February 24, 2009
mother begins legal battle for compensation
Burnham-On-Sea mother who says her daughter was born disabled
because she was exposed to industrial toxins during her pregnancy
has this week begun giving evidence at the High Court in London.
Mallin, from Highbridge Road in Burnham, blames her 22-year-old
daughter's birth defects on a huge industrial clean-up operation
carried out at a former British Steel works in Corby between 1985
and 1999, in which council bosses sought to transform the Northamptonshire
Corby Borough Council said the reclamation project pulled the
town into the 21st century, but lawyers for the Mallin family
and 17 other claimants are suing for compensation amid claims
their birth defects were caused by air that was contaminated by
a soup of potentially dangerous pollutants.
Mrs Mallin never lived in Corby, but says she had the misfortune
to ingest toxic particles during sporadic visits there during
the crucial first stages of her pregnancy in late 1986.
She used to stay with relatives for weekend or four-day stints
while her husband was doing wiring work in the area. And she may
also have ingested toxins through frequenting Corby's open-air
market at the time.
At the High Court, Mrs Mallin said there was dust hanging around
the market, which was also festooned with small mounds of orange
It was squidgy underfoot because of the red mud, she told the
court, and her husband would curse after they visited the market
because his car would emerge spattered with red dust.
When driving around the town the roads were also clogged with
lorries taking materials from the old steelworks, she told her
lawyer, James Wilby, adding: "We had to keep our windows
shut because the dust was so bad."
Stephen Grime, for Corby Borough Council, suggested Mrs Mallin
may have been mistaken about the precise location of the market
"or even if you visited it that year", but she stood
by her account.
At one point during her evidence, Mr Justice Akenhead allowed
a short pause in the proceedings when the emotion of the moment
became too much for Mrs Mallin.
During the short recess her daughter hugged and comforted her
before she continued giving evidence. She sat at the back of the
court as her mother testified, although she was asked to show
the court the extent of her disabilities, displaying the two stunted
fingers on her left hand.
Her disabilities had also left her with limited function in her
left arm, the court was told earlier.
She is among 18 youngsters, between the ages of nine and 21, suing
over alleged exposure to toxic chemicals during the critical early
stages of pregnancy.
They were all born with debilitating upper limb disabilities and
claim Corby Borough Council was at fault in mishandling the reclamation
of a heavily contaminated 680- acre former British Steel works
in the town.
One pollution expert said contaminants had gathered in the air
like an atmospheric soup of toxic materials, while other witnesses
described roads clogged with red mud and lorries covered in a
similarly coloured slush.
But Corby insists its clean-up operation was appropriately handled,
also denying any link between toxic exposure and the children's
birth defects. The case is expected to last 40 days.