Firms press on despite Gulf War research

TWO firms representing deformed children of Gulf War veterans say they will not wait for official research into possible links between Gulf War Syndrome and birth defects to fight for compensation.

The Ministry of Defence announced last week that it would carry out the three-year study, which is a partial victory for the 500 veterans who are claiming compensation for illnesses, dubbed Gulf War Syndrome.

The parents of up to 80 children are thought to be seriously considering claiming for compensation. Sixty of these are represented by Manchester-based Donn & Co and six by Dawbarns of Norfolk.

Many more serving parents have enquired about compensation but are too frightened of job loss to do anything, according to the Gulf War Veterans Association.

Donn & Co is about to apply for legal aid on behalf of 12 of its child clients. Partner Hilary Meredith said the firm was compiling medical evidence and research from the US.

She added: “We were first contacted about baby cases in January 1995 and one of the partners travelled to the US to talk to academics and support groups about this subject. Since then, there has been a steady trickle of baby cases, which we are treating entirely separately from veterans' claims.”

Dawbarns partner Richard Barr said his firm was using the Internet to compile information from US studies into affected children.

“This is the first big case I know of where the Internet will play a big part,” he said.

The Legal Aid Board has outlined how it will fight this week's judicial review of its award of a contract to lead a compensation case for Gulf War veterans.

Last July, the board awarded the work to lead the veterans' case against the Government to Dawbarns and Plymouth-based Geoffrey Stevens & Co.

The board said it was confident of the outcome of the judicial review brought by Donn & Co. The board will argue three main points: that the decision is not susceptible to judicial review because it is a private that Dawbarns and Geoffrey Stevens are the best firms to fight the case; that even if the board's decision was wrong, it would not be a good thing to interfere with a contract which had been running for six months.