L.C.B. v. United Kingdom

L.C.B. v. U.K., App. No. 23413/94, 27 Eur. H.R. Rep. 212 (1998).
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Applicant’s father served as a catering assistant in the British Royal Air Force and had been present at Christmas Island during four nuclear tests. Applicant was diagnosed with leukemia at an early age. Her records of admission to hospital included, under the heading “Summary of Possible Causative Factors” that her father was exposed to radiation. Applicant became aware of the contents of a report prepared by the British Nuclear Tests Veterans’ Association indicating a high incidence of cancers including leukemia in the children of Christmas Island veterans.

Applicant claimed that both the State’s failure to monitor the extent of her father’s exposure to radiation, and its failure to warn and advise her parents or monitor her health prior to her diagnosis with leukaemia had given rise to a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the Convention.

The applicant also alleged the State’s failure to measure her father’s exposure to radiation constituted a violation of Article 3 (Prohibition of torture) and its withholding of records of levels of radiation at Christmas Island constituted violations of Articles 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) and 13 (Right to an effective remedy).

The applicant’s complaint about the alleged failure of the respondent State to monitor the extent of her father’s exposure to radiation was not considered as it was not raised before the Commission and as it was in regards to events occurring after the U.K.’s declaration recognizing the Court’s jurisdiction under Article 46 of the Convention.

The Court was satisfied at the causal link between a father’s exposure to radiation and leukemia in a child subsequently conceived. However, the Court stated that this information was not established until the 1990s, and as such, the State could not have taken action in respect of the applicant.

The Court concluded that the information available to the State at the relevant time was not sufficient to trigger an obligation on their part to notify the applicant’s parents that the exposure her father had to radiation created potential risks to the applicant’s health.

Specifically, the Court considered whether or not they had done all that could be required of it to prevent the applicant’s life from being put at risk. In this respect, the Court noted that there was no evidence that the applicant’s father reported any symptoms indicating he had been exposed to high levels of radiation and evidence indicated that radiation did not reach dangerous levels in areas where ordinary servicemen were stationed. Furthermore, there was insufficient evidence, according to the Court, that monitoring the applicant in utero and intervening early on would have diminished the severity of the applicant’s disease.

Therefore, the Court found no violation of Article 2 and did not consider there were any separate issues arising under Articles 3 and 8.

"38. Nonetheless, in view of the lack of certainty on this point, the Court will also examine the question whether, in the event that there was information available to the authorities which should have given them cause to fear that the applicant's father had been exposed to radiation, they could reasonably have been expected, during the period in question, to provide advice to her parents and to monitor her health. The Court considers that the State could only have been required of its own motion to take these steps in relation to the applicant if it had appeared likely at that time that any such exposure of her father to radiation might have engendered a real risk to her health.

39. Having examined the expert evidence submitted to it, the Court is not satisfied that it has been established that there is a causal link between the exposure of a father to radiation and leukaemia in a child subsequently conceived. As recently as 1993, the High Court judge sitting in the cases of Reay and Hope v. British Nuclear Fuels PLC, having examined a considerable amount of expert evidence, found that "the scales tilt[ed] decisively" in favour of a finding that there was no such causal link (see paragraph 19 above). The Court could not reasonably hold, therefore, that, in the late 1960s, the United Kingdom authorities could or should, on the basis of this unsubstantiated link, have taken action in respect of the applicant." Page 13.