Supreme Court to consider role of councils in protecting vulnerable children

The Supreme Court is to hear a landmark case which could have an impact on the rights of thousands of abuse victims.

It concerns two people, known as CN and GN, who allege that, between 2006 and 2011, Poole Borough Council did not do enough to protect them as children from “harassment and worse” from their neighbours.

They claim that before they and their mother were placed in housing, the authority was aware that a “delinquent” family lived nearby who engaged in persistently anti-social behaviour.

This family repeatedly subjected CN and GN to significant harassment and abuse, and CN – who has severe physical and learning difficulties – attempted suicide.

CN and GN brought claims against the council for breach of a common law duty of care derived from statutory duties under the Children Act 1989 but, in 2017, the Court of Appeal ruled against them.

Before the appeal on Monday, Emma Jones from the team at Leigh Day, who represent GN and CN, said: “We hope that the Supreme Court rectify the current ruling by the Court of Appeal which sees the protection of children returned to the ‘washing your hands’ approach to vulnerable children witnessed in the 1990s and which has been attributed to scandals such as occurred in Rotherham.

“Local authorities must be compelled by law to protect children for whom they have responsibility and the best way to ensure that they carry out these duties is for them to be held to account, through the law, if they fall short.”

Article 39, which fights for the rights of children and young people who live in children’s homes, prisons and other institutions, and the Care Leavers’ Association, which supports care leavers of all ages, have been given permission to make representations.

Peter Garsden, of law firm Simpson Millar, which is representing the charities, said: “This appeal raises issues of very great public importance, concerning whether a local authority is responsible for protecting young people and children who may not be in a care institution, but are known to be at risk – either from sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

“It affects some of the most vulnerable members of our society and will have far reaching ramifications, and it is absolutely vital that the law is clarified so that abuse survivors can get the answers and access to justice that they deserve, and that will allow them to start to move forward with their lives.”

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