Client Z approached Farleys in 2019 with a view to a claim against her Local Authority as a result of the failings of the Social Services Department during her childhood.
Client Z was one of six siblings living in the North West of England. She had a normal upbringing until the age of approximately 11 when she was introduced to gangs of men in her local area.
She was groomed by the gangs. She was given alcohol and drugs. The men began to abuse her sexually. Her behaviour at home and at school deteriorated. Her parents were unable to cope and she was eventually take into the care of the Local Authority on the basis of a Section 20 agreement. The abuse continued whilst she was in the care of the Local Authority. She was not only abused by local gangs but trafficked by them to other areas including Rochdale.
Client Z approached Farleys because of their expertise in acting for survivors of grooming gangs.
Head of the Abuse Department, Jonathan Bridge, accepted instructions to act and a Letter of Claim was forwarded to the Local Authority.
Client Z has suffered terribly as a result of the abuse. Medical evidence was commissioned that suggested that she was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder together with a Moderate Depressive Disorder. The psychiatric injury was likely to be lifelong and would prevent the Claimant from working although there was the possibility that treatment would improve her position.
The claim presented innumerable difficulties.
When Client Z initially approached Farleys she was already a number of years out of time for bringing the claim. The Defendants had to be persuaded that the claim could continue despite being out of time and that a Court would exercise discretion and allow the claim to continue if proceedings were issued.
Liability was complex. The Local Authority certainly could not be responsible for the initial period of the abuse which took place before they were even involved with the family. The Local Authority also argued that a duty of care may not be owed to the Claimant following the decision in CN and GN v Poole Borough Council. The recent Court of Appeal Judgment in HXA and YXA was particularly helpful in this case in relation to the extent to which a duty is owed on the basis of a Section 20 removal. There were also questions as to whether the Local Authority had failed the Claimant and whether a reasonable and competent Local Authority could have done more to prevent the abuse continuing.
Causation was also a significant issue. For at least 12 months the abuse would have continued regardless of the Local Authority’s actions and the Local Authority argued that the Claimant would have suffered significant damage as a result even if they had intervened when the Claimant alleged they should have done.
Farleys accepted the claim and spent a number of years obtaining relevant records and negotiating with the Defendant. The work eventually culminated in a Joint Settlement Meeting. After protracted negotiation a figure of £250,000 in damages was agreed to compensate the Claimant for the injury that she had suffered, her past and future loss of earnings, her care costs and the costs of treatment. This settlement reflected the litigation risk.
The settlement is significantly higher than previous awards made to survivors of abuse gangs.
In thanking Farleys for the work that they had carried out Client Z described the outcome as “life changing”. The award will allow her to have the treatment she needs and provide her with some financial security in the future.
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