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Supreme Court refuses right to claim

Over 1,000 ex-military personnel who insist that they sustained serious illnesses following their exposure to nuclear testing in the 1950’s have failed in a Supreme Court to claim damages from the MOD.

The veterans blame conditions such as fertility problems, cancer, heart disease, leukaemia and cataracts on the British tests which took place on islands in the Pacific almost 60 years ago.

The servicemen have been told that their claims were time barred and needed to have been submitted within 3 years.
However, their supporters have pointed out that sufficient proof linking their conditions to the testing was not available until research results were published in 2007.

Despite most claims now being blocked, several claims will be able to proceed due to a previous legal ruling.
10 steer claimants were successful in winning the first round in 2009 when a High Court Judge gave them the go ahead.

After High Court and Court of Appeal hearings, the veterans proceeded to the Supreme Court late in 2011.
But following an appeal by the MoD, the court of Appeal blocked 9 out of the 10 steer claims, stating that they were made too late and therefore ‘statute barred’. The servicemen’s subsequent challenge has now been rejected by a 4 to 3 majority of Supreme Court judges.

Their ruling stated that the appeal judgement had been correct in blocking the 9 claims but confirmed that the tenth could proceed. The total number of claims that will now proceed could number hundreds.

The veterans families are said to be very disappointed and have called on MP’s to intervene.
Although the MoD acknowledges a debt of gratitude to servicemen, they deny any negligence. Their spokesperson said that the judges understood the difficulties that the veterans would face in order to prove causal links between the tests and their illnesses.

The decision means that the UK is now one of the last countries anywhere that hasn’t compensated nuclear test veterans. The US, Australia, Russia, France and New Zealand have each recognised the debt they owe to service veterans.