Many of the children also suffer from serious birth defects including heart problems, impaired vision and skin conditions due, they allege, to the negligence of Corby Borough Council.

London’s High Court, in what is thought to be the first such action since the thalidomide scandal in the 1970s, ruled the disabled children had a right to sue for compensation.

The case, which the council has always denied, relates to clean up work of a former steel works site in the town.

It was brought on behalf of 16 children, aged between nine and 21, who claim their mother were affected by exposure to chemicals during remediation works, which took place between 1985 and 1999.

Yesterday (29 July) Mr Justice Akenhead backed the families deciding the council was liable.

The ruling opens the way for a compensation claim, but only if each individual can demonstrate a direct link to between the work and their disability.

The judge also said his ruling did not cover the two youngest children alleged to have suffered because of the work.

A further court case will be now be needed to decide the cause of the young people’s deformities.

Corby Council was been asked for a comment following the ruling and has not responded, in the past the council has indicated it would pay compensation if it was found to be in the wrong.

Luke Walsh

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