CN and another (through their Litigation Friend the Official Solicitor) v Poole Borough Council [2017] EWCA Civ 2185 (unreported)

The claimants and their mother were placed in local authority housing. The first claimant suffered from severe physical and learning difficulties, and was a child ‘in need’ for the purposes of s.17 of the Children Act 1989. The second claimant was also a child. The defendant was allegedly aware of a family housed in nearby accommodation persistently behaving in an anti-social manner. That family were said to harass and abuse the claimants, resulting in CN attempting to commit suicide. The claimants brought an action against their local authority in negligence, alleging that the latter had a common law duty of care to the claimants, informed by the Children Act 1989, to protect children in the local authority’s area, and to protect children at foreseeable risk of harm. It was alleged that the local authority ought to have conducted a child in need assessment, which should have led to the conclusion that the children (if not the family) required relocating. At first instance the claims were struck out as disclosing no reasonable cause of action. This decision was overturned in the High Court and the claims were restored. The defendant unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal, which ruled that conventional common law principles prohibited any finding of liability on the local authority’s part.

The Court of Appeal set aside its earlier decision of D v East Berkshire, in which it had held that the general preclusