PTSD, who shares his story with Louise Howard - listen here.

If you are worried about a member of the armed forces, try to get them to talk to you. Just listening to what someone has to say and taking it seriously can be more helpful. Reaching out to someone could help them know that someone cares, that they are valued, and help them access the support they need. Everyone copes and reacts in their own way, and the time to give them support is now. Not next month, next week or tomorrow, but NOW.

Personal Injury Time Limit Within Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act 2021

On 29 April 2021, the Overseas Operations Bill received Royal Asset.
What Does This Mean for Our Service Personnel and Veterans?

Part 1 of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act (OOA 2021) ensures that when judges are deciding whether to prosecute service personnel and veterans of an overseas criminal offence, consideration is taken for the unique context of the alleged offence having occurred abroad.

Part 2 of the OOA 2021 encompasses civil claims, including personal injuries arising from overseas operations. Such claims are now subject to an absolute limitation period of six years from the date of the incident, or six years from knowledge of the incident, meaning that judges are unable to use their discretion to allow claims after this period.

Why Is the OOA 2021 Necessary?

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) asserts that the OOA 2021 is needed to protect military personal and veterans participating in overseas operations following an unprecedented increase in the number of legal claims, in particular regarding past operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government claims the OOA 2021 will create certainty and protect service personnel and veterans from the continued threat of repeated investigations and potential prosecution.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) publicly rejected the foundations of such claims, stating that only the MOD will benefit from such amendments to the law, as the MOD will consequently avoid liability for compensating those injured as a result of their negligence. In fact, it also remains unclear to us, as to why the MOD has chosen to deny its valiant service personnel compensation by introducing a long stop limitation date that civilians (and those our forces are serving) are not subject to. In usual personal injury claims involving occupational liability, the judge usually has discretion to allow out of time claims. This option has been taken away from those injured by overseas operations for reasons that remain unclear and unsupported.

Six years may appear to be a generous amount of time to bring a claim, however APIL has cited two main difficulties with this “arbitrary” time limit:

  • Injured service personnel are often wrongly informed they are unable to pursue a claim or wrongly informed they don’t have a valid claim by those higher in rank.
  • PTSD is a common personal injury that is sustained within the forces and its symptoms can vary enormously. Some members may be unable to talk about what has happened to them even six years following a diagnosis.

Should we be denying justice to our servicemen and servicewomen because they are not able to talk about the devastating events that caused their psychological injuries in the near future? Should we be denying justice to our servicemen and servicewomen because they were wrongly manipulated or belittled into believing that their injuries were not caused by any negligence? It is also of note that a large proportion of claims are for noise-induced hearing loss, something which may not become immediately obvious and could remain latent and undiagnosed for decades.

Proposal of Amendment to Original Bill

The House of Lords appeared to recognise these issues and proposed an amendment to the original bill, calling to exclude “actions brought against the Crown by serving or former service personnel from the limitations on courts’ discretion that [Part 2] imposes in respect of actions relating to overseas operations.” This amendment recognised the importance of those who put their life on the line by serving their country overseas. Although, some have argued it did not go far enough and indirectly created a two-tier system in which civilian employees or families of deceased personnel may have been unable to make claims.

The potentially discriminatory impact of the two-tier system became a moot point as the House of Commons rejected the Lords amendment in its entirety by a majority of 357 to 268. Part 2 applies in the same way “to all claimants bringing claims connected with overseas operations against the MOD, whether they are military personnel, civil servants, contractors or local nationals” and the government states that “service personnel and veterans can continue to access the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, which has a seven-year time limit for bringing claims.”

During the debate in the House of Commons of the above amendment, it was argued by MP Leo Docherty that approximately 94% of the claims brought against operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were brought within the six year time limit. However, MP John Healey cited findings that if the bill had been enforced since 2007, then 195 troops would have been caught and prevented from pursuing a successful claim.

