British court throws out most nuclear test health claims
A British court ruled Monday that only one veteran out of more than 1,000 who blame health problems on British nuclear tests in the South Pacific in the 1950s is entitled to seek compensation.
High court judges accepted the bulk of the government's appeal against a decision in June 2009 which stated that ten test cases out of 1,011 claims could proceed to a full trial, by ruling that only one case could go forward.
The ex-servicemen claim they suffered cancer, skin defects and fertility problems because of involvement in the tests in Australia, Christmas Island and Monte Bello Islands between 1952 and 1958.
The three judges ruled that nine of the ten cases referred for trial were lodged outside the legal time limit and also said the veterans had no evidence to prove their illnesses were caused by radiation exposure.
Only the case of the late Bert Sinfield will be allowed to proceed.
However, the veterans are likely to appeal, according to their lawyer, Neil Sampson, who said: "We are digesting the full judgment and anticipate making an application to the Supreme Court to overturn today's decision."
Andrew Robathan, a junior defence minister, welcomed the court's judgement and said that while the government recognised the "invaluable contribution" the veterans had made, their claims had been "extremely weak".
"While I have tremendous sympathy with anyone who is ill, the court accepted arguments that the general merits of the claims were extremely weak and said that the claimants had produced no evidence to link illnesses with attendance at the nuclear test," he said in a statement.
"We recognise the invaluable contribution of all service personnel who took part in the nuclear testing programme. We are grateful to them for the part they played in ensuring UK security."
He added that a war pension was available for all former British servicemen suffering from an illness or injury attributable to their time in the military.
© 2010 AFP