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The Independent Online
Hampshire County Council was yesterday ordered to pay more than pounds 16m compensation, plus a legal costs bill of at least pounds 2m, over the destruction by fire of a prestige company headquarters because of a "bad blunder" by the county fire brigade. The High Court had ruled in March that the council was liable for damage to the Basingstoke headquarters of Digital Equipment Ltd, despite argument that fire brigades owed no legal duty to the owners of buildings and were, like the police, immune from being sued as a matter of public policy.

It was believed to be only the second judgment to be obtained against a United Kingdom fire service for alleged negligence in the course of its work. The council is to seek leave to appeal and a "stay" on the damages order.