Regardless of statistics, we contend that no single person prepared to put their lives on the line for their country should be denied from seeking compensation and justice for their injuries sustained as a result of doing so. We can therefore see no justification for our armed forces having less protection for personal injuries than those they are fighting to protect. For more information, please contact our personal injury team.

Personal Injury Time Limit within the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act 2021

On 29 April 2021, the Overseas Operations Bill received Royal Asset.

What Does This Mean for Our Service Personnel and Veterans?

Part 1 of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act (OOA 2021), ensures that when judges are deciding whether to prosecute service personnel and veterans of an overseas criminal offence, consideration is taken for the unique context of the alleged offence having occurred abroad.

Part 2 of the OOA 2021 encompasses civil claims, including personal injuries arising from overseas operations. Such claims are now subject to an absolute limitation period of six years from the date of the incident, or six years from knowledge of the incident, meaning that judges are unable to use their discretion to allow claims after this period.

Why Is the OOA 2021 Necessary?

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) asserts that the OOA 2021 is needed to protect military personal and veterans participating in overseas operations following an unprecedented increase in the number of legal claims, in particular regarding past operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government claims the OOA 2021 will create certainty and protect service personnel and veterans from the continued threat of repeated investigations and potential prosecution.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) publicly rejected the foundations of such claims, stating that only the MOD will benefit from such amendments to the law, as the MOD will consequently avoid liability for compensating those injured as a result of their negligence. In fact, it also remains unclear to us, as to why the MOD has chosen to deny its valiant service personnel compensation by introducing a long stop limitation date that civilians (and those our forces are serving) are not subject to. In usual personal injury claims involving occupational liability, the judge usually has discretion to allow out of time claims. This option has been taken away from those injured by overseas operations for reasons that remain unclear and unsupported.

Six years may appear to be a generous amount of time to bring a claim, however APIL has cited two main difficulties with this “arbitrary” time limit:

  • Injured service personnel are often wrongly informed they are unable to pursue a claim or wrongly informed they don’t have a valid claim by those higher in rank.
  • PTSD is a common personal injury that is sustained within the forces and its symptoms can vary enormously. Some members may be unable to talk about what has happened to them even six years following a diagnosis.

Should we be denying justice to our servicemen and servicewomen because they are not able to talk about the devastating events that caused their psychological injuries in the near future? Should we be denying justice to our servicemen and servicewomen because they were wrongly manipulated or belittled into believing that their injuries were not caused by any negligence? It is also of note that a large proportion of claims are for noise-induced hearing loss, something which may not become immediately obvious and could remain latent and undiagnosed for decades.

Proposal of Amendment to Original Bill

The House of Lords appeared to recognise these issues and proposed an amendment to the original bill, calling to exclude “actions brought against the Crown by serving or former service personnel from the limitations on courts’ discretion that [Part 2] imposes in respect of actions relating to overseas operations.” This amendment recognised the importance of those who put their life on the line by serving their country overseas. Although, some have argued it did not go far enough and indirectly created a two-tier system in which civilian employees or families of deceased personnel may have been unable to make claims.

The potentially discriminatory impact of the two-tier system became a moot point as the House of Commons rejected the Lords amendment in its entirety by a majority of 357 to 268. Part 2 applies in the same way “to all claimants bringing claims connected with overseas operations against the MOD, whether they are military personnel, civil servants, contractors or local nationals” and the government states that “service personnel and veterans can continue to access the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, which has a seven-year time limit for bringing claims.”

During the debate in the House of Commons of the above amendment, it was argued by MP Leo Docherty that approximately 94% of the claims brought against operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were brought within the six year time limit. However, MP John Healey cited findings that if the bill had been enforced since 2007, then 195 troops would have been caught and prevented from pursuing a successful claim.

Regardless of statistics, we contend that no single person prepared to put their lives on the line for their country should be denied from seeking compensation and justice for their injuries sustained as a result of doing so. We can therefore see no justification for our armed forces having less protection for personal injuries than those they are fighting to protect. For more information, please contact our personal injury team.

