15 Mar 2012

Pacific nuclear test veterans lose UK compensation bid

9:03 pm on 15 March 2012

Hundreds of veterans of British nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1950s have lost the latest round of their fight for government compensation.

The claimants - former service personnel from Britain, New Zealand and Fiji - say they were exposed to radioactive fallout and that exposure caused illnesses or disabilities.

By a margin of four to three, Britain's Supreme Court has rejected the veterans' case.

The judges have ruled the claimants did not have the right to sue Britain's Ministry of Defence for compensation.

The ministry has maintained it's not liable because the commanders at the time did not know the true radiation risks in the tests in Australia and at Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in Kiribati.

The New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans' Association, which represented New Zealand service personnel in the case, is to continue the fight.

Chairman Roy Sefton says the association will have to regroup to see whether there are other means of pursuing compensation.

Mr Sefton says the United Kingdom law firm representing the veterans - Rosenblatt Solicitors - took the case on a contingency fee basis and has spent £17 million so far.

Expert condemns decision

A scientist against nuclear arms says the veterans who tried to get compensation for being exposed to radioactive fallout from tests in the 1950s should have won their case.

Dr Robert White says he believes anyone who was exposed to radiation without their knowledge should be compensated.

And Dr White says he would suggest the veterans continue to fight.