Legal team claims 'serious and significant flaws' in court decision that reclamation works could have led to birth defects

Corby council is set to appeal a High Court judgment that found it was liable for birth defects caused by toxins released into the atmosphere during reclamation works on a former British Steel site.

Following a three-month trial a judge decided that the remediation, carried out between 1985 and 1999 was capable of leading to some, or all of the birth defects displayed in 16 out of the 18 children involved in the case. This decision opens the door for each of the children to make individual claims for compensation.

The decision to appeal against the judgment was made by the council at a special meeting on 18 August, which said its legal team had found “serious and significant flaws” in the judgment.

The council said that it had to balance the stress and uncertainty caused to the children and the families with its “rights and duties to the wider population and to council taxpayers”.

“If the judgment goes unchallenged it could have very serious implications, not only for Corby, but also for other local authorities who have redeveloped industrial sites in the past, or who are planning redevelop of brownfield sites in the future,” Corby council stated in a release.

Chris Mallender, Corby chief executive, added: “This has not been an easy decision for the council to reach and has not been taken lightly. We are all too well aware that this on-going litigation is causing the children and their families continued stress and uncertainty. However, the council has to balance this issue against its rights and duties to the wider population and to council taxpayers."

The legal advice, given to the council by BLM Manchester, said that this had been the first time that iron and steel slags blamed for the defects have been described as hazardous to unborn children, instead being recycled into other industries.

“At the time the work was carried out it was not a matter of not ticking the boxes for the ‘environmental impact statements’ - the statements themselves had not yet come into use,” the team said in a release.

Meanwhile, affected children and families told the Times they would fight on and lawyers suggested to the newspaper that they would be due “not less than £100,000 in compensation.” In the council’s meeting, members voted start proceedings for out of court settlements with the children and their families as they agreed to fight the decision, it reported.