RAF Helicopter Lands on School Playground

As an associate solicitor working in the personal Injury department at Lanyon Bowdler one of my areas of specialism is in military claims. As a firm we actively build relationships with organisations who can assist our military clients and also with local bases. Last year the firm signed the Armed Forces Community Covenant to demonstrate our commitment to the armed forces community.

We have had the privilege of working very closely with RAF Shawbury and as a firm we have had the opportunity to understand more about the work of the No.1 Flying Training School and School of Air Operations Control, having enjoyed a comprehensive tour of the base last autumn.

I was really interested to hear that the Flying Training School offer visits to local primary schools. As a parent governor of my children’s primary school I knew the school would be really keen to arrange a visit. A few emails later, liaising with the corporate engagement relations officer and the head teacher, the date was set for a helicopter to land on the playground at Coalbrookdale Primary on 8 October 2019.

The head teacher managed to keep the visit a complete surprise from the children. After lunch all the children lined up at the front of the building overlooking a lower playground, they weren’t told why, they were just asked to wait patiently. A few minutes passed with lots of guessing from the children as to what they waiting for, but none of them guessed what happened next. A helicopter appeared, circled the school, and then slowly but surely landed on the playground in front of 216 barely containable, excited, screaming children. The pilot, Mr Nigel Thorpe, was greeted as if a celebrity.

Each class was thrilled to go down to the lower playground to explore the helicopter inside and out, ask questions of the pilot about the helicopter itself and those relating to a military career. The pilot coped brilliantly in answering all sorts of questions, from the more technical: “how do you fly?” to the fanciful: “do you know Tom Cruise…..?” A photographer then had the enviable task of arranging the excitable children calmly for a class photograph in front of the helicopter. The school welcomed the opportunity to use the event as a focus for the week’s lessons from science and technology, to creative writing where students described the landing of the helicopter.

The visit was very much appreciated by pupils, teachers and parents alike and it was a great opportunity to engage the local community and offer information about the Defence Helicopter Flying School at Shawbury. However, there has been an additional unexpected bonus from the visit.

Usually the school would have class photos taken during the summer term so the children have a memento of all their class mates, teachers and teaching assistants from the year. This year has been a strange year for all, with the school forced to close at the beginning of lockdown and has only been able to reopen for the children of key workers and limited class years. Arranging a group photo has just not been possible. So when the head teacher suggested the photos taken from the helicopter would be used in place of the normal school photo I thought this was a brilliant memento for the children, not only of their year at school but of the visit that was enjoyed by all. Of course it also means that the pilot has now made all the school photos this year.

Squadron Leader Kim Leach from RAF Shawbury said: “The aircrew from Number 1 Flying Training School at RAF Shawbury are always keen to support science, technology, engineering and maths activities in our local schools. It is also important to raise awareness of the history and purpose of the Armed Forces and to show how these essential subjects help to shape our future success. We are glad that the children enjoyed the visit of the helicopter and crew and we are delighted that the photographs taken on the day will provide a lasting memory.”

Mrs Sue Blackburn, Head Teacher at Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge CE Primary School commented: “When Mrs Howard, one of our school governors, mentioned the possibility of having a helicopter from the local RAF base coming to school; I could not have imagined how momentous an occasion this would turn out to be.

We were delighted to be able to work with RAF Shawbury to organise the helicopter visit last October. It was wonderful to see all of the children’s reactions to the event. They were so excited to see the helicopter and could hardly believe their eyes when it landed on the school playground. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to be able to look inside the helicopter and talk with the pilot. It is a memory that will last a lifetime.”

More information about Lanyon Bowdler and our support of the Armed Forces Community Covenant can be found here: https://www.lblaw.co.uk/about-us/our-community

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27 Jul 2020

RAF Helicopter Lands on School Playground

As an associate solicitor working in the personal Injury department at Lanyon Bowdler one ...

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