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Hilary Meredith-Beckham responds to comments by former armed forces minister, James Heappey

Special forces soldiers will face dying in battle as they hesitate to make life-or-death decisions for fear of prosecution, a former armed forces minister has told The Times.

James Heappey, a former army officer who quit government last week, warned that repeated legal investigations into the actions of troops during previous wars could have “operational consequences”.

Responding to Mr Heappey’s comments, Hilary Meredith-Beckham, founder and chair at Hilary Meredith Solicitors said: "If we, as a nation, decide to put military boots on the ground in another country, for whatever reason, it is a political decision.

"Our armed forces are the best in the world. I should know, as a lawyer I’ve acted on their behalf for over 37 years in cases all over the world.

“It is absolutely right that our troops are held to the highest standards. Any allegations of wrongdoing must be thoroughly investigated.

“However, under no circumstances can we put our armed forces in operational danger.

“We must never forget that our armed forces serving in Iraq were recently subject to the most appalling witch hunt in British legal history.

“Through my involvement acting for troops falsely accused of war crimes in Iraq, I witnessed just how baseless the accusations against them were.

“What also shocked me was a lack of official support for those under judicial fire from IHAT. They were breezily told to discuss the problem with their ‘commanding officer’ - impossible since they had left the services, and did not have the back-up of any military structure. In effect, they were left high and dry, floundering on Civvy Street.

“I was appalled by the grotesque unfairness of it all. In peddling wild claims about ill-treatment, barbarism and even murder, the accusers painted a picture of our armed forces I simply did not recognise.

“Let’s also remember that the military operates its own internal court martial system. In my view it is a very tough, thorough system more readily able to cope with military situations than these public inquiries naming and shaming those who are subsequently acquitted after years of stress and trauma.

“Furthermore, when mistakes happen the buck should stop at the top. For too long, the MoD as a corporation has hidden behind crown immunity. In modern society, it is also simply wrong for any organisation to enjoy the privilege of being completely immune to any criminal prosecution. Removing crown immunity would push the MoD to further improve its standards and ultimately save lives.”


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