Supreme Court rejects damages bid in Atomic Veterans case

Silks from Henderson Chambers and 4 New Square have helped the Government win a limitation judgment against a group of ex-servicemen in the ‘Atomic Veterans’ case.

Seven Supreme Court judges dismissed by a four-to-three majority an appeal by 1950s nuclear weapon testers who wanted compensation from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) for allegedly being exposed to radiation fallout.

Charles Gibson QC and Adam Heppinstall of Henderson, Leigh-Ann Mulcachy QC of 4 New Square, and David Evans of One Crown Office Row, acted on behalf of the MOD, having been instructed by the Treasury Solicitor. They had argued that the claims were brought too late.

The Court of Appeal had ruled against nine out of 10 lead claimants on behalf of the atomic veterans, who then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Today the Supreme Court ruled that their case was time-barred.

The vets and their relatives were represented by James Dingemans QC of 3 Hare Court, Catherine Foster and Nadia Whittaker of Crown Office Chambers and Mark James of Temple Garden Chambers, after being instructed by Rosenblatt Solicitors partner Neil Sampson.

Supreme Court Justices Lord Phillips, Lady Hale and Lord Kerr dissented, but were outvoted by Lords Walker, Brown, Mance and Wilson and the veterans’ appeal was thrown out.

The MOD lawyers have maintained that no causal link can be proved between the veterans’ illnesses and the South Pacific nuclear testing.

The veterans had contended that they did not have proper knowledge that their illnesses were connected to the atomic tests until medical research was published in 2007.

It has been reported that legal aid for the case was withdrawn several years ago and that both sides have spent millions of pounds on the case.