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Charges soon over Porton Down tests?


Police could be close to launching a prosecution after an investigation into claims that ex- servicemen were 'duped' into joining chemical and germ warfare tests.
The move follows a two-year inquiry into experiments on 'human guinea pigs' at the top-secret Porton Down base.
Wiltshire Police confirmed yesterday that they were handing a file on the case to lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service, who will decide whether to take action.
Sources close to the case believe there is enough evidence to charge former Ministry of Defence staff.
The inquiry centred on ex-servicemen's claims that they were exposed to nerve gas and other toxins at Porton Down after volunteering for research to find a cure for the common cold.
One of them, Gordon Bell, said he had received a letter from the detective who led the investigation confirming that a criminal offence was carried out during the medical experimentation.
The letter from Detective Superintendent Gerry Luckett said: 'On the face of the allegation you have made, it is apparent that a criminal offence of administering a noxious substance, contrary to Section 24 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, has been committed.'
The offence carries a maximum jail sentence of ten years.
Mr Luckett went on to say there was 'strong corroborative evidence' that servicemen had attended the tests after seeing a 'common cold notice'.
Since 1916 more than 20,000 servicemen have allegedly been exposed to chemicals including mustard gas, nerve agents, CS gas and LSD at Porton Down, most of them in the 1950s and 1960s.
Mr Bell, 63, from Sunderland, who underwent tests in 1959 and 1960, alleges substances being tested for chemical weapons were dripped on to his bare skin.
He still does not know what the substances were but now suffers from skin problems. Biopsies had identified cells which were pre-cancerous, revealed Mr Bell.
He added that the letter from police confirmed his claims that he was recruited for common cold research. Police had found senior RAF witnesses and one former Porton Down employee was interviewed under caution.
However, no charges have so far been brought in connection with the investigation.
Mr Bell claims fellow RAF colleague Ronald Maddison, from Consett, County Durham, died in May 1953 after a nerve agent was dripped on to his arm.
He said the letter from the police told him the Salisbury coroner had applied to the Attorney-General for permission to ask the High Court to quash the inquest verdict of misadventure on Mr Maddison.
David Taylor, of Wiltshire Police, confirmed a letter was sent to Mr Bell but said it would be inappropriate to comment because the contents were confidential.
'In due course, papers will be submitted to the CPS,' he added.
An MoD spokesman said: 'The ministry has found no evidence itself to substantiate allegations that volunteers were systematically duped into believing they were attending research into the common cold.
The MoD has not been informed by the police of any conclusions from their investigation, and we continue to co-operate with their inquiry.'

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