Page last updated at 20:08 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 21:08 UK

Council in defects case to appeal

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

A council found negligent in its clean-up of former steel works which may have led to birth defects is to appeal against a High Court ruling.

The families of 16 children last month won a legal battle against Corby Borough Council in Northamptonshire.

The young people claimed their birth defects were due to their mothers being exposed to toxic materials.

The council met to discuss what to do next and councillors voted to appeal against the High Court judgement.

They agreed to adopt a "twin-track approach" to dealing with the High Court ruling, which will see the council start mediation with the claimants and families involved in the case.

Parent Sarah Pearson: "We will keep on fighting"

The decision was made at a special full council meeting, which was open to the public, in the town's Best Western Hotel.

Sarah Pearson, one of the family members at the meeting, criticised the decision.

Ms Pearson, the mother of 15-year-old Lewis - who had birth defects, told the BBC News Channel: "They just made a mockery of us. We want them to apologise - hold their hands up."

'Very angry'

She said the council's decision to appeal the High Court ruling was "not fair" for the children.

"We are very, very angry now. We just want to take it further, further and further. We will just keep fighting, fighting and fighting."

 Families with children suffering from birth defects
Families with children suffering from birth defects after the High Court ruling

Referring to the council's decision, she said: "It was expected but (we're) still disappointed at the same time."

In an emotionally-fuelled meeting full of the families affected, chief executive Chris Mallender told the council the recommendation was for the twin-track approach.

He said there was a "lack of intellectual rigour which runs throughout the judgment".

He told members: "The judge fails to link cause and effect and we have always talked about causation, and it's important that it's proven and it's proven that the effect of this dust in the atmosphere led to the problems that the children and families have experienced.

"There is still a long way to go to."

'Very difficult decision'

He said the council's barrister advised them there were grounds for appeal, but they wanted to continue to liaise with the families.

He said: "Members, you face a very, very difficult decision this evening. It is one of the biggest decisions many of you will make as councillors."

Twenty-one of the council's 29 councillors were present, and all voted for the "twin-track approach".

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Mallender said the cost of appealing would run into six figures, but he said it would be worth it as the council could recover some costs if it won.

Corby Borough Council chief executive explains the decision

He said: "It's a two-way situation. By paying these legal costs, we might recover the monies already spent and we might end up far better off."

An application for permission to appeal must be made to the trial judge in writing by Wednesday.

Some of the people affected have missing or under-developed fingers and three have deformities on their feet.

Ten thousand jobs were lost when the 680-acre British Steel works in Corby closed in 1980.

Its buildings were gradually demolished, with waste removed to a quarry to the north of the site.

During the case the mothers 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.

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