Farleys were contacted by Client E in 2016.
She had suffered appalling neglect and abuse during childhood.
She was initially brought up by her mother and father but at the age of 9 her parents separated and she was subsequently assaulted by her step father which resulted in the involvement of Police and Social Services and the eventual removal of Client E from her mother’s care. From that point on she was in the care of the Local Authority.
The first aspect of the claim involved abuse by foster carers. Client E was placed with Mr and Mrs W and alleged that she suffered psychological and emotional abuse and neglect whilst in their care. Their treatment of her included forcing her to eat mouldy food, forcing her to eat until she was sick, making her stand outside in the garden for hours in the snow as a punishment, placing spiders on her face knowing that she was terrified of the same, and regularly verbally criticising and demeaning her.
Client E regularly absconded from this placement and told Social Services what was happening but she still was left in the placement for 3 years before eventually being placed in a children’s home.
It was at this point that Client E began to associate with gangs of men who would groom and sexually abuse her. She was 12 years old when this began. Client E suffered sexual abuse at the hands of various adult males during this period and there was no adequate action taken by Social Services to prevent this. The abuse was allowed to happen even though the Claimant was in the care of the Local Authority living in their children’s home.
The Claimant contended that these experiences had a dramatic effect on her life. Her education was ruined and she had significant mental health issues.
Jonathan Bridge of Farleys Solicitors’ abuse team agreed to take on the case for Client E.
Initially a moratorium on limitation was agreed. Limitation was an issue throughout this case. The Claimant was born in 1979 and the relevant limitation period for bringing an action expired in 2000. She was therefore 16 years out of time in bringing the claim and was complaining of events that had happened approximately 3 decades ago.
The Defendants indicated throughout that they intended defending the claim on the basis of limitation and that a fair Trial was impossible, relying on the cases of Re v Ge and Catholic Child Welfare Society v CD.
In addition to arguing that the claim was statute barred. The Defendants also indicated that the actions of the Local Authority had not fallen below a reasonable standard. The records that would have proved the abuse by the foster carers had gone missing. Whatever steps the Defendants had taken would not have prevented the Claimant associating with the grooming gangs.
Initially Farleys agreed a moratorium on limitation whilst the claim was investigated.
The next step was to obtain Social Services records, which was a complicated process. In this particular case the Local Authority had transferred to a Unitary Authority since the abuse had happened which meant that obtaining records was far from easy and obtaining an Order in Court and a Dunn v Durham Undertaking had to be agreed.
Thereafter Farleys’ review team carefully considered thousands of pages of documents to include Social Services records, GP records and hospital records in order to obtain all relevant evidence in support of the claim.
Discussions were entered into with the Defendants and whilst a firm denial of liability was made an initial offer of £20,000 was put forward.
Acknowledging the litigation risks the Claimant agreed to enter into negotiation before obtaining medical evidence. A counter proposal of £50,000 was rejected but after protracted negotiation settlement was eventually agreed in the sum of £40,000.
This is an interesting case which shows that even when a claim is decades out of time it is still possible to obtain a successful outcome for the Claimant, particularly if there are good reasons why she has not come forward sooner (in this case significant mental health issues) and if there is good corroboration in relation to the Defendants failings (which was eventually proved following review of Social Services records).
It is also an interesting case because of the impact of the decision in Armes. Even where a claim is significantly out of time it is possible to argue that the claim could not have been brought sooner if the abuse was at the hands of foster carers. The Armes case effectively holds a Local Authority vicariously liable for the actions of foster carers and prior to that decision it would have been far harder for Client E to proceed in relation to the abuse she suffered whilst in the foster placement.
Client E was delighted at the outcome and hopes to use settlement monies to set up a small business and move forward with her life.
To speak with a member of our specialist abuse team in confidence please call our dedicated abuse line on 0330 134 6430 or contact us by email.