The government launched a legal bid yesterday to reduce compensation awards made to two soldiers for injuries suffered in service.
The Ministry of Defence is seeking a ruling over awards made to Light Dragoon Anthony Duncan, who now walks on crutches after being shot on patrol in Iraq, and Royal Marine Matthew McWilliams who fractured his thigh in a military exercise.
Duncan was originally awarded £9250 (about R54 000) but that was increased to £46 000 (about R59 000) by an appeal tribunal while McWilliams was awarded £8250 (about R10 000), which was increased to £28 750 (about R37 000) on appeal.
The High Court upheld the higher awards, ruling that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) argument that there should be a distinction between the original injury and later complications was “absurd,” the Press Association reported.
The legal action comes after two more soldiers died in Afghanistan, bringing the total killed in the bloodiest month for British soldiers in the campaign to 22.
The government announced the end of the five-week “Panther’s Claw” offensive, saying it had succeeded in driving militants out of population centres ahead of Afghan elections next month.
Natalie Lieven, the lawyer representing Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, told the Court of Appeal yesterday that awards for injuries are made under the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces Compensation Order.
She said the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeal Chamber had made wrong conclusions about the Order and had set out a number of principles on how it should be interpreted.
“The impact of that decision covers the large majority of cases under the Order and is therefore of very great importance to the Secretary of State and to the proper decision-making in many future cases,” she said.
Lieven said the Order did not allow benefits to be paid for injuries predominantly caused or made worse by tobacco, drugs and alcohol use, medical treatment except while on military operations outside Britain where facilities are limited, or for events occurring before the soldier entered the Armed Forces.
She said the scheme provided compensation on a tariff basis which depended on the nature and severity of the injury.
“The current scheme normally awards compensation which is final and aims to cover the average expected effects of the injury over a lifetime, rather than a claimant’s overall condition at some later date,” she said.
The appeal tribunal had erred in law in considering the condition at the date of decision on the claim, rather than considering the injury at the date it occurred, she said.
Minister for Veterans Kevan Jones said the action was being taken to remove inconsistencies and clarify how the compensation scheme should work.
“What we are doing is trying to get fairness in the scheme,” he told BBC TV.
“The important thing is we get clarity and the only way that can be done is at the court.”
Pic: British troops