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Families Win Birth Defect Battle

Toxic waste in Northamptonshire


Families who claim their children were born with defects caused by exposure to toxic waste in Northamptonshire have won a legal battle at the High Court in an unusual and interesting case. They sued Corby Borough Council, saying deformities to hands and feet were due to mothers being exposed to a "soup of toxic materials" between 1985 and 1999. The council was found negligent over work to reclaim a steel plant. The judge found in favour of 16 of the 18 claimants.

The case relates to birth defects in 18 people with links to Corby aged between nine and 22. However, Mr Justice Akenhead said his ruling on liability did not cover the two youngest claimants.

In his judgement, he said there was a "statistically significant" cluster of birth defects between 1989 and 1999. There was an extended period between 1983 and August 1997 in which Corby Borough Council was extensively negligent in its control and management of the sites which they acquired from British Steel and otherwise used. Corby Borough Council is liable in public nuisance, negligence and breach of statutory duty, obviously subject to it being established in later proceedings by individual claimants that their particular conditions were actually caused by the defaults identified in this judgment."

Some of those affected have missing or underdeveloped fingers and three have deformities on their feet. The 680-acre British Steel works in the town closed in 1980 with the loss of 10,000 jobs. Its buildings were gradually demolished, with waste removed to a quarry to the north of the site.

David Wilby QC told Mr Justice Aikenhead the disabilities were caused when the women ingested or inhaled toxic substances.