London: Court case victory for UK and Pacific nuclear veterans

Court victory another step in nuclear veterans' lengthy compensation battle

Over 20,000 British, Fijian, New Zealand and Australian military personnel witnessed Britain's nuclear testing program in Australia and the Pacific between 1952 and 1958.

In 2004, a group of nuclear veterans lodged a major compensation case in London, with ten veterans representing a larger group of 1,011 claimants. Lawyers for the UK Ministry of Defence argued that this case should be struck out because of the long delay since the nuclear tests were conducted.

But on 5 June, Justice David Foskett of the High Court in London brought down his ruling in the case of AB and others v Ministry of Defence. In an important victory for the veterans, the court ruled that the case can proceed to trial.

Giving his verdict, Mr. Justice Foskett said a 2007 scientific study by Professor Al Rowland – which showed significant genetic damage to a group of New Zealand sailors who witnessed the tests - had provided new evidence of the potential health impact of the tests.

There is a need for public pressure to ask the UK Ministry of Defence not to appeal the ruling, and to compensate the veterans without further lengthy trials. In his ruling, Judge Foskett suggests the need for a political rather than legal solution: “I suspect that for many who have lent their names to this litigation, substantial monetary compensation is not the goal…it is to be hoped that serious efforts towards settlement will take place at an appropriate time and that a trial of the issues can thus be avoided.”

The full ruling by Judge David Foskett in the High Court in London can be found at: www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2009/1225.html