The time has come for the government to compensate nuclear test veterans for the damage they say they suffered from atomic fallout in the 1950s, the High Court heard yesterday.
Around 1,000 veterans from all three armed services are claiming hundreds of millions of pounds in damages for injuries ranging from skin conditions to cancer and death. The High Court claims relate to bomb testing in mainland Australia and the Pacific by the Ministry of Defence at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence began an attempt to derail the compensation cases, claiming it is now far too late to launch personal injury actions. The MOD says the Limitation Act 1980 provides a “time bar” which prevents the veterans from launching their claims outside of a set period after they became aware that they had a valid claim. But a top barrister, Benjamin Browne QC, representing the veterans, told the court and Mr Justice Foskett that only recently has the information become available to proceed with the claims.
Addressing a court packed with veterans and their families, some wearing blazers and medals, he told of research from New Zealand which showed that sailors operating long distances from the test areas had suffered ill effects from the fallout. Lawyers for the veterans say they suffered personal injuries of all types, ranging from minor injuries and skin conditions to cancers of the thyroid, liver, intestine and lungs and even death.
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