On 16 March 2018, the Supreme Court granted the Claimant permission to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal in this case.
The Court of Appeal handed down judgement on CN v Poole on 21 December 2017. The case concerns a family who lived on a housing estate and were affected by anti-social behaviour of their neighbours. They brought two actions against the Local Authority, one of which was a claim in negligence for failing to safeguard and protect the welfare of the children in the family from abuse and anti-social behaviour, in accordance with the Children’s Act 1989.
Its decision made it more difficult for individuals who have suffered abuse to bring claims against Local Authorities. Children who suffer neglect, physical or sexual abuse can only make a claim against a Local Authority if the Local Authority owed a duty to the child (by way of Supervision Order, Interim Care Order or Full Care Order). Alternatively, a claim may be valid if the Local Authority assumed a duty of care.
However, at present, there is no case law regarding what constitutes an “Assumption of Duty”, rendering many of our client’s claims uncertain. The Court of Appeal decision has, in some cases, prompted local authorities who had previously admitted wrongdoing to resile from their admissions and withdraw their offers of compensation.
Prior to the Court of Appeal decision, it was accepted that Local Authorities owed a duty of care to children under the Children’s Act 1989. If the Local Authority was aware that a child was suffering neglect, physical or sexual abuse at home and failed to remove the child, the child could make a claim against the Local Authority in negligence.
Now that the Supreme Court has granted permission to appeal on this case, both parties will begin preparing for an Appeal Hearing. There are three possible effects of the outcome of the Appeal Hearing on this area of law:
If the Appeal is dismissed, the CN v Poole judgement will stand. In order to bring a successful claim, victims of abuse will have to continue to prove that the Local Authority assumed responsibility for them or that they were abused whilst subject to a Court order;
If the Claimant is successful, the law may revert to it’s previous status quo; or
If the Claimant is successful, the Court may decide to impose new legal rules with different repercussions on this area of law.
In the meantime, many victims of abuse still have valid claims against Local Authorities, albeit with the complexity and uncertainty of how the law will develop.
Farleys have a department which specialises in bringing claims against Local Authorities and if you wish to discuss any aspect arising from these recent legal developments please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialist team on 0845 287 0939 or email us here.