Hogan Lovells Wins Landmark War Pensions Ruling

7 November 2014 - LONDON, UK - Hogan Lovells has won a crucial ruling in the Upper Tribunal, which establishes guidance that could see ex-servicemen involved in nuclear test explosions conducted on Christmas Island and Maralinga in the 1950s and 60s receive war pensions after suffering chronic ill health.

The firm has been representing The Royal British Legion, on pro bono bases, on behalf of 10 ex-servicemen or the widows of servicemen, who were present on Christmas Island during Grapple X, Y and Z or in Maralinga for Operation Buffalo in the 1950s and 60s.  The 10 were part of a test case, which set out to clarify how the War Pensions Tribunal should make decisions in relation to veterans' claims for a pension.

The 10 had claimed that as a result of the tests on Christmas Island and Maralinga, they (or their husbands) had been exposed to ionising radiation, resulting in subsequent disablement or death. 

During the course of the hearings, evidence was presented which said that the veterans had not been given protective clothing; there had been no supervision of their activities while on the island; there was a general lack of monitoring equipment; and what did exist was crude and inadequate.

Originally, each appellant had made a claim for a war pension.  These initial applications were refused (either in whole or in part) by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency.

This case is significant because:

  • Many thousands of veterans served during the British Nuclear Test Programme and are potentially affected by the ultimate decision of the Tribunal.
  • Although these cases concern Christmas Island/Maralinga, the Upper Tribunal's decision provides guidance on the standard of proof applicable in many cases before the First-Tier Tribunal.
  • The appeals before the First-Tier Tribunal were heard between 28 January and 21 February, 2013.  The length and scope of the hearing was unprecedented.

Hogan Lovells senior associate Anna Mills, who led the case with partner Rupert Sydenham, said:

"For the veterans this is a step in the right direction but, regrettably for them, the process for obtaining recognition of their claims and service continues to be a long and hard fought one.  The next procedural steps will be determined shortly by the Upper Tribunal. This judgment will provide the foundations upon which the First-Tier Tribunal can, with confidence, build its decisions in respect of related cases in the future."

The Appellants were represented by Roger ter Haar QC and Richard Sage of Crown Office Chambers, and Anthony Metzer QC and Adam Gersch of Goldsmith Chambers.

Directions are due to be given by Mr Justice Charles in the Upper Tribunal.

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