Supreme Court hearing on local authorities’ liability for child abuse

15 July 2018 by Rosalind English

BOP-logo.jpgOn 16thJuly 2018 the Supreme Court will begin to hear legal arguments on the appeal of the children against the judgment of the Court of Appeal in CN and Anor v Poole Borough Council [2017] EWCA Civ 2185

I wrote up the original judgment here. The appeal was expedited and the Court will now consider the extent to which local authorities owe a common law duty to protect children from harm arising within the community where they live.

Background 

A quick reminder of the somewhat remarkable facts of the case. In 2006 Mrs N and her two sons CN and GN, then aged nine and seven (one of whom was severely disabled), moved to a housing estate in Poole. The accommodation was arranged by the council as the local housing authority. Over the ensuing years, the family suffered from the effects of extreme anti-social activities of a neighbouring family. This behaviour was frequently reported to the property owners, officers of the council and local police. A measure of the seriousness of the case can be gained by the fact that the Home Office became involved and commissioned an independent case review which reported critically on the reaction of the agencies.  The appellants’ distress was so great that one of them attempted suicide. They continued to suffer from their neighbours’ behaviour until they were provided with alternative accommodation in December 2011.

Among the important issues being considered is whether the decision in D v East Berkshire Community NHS Trust was correct, and whether it has been impliedly overruled by later House of Lords and Supreme Court authority. In D, the Court of Appeal concluded that local authorities did owe a duty at common law, a contention rejected by the Court of Appeal in this case.

The Supreme Court hearing

The appeal is being heard over a day and a half by Lady Hale (President), Lord Reed (Deputy President), Lord Wilson, Lord Hodge and Lady Black.

The appellants are represented by (1) Lizanne Gumbel QC, who leads (2) Iain O’Donnell, (3) Duncan Fairgrieve and (4) Jim Duffy.  They are instructed by Leigh Day.  Poole are represented by Lord Faulks QC, Paul Stagg and Katie Ayres. (5) Philip Havers QC, Andrew Bagchi QC and (6) Hannah Noyce appear for the AIRE CENTRE, which is the lead intervener. The Supreme Court has also agreed to interventions by the Coram Children’s Legal Centre which is represented by Deirdre Fottrell QC, (7) Martin Downs and Tom Wilson. Aswini Weereratne QC, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Nicholas Brown appear for Article 39 & the Care Leavers’ Association. The barristers numbered above are all from 1 Crown Office Row.

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