Nuclear veterans including Thorpe St Andrew granddad lose damages bid

A Thorpe St Andrew nuclear test veteran has given up 'much hope' of ever getting compensation, after he was one of hundreds of ex-servicemen today denied damages despite a judge expressing his 'sympathy'.

Veterans say they were made ill as a result of being exposed to radiation during British nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s.

More than 1,000 veterans want compensation and have been battling for permission to launch damages claims for two years.

But today they lost their Supreme Court bid to be able to launch damages claims against the Ministry of Defence.

David Freeman, 73, from Thorpe St Andrew, was one of about 23,000 servicemen to take part in the tests on Christmas Island in the South Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s.

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He said: 'I feel very down. I think our solicitors are going to keep trying, but there are not many of us veterans left now. I don't hold out much hope of us ever getting compensation. It will go down in history as a sorry episode.'

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight, from Birkbeck Way, said he was just getting over a second dose of bowel cancer and had an operation for bladder cancer after Christmas, which he was still awaiting the results from.

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The veterans took their fight to the Supreme Court - the highest court in the UK - in November after battles in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

In 2009, 10 'lead' claimants won the first round of the veterans' battle when a High Court judge said claims could go ahead.

But the MoD appealed and, in 2010, a Court of Appeal ruling blocked nine of the 10 lead claims when judges said they were 'statute-barred' because they had been made too late.

Judges today expressed sympathy but concluded that veterans lacked evidence to prove links between illness and proximity to tests and said many claims had been made too late.

The MoD issued a statement in which a spokesman said: 'The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the MoD that the claims brought by Nuclear Test Veterans were time barred and declined to allow the claims to proceed under the statutory discretion.'

Lord Wilson, one of the Supreme Court justices who ruled in the MoD's favour, told the Supreme Court hearing: 'Putting the law aside for one moment, all seven members of the court would wish to record their personal sympathy for the veterans.'

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