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Since winning the first-ever writ against the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in 1987, Hilary Meredith has made a name for herself among the armed forces.
With a niche in personal injury (PI) claims for military personnel injured during manoeuvres or combat, Meredith’s work involves the Government, charities and the military community. After years spent battling what she terms the “closed shop” of the MOD, things are changing, in no small part due to Meredith’s involvement with the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), which was introduced in 2005, for which Meredith helped set up the claims department.
“Before 2005 the AFCS had problems even locating the claimant, let alone the injury they’d suffered,” she says. “It’s changed over the years and access to information is becoming available. Hopefully we’ve had some influence on the way things are working now.”
Meredith’s career spans cases relating to Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the first Gulf War and Afghanistan against a background of ongoing cases concerning Gulf War Syndrome.
Meredith, who is secretary of the Royal British Legion Solicitors’ Group and who lobbies the House of Commons on MOD disclosure, entered the practice after working with a widow who could not find out what had happened to her husband, who died in battle. When information did come, it was often wrong.
But times are changing. Recently, in an ongoing case, two MOD representatives met with a claimant’s family, marking the first time the MOD has volunteered information prior to an inquest. Meredith has also attended a court martial in relation to a client. This newfound access is beneficial, but the firm still finds it difficult to find insurance for such cases.
“We do a tremendous amount of pro bono work,” admits Meredith. “Insurers don’t insure cases where there’s little information, and a battlefield in a far-flung country isn’t appealing to them.”
Firm: Hilary Meredith Solicitors Managing partner: Hilary Meredith Turnover: £4m Number of partners: Two Number of equity partners: One Number of lawyers: 11 Number of fee-earners: 21 Number of offices: One Location: Wilmslow Main practice area: Military personal injury