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Rosenblatt Solicitors says it believes it has found "the silver bullet" that could pave the way for a multibillion-pound class action against the Government in relation to sailors used as human guinea pigs in nuclear tests in the 1950s.
The firm said that research shows a link between genetic defects and nuclear tests carried out on behalf of the UK Government at Christmas Island in the South Pacific between 1952 and 1962.
Professor Al Rowland of Massey University in New Zealand, who conducted the research, concluded that alterations found in Kiwi veterans' chromosomes could be attributed to their participation in the tests, which were codenamed Operation Grapple.
Clive Hyer, a senior supervising partner at Rosenblatt, said the study strengthened the claim against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by veterans who developed illnesses, including cancer, after the tests exposed them to significant doses of radioactive material.
Hyer said: "We already have strong evidence of the breach, with letters from the 1950s effectively saying that the men were being used as human guinea pigs, as the conscripts were exposed to radiation both with and without protection.
"This research is the penultimate piece of the evidential jigsaw puzzle that we needed. All we need to do now is prove that the chromosome defect caused the cancer, which should be fairly straightforward." Rosenblatt has already issued proceedings on behalf of more than 700 UK, New Zealand and Fijian veterans.
Lawyers in both Australia and New Zealand are also forming groups of claimants who, if as expected on 5 July the court orders a group litigation, will be able to join the action.
The MoD and the Treasury Solicitor's Department have until June 2008 to serve their defence, which is expected to be a limitation defence.