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Last Updated: Monday, 13 February 2006, 16:06 GMT
MoD agrees sarin case settlement
Leading Aircraftman Ronald Maddison
Leading Aircraftsman Ronald Maddison died at the base in 1953
The family of a soldier who died in a Ministry of Defence (MoD) nerve gas experiment at Porton Down is pleased an unlawful killing verdict will stand.

Leading Aircraftsman Ronald Maddison, from County Durham, 20, died after sarin was dabbed on his arm at the laboratory on Salisbury Plain, in 1953.

The High Court has approved a deal between the MoD and family which means the inquest verdict from 2004 stands.

The MoD has admitted "gross negligence" rather than a lack of consent.

Barrage of criticism

But the 400-strong Porton Down Veterans Group said the settlement "smothers" evidence that Mr Maddison never gave his informed consent to the test which killed him.

The original inquest in 1953 reached a verdict of death by misadventure but in 2004, a Wiltshire coroner's jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf had granted permission for the second inquest following a campaign by Leading Aircraftsman Maddison's family and an inquiry by Wiltshire Police.

When it became known that the MoD intended to seek a judicial review of the second inquest verdict - despite admissions that there had been negligence - armed services veterans responded with a barrage of criticism.

Alan Care, who represents the family of Mr Maddison, said the serviceman's sister, Lilias Craik, was "delighted" with the outcome. He added: "She suffered a stroke during the inquest. This is finality and she will be very pleased with this."

Lilias Craik and other veterans will continue with their claims for compensation.

Verdict retained

Eric Gow, chairman of the Porton Down Veterans Group, who was himself subjected to LSD and mustard gas experiments, said: "Young servicemen were subjected to dangerous non-therapeutic experiments without being properly informed of the risks.

"They were not told that the object of the exercise was to discover the boundaries of vulnerability of the human body to dangerous war gases."

He also accused the MoD of "using the public's money" to try to overturn the verdict of the Wiltshire coroner's jury.

Rejecting Mr Gower's objection to the High Court action being halted, Lord Justice Richards said: "The public interest has already been substantially served by the second inquest, which brought into the open the full circumstances of the nerve agent experiments conducted at Porton Down and how the deceased met his death.

"The retention of a verdict of unlawful killing ensures that the message resulting from that second inquest is not diluted.

"Whilst recognising the strength of feeling on behalf of the Porton Down Veterans Group, we don't feel there is sufficient general public interest to be served by a further legal and factual assessment concerning consent to non-therapeutic tests such as occurred in this case."




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