Victims of nuclear testing unable to seek damages

The Supreme Court has ruled that ex-servicemen will be unable to seek compensation, after they were allegedly made ill by nuclear weapons tests in the 50’s.

Veterans, who have suffered from ill health including cancer, skin defects, and fertility problems, were told that they had waited too long to make their claims.

The judges said that, under the Limitation Act 1980, their cases should have been brought within three years. The seven judges, ruling on this case, rejected the bid with a small majority of four to three.

Aside from this time limit, the Supreme Court Justices also pointed out that the veterans would have trouble establishing a causal link between the tests and their illnesses.

Around 22,000 men were involved in the 21 atmospheric nuclear tests carried out by the British government in Australia and on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean between 1952 and 1958. For the past two years, over 1000 ex-servicemen, or their relatives, have been battling through the courts, and this news does appear to have stopped any desire to fight for their cause.

Rose Clark, 71, whose husband, Michael, died of bone and lung cancer in 1992, said the case had not been “about money, but getting official acknowledgement that the men had been put at risk”.

She added: “Michael was 19 at the time he was on Christmas Island, and witnessed five atomic bombs.

“He said he was so close he could see the bones of the people on the beach beside him. It was like an x-ray, he said. The army simply told him to turn away when the explosion occurred.”

The solicitor, representing the veterans, has condemned the ruling, saying that the government should follow the example of other countries and set up a fair and just compensation system.

Kiteleys specialises in personal injury claims, and offer advice on areas ranging from asbestos poisoning to loss of hearing, and asthma. If you need any help with a personal injury claim, contact your nearest Kiteleys and we’ll be happy to help.

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