News story

Better Combat Compensation for Armed Forces

Members of the Armed Forces and their families are set to receive bigger compensation payments for injuries or death sustained in combat, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has announced.

Royal Marines performing a beach assault. Crown copyright.
Royal Marines performing a beach assault. Crown copyright.

The Ministry of Defence has today launched a consultation on proposals to deliver better compensation in future combat situations. Under the new enhanced scheme, individuals or their families will be awarded better compensation for injury or death in combat, without having to bring lengthy and costly legal cases.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

Our Armed Forces put their lives on the line to keep us safe. This new scheme will mean more generous payments to anyone injured - or the families of those who are killed - in combat. By making these changes we will put more money into compensation and remove the stress of lengthy legal action.

The current no-fault Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) provides payments to individuals who suffer injuries or illness as a result of their service, or to their families in the case of those who died. Where personnel or families believe the MOD has been negligent, they may choose to go through the courts to seek additional compensation.

When death or injury is as a result of combat, the long-held common law principle of ‘combat immunity’ means those affected are not able to get court-awarded compensation for negligence. That can force them into difficult, long and expensive litigation to persuade the courts that this principle should not apply, arguing that the negligence arose at a point before combat, e.g. in training or decisions about equipment.

The new scheme, proposed by the MOD, means that those injured or killed in combat situations will get payments equal to the often larger amounts paid out in court cases, without having to go through that costly and stressful litigation.

As part of these reforms, the MOD will clarify in primary legislation that the common law principle of combat immunity should apply to deaths or injuries which occur in the course of combat situations. This move comes after military advisers warned that the “judicialisation of war” - the increasing involvement of the courts in decisions about military planning and equipment - could undermine the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces.

Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Stuart Peach said:

Clarifying combat immunity and offering better compensation will remove the need for legal action and the courts will no longer have to second guess military decisions. This will allow our Armed Forces to do their job knowing they, or their families, won’t have to go to court for compensation in the case of injury or death in combat.

I strongly encourage personnel to contribute to the consultation in order to have their views considered in the development of the scheme.

The consultation will seek views on things like the definition of combat and how the new scheme should operate. The MOD will consider the outcomes of the consultation closely, and it is hoped that scheme will be implemented as quickly as possible. The consultation is now open.

Published 1 December 2016