Claims on behalf of British soldiers falsely accused of brutality and abuses against Iraqi civilians have added to this week’s rush of group actions.
We have already reported on Harcus Parker opening a new front in the car emissions litigation, and Edwin Coe acting for investors in suing HSBC for its role in a series of Disney film financing schemes that they allege were fraudulent.
Cheshire firm Hilary Meredith Solicitors is preparing an action against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the work of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which it said “hounded thousands of innocent troops” and was shut down in June 2017.
“Countless lives were ruined by the £60m probe – set up in 2010 – to pursue allegations of wrongdoing during the Iraq War,” the firm said.
“Disgraced lawyer Phil Shiner’s Public Interest Lawyers and other law firms made more than 3,500 allegations involving the British military following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, using legal aid funds.”
Mr Shiner was struck off as a solicitor in 2017 after being found guilty of misconduct and dishonesty relating to false abuse claims against troops.
The claim website strongly attacks Mr Shiner, accusing him and “his cronies” of instituting “a reign of terror through IHAT and the courts”.
Earlier this month, Andrew Cayley, the director of the Service Prosecution Authority said just one remaining case was being examined, with the “low level” of offending and lack of credible evidence leading to most cases being dismissed.
The eponymous Hilary Meredith – well known for her work on military claims – represented soldiers investigated by IHAT and described its conduct “as one of the most shameful episodes in modern legal history”.
She continued: “Thousands of British soldiers were falsely accused of war crimes. The whole investigation was a witch hunt based on deceit.”
She cited the comments of veterans minister Johnny Mercer, who has previously branded IHAT a “poisoned well” and hit out at a “rotten core” of MoD civil servants who he said had warped the purpose of the process.
Ms Meredith said: “The MoD has clearly breached the duty of care it owes to our service personnel and veterans.
“They owe a duty of care in law, under the military covenant, morally and ethically to stand by those who serve. Instead, they allowed IHAT to pursue innocent troops with false evidence of vile war crimes.
“The falsely accused have paid a huge price – shattered lives, broken marriages, ruined finances, stalled careers, poor mental and physical health.”
Meanwhile, class action law firm PGMBM said it has so far signed up 10,000 claimants from 50 countries to its privacy claim over the easyJet data breach, which it said made this the UK’s “biggest and fastest growing group-action personal data claim, just three weeks after papers were filed”.
PGMBM is one of several law firms looking to build groups, and has put easyJet’s potential liability at £18bn, or £2,000 for every one of the nine million impacted customers, under GDPR.