The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is relying on “hopeless” evidence in its bid to deny compensation to armed forces veterans poisoned by nuclear radiation half a century ago, a court heard this week.

The Supreme Court – the highest court in the land – heard evidence from lawyers representing more than 1,000 veterans who have suffered long-term health problems after bomb tests in the 1950s.

Leading the campaign to sue the MoD is Morden widow Shirley Denson, whose husband Eric committed suicide after years of physical and psychological ailments after being ordered to fly through a mushroom cloud following Britain’s biggest nuclear detonation in 1958.

Mrs Denson, 77, said: “It has been a long, hard road even to get this far, but it is vitally important to keep fighting because the veterans continue to get older and may not even live long enough to see their day in court.”

The MoD has always denied liability for the health problems suffered by veterans exposed to radiation during a number of 1950s bomb tests in the Pacific, including Grapple Y in 1958 – Britain’s biggest ever nuclear test, carried out near Christmas Island.

But on Monday, November 14, the veterans’ barrister James Dingemans QC said the MoD had refuted the claimants’ evidence of radiation poisoning because they had only taken notice of gamma radiation when, in fact, more insidious alpha and beta radiation forms had caused long-term problems for thousands of servicemen.

Mr Dingemans told the court: “There has been no clear identification of the risks of exposure to alpha and beta radiation, yet we were told we were barking up the wrong tree.”

If successful, nine claimants out of 1,011 will be allowed to sue the MoD for compensation. The other 1,002 are likely to have their own cases heard at the High Court next year.

This week’s hearing ended on Thursday, but a verdict is not expected until sometime before Christmas.

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