Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 11:31 UK

Birth defect families get 1.6m

Child's deformed hands
Eighteen children were born with deformities to their hands and feet

A council in Northamptonshire at the centre of a birth defects case has been ordered to pay affected families an initial £1.6m to cover legal fees.

Corby Borough Council was found to be negligent in its clean-up of former steel works in the town, which may have led to birth defects in 16 children.

The children's families last month won a legal battle against the council.

The families could now share damages or face returning to court to make individual claims.

The council is meeting next week to decide whether it should appeal against the High Court judgement.

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.

Missing fingers

The mothers in the case told the High Court how they either lived in or regularly visited Corby while pregnant.

The court found in favour of 16 out of 18 families who claimed their children were born with deformities to hands and feet caused by exposure to toxic waste from the former steel works between 1985 and 1999.

The council was found to be negligent over the work to reclaim the land where the steel plant was sited.

Mr Justice Akenhead said in his ruling: "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 people affected have missing or under-developed fingers and three have deformities on their feet.

The council said it was "disappointed" at the ruling, maintaining that there had been no link between the birth defects and the reclamation work.

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