Was local authority responsible for harassment campaign against vulnerable adults?

25 November 2010 by

Application no. 32666/10 by X, Y & Z against the UK, lodged on 8 June 2010 – Read statement of facts

In a potentially landmark case, the European Court has been asked to determine the extent to which a local authority is under a duty prevent a breach of a person’s rights under Articles 3 (against inhuman and degrading treatment) and 8 (home and family life) in a case where two people with learning difficulties were violently harassed and threatened by a group of teenage youths.

The case concerns vulnerable adults who rely on social services. X and Y, who are married, both have learning difficulties. Z is the mother of X, and acted as a carer and advocate for both X and Y. X and Y lived in Hounslow Borough with Y’s two young children. Three local authority departments were involved with X and Y’s family, providing for their housing needs and allocating social workers for both the adults and children. Over a period from August 1999 until November 2000, X and Y were continually harassed and threatened by a group of teenage youths, who used the flat as a general ‘doss house’, dumping stolen goods, having sex and staying overnight.

From April 1999 until November 2000 concerns were frequently raised by Z and social workers that the family were vulnerable and needy and required urgent re-housing, especially as they were being bullied by the youths.  In October 2000 X was assaulted by one of the youths and the youth’s father and required hospital treatment, but he was too frightened to go to the police.

On the weekend of 17 – 19 November 2000, the family were effectively imprisoned in their flat by the youths and repeatedly assaulted and abused. X and Y were physically and sexually assaulted, forced to perform sexual acts and had their possessions thrown over the balcony. X was locked in the dark, forced to eat faeces and drink urine, slashed with a knife and had pepper and fluid forced into his eyes. The children were also abused and assaulted, and were made to watch the abuse of X and Y. X finally managed to escape and raise the alarm. Following the events X and Y were cared for by Z before being moved to alternative accommodation. Three of the youths were prosecuted and given prison sentences.

X and Y brought a claim for damages against the local authority under negligence and section 7 HRA 1998 (X and Y v Hounslow LBC [2008] EWHC 1168 (QB)). The HRA claim was argued on the basis that X and Y’s rights under Articles 3 and 8 of the ECHR had been breached in that the local authority had failed to take positive steps to prevent the violation of these rights. At first instance Maddison J held that the local authority owed a duty of care because: (1) it was reasonably foreseeable that X and Y would be attacked by the youths; (2) that their relationship with the local authority was sufficiently proximate to warrant the imposition of a duty of care, and (3) it was fair, just and reasonable to impose a duty on the local authority because they should have invoked their emergency housing transfer system, which would have urgently moved them from the flat. As to the HRA 1998 claim, the judge held that it was out of time but he would have extended the time limit under section 7(5). However, he did not consider it necessary to determine the HRA claim because he had taken its impact into account when deciding whether the local authority owed a duty.

The Court of Appeal (X and Y v Hounslow LBC [2009] EWCA Civ 286) allowed the local authority’s appeal on the grounds that no duty of care was owed. In any event, even if there had been a duty of care, the Court would not have accepted that the duty had been breached. However, the Court did not consider the HRA claim. A petition by X and Y to appeal to the House of Lords was dismissed.

The application was made to the European Court of Human Rights with the assistance of the AIRE Centre. It raised the following complaints:

  1. That X and Y’s rights under Article 3 were breached because the local authority knew or ought to have known that they were at risk of serious harm and was therefore in breach of its positive obligations to take measures necessary to prevent such harm occurring.
  2. That Z’s rights under Article 3 were also breached because the local authority’s failure to prevent the abuse also constituted inhuman treatment of her;
  3. That  the court’s failure to consider their claim under the HRA 1998 violated X and Y’s right to a fair trial under Article 6(1);
  4. That the local authority’s failure to take reasonable measures that could have prevented or mitigated the harm was a breach of Article 8 (moral and physical integrity);
  5. That in finding that the local authority did not owe them a duty of care, the domestic courts deprived them of an effective remedy with the national legal system for violations of Articles 3 and 8 contrary to Article 13.

The application was communicated by the Court in October 2010 to the UK Government, who have been requested to submit observations on the admissibility and merits of the application.

X and Y are represented by Leigh Day & Co and members of 1 Crown Office Row and have been assisted in their ECHR application by the AIRE Centre.

Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS

Related posts:


  1. Adam Wagner says:

    Thanks for mentioning the post, Nearly Legal.

    This is a link to Nearly Legal’s post on the Court of Appeal case:


    “When news of X first reached the NL team, the near unanimous response was one of pleasure at the result. Once we obtained a transcript and saw the reasoning of the trial judge, it became clear not only that an appeal would be pursued but that it would be successful. Those feelings were only strengthened by the decision of the House of Lords in Glasgow CC v Mitchell. And we’re been proved right.”

  2. NL says:

    Thnaks for getting the news out on this case. Potentially very important, we think. We all got terribly excited about it at first instance, but thenn the Court of Appeal put an end to it.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB

This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.




Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals Anne Sacoolas anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board care homes Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus coronavirus act 2020 costs costs budgets Court of Protection covid crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy diplomatic relations disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Facial Recognition Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control hague convention Harry Dunn Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance Obituary ouster clauses parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy procurement Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecutions prostituton Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation refugee rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania round-up Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence shamima begum Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance sweatshops Syria Tax technology Terrorism The Round Up tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal credit universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Weekly Round-up Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: