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Corby Council to appeal over birth damage

19 August 2009

Corby Council has decided to appeal against a High Court judgment that it was liable for birth defects in children born in the town which families claim was the result of exposure to toxic waste.

The move follows the decision of the trial judge, Mr Justice Akenhead, to cut the costs awarded to the claimants by ten per cent.

At a public meeting last night, the council voted in favour of an appeal, following advice from counsel, but said it would continue mediation efforts with families.

Paula Whittell, partner at Berrymans Lace Mawer in Manchester, acted for the council.

“We believe that the judgment has a number of flaws which will be subject to appeal, the most serious being forseeability,” she said. “The council cannot be held responsible unless it had foresight that there could be injury to birth mothers.

“The wastes at the centre of this claim came from a single use site, an iron and steelmaking plant, which had been in operation since the 1930s.

“These iron and steel slags have traditionally been recycled in other industries, including house building, road building, and even agriculture, as fertiliser. They are still used in this way today.

“Never before have these wastes been described as hazardous to unborn children. And, at the time the work was carried out, there was no published research that would have given the council this foresight.”

Whittell went on: “It is not only current practices which are at risk of this type of litigation as a result of this judgment. There were many other reclamation projects like Corby, carried out at the same time, and since children have 21 years from their birth in which to claim, and birth defects to limbs are prevalent throughout the UK, other claims could easily spring up on the back of this.”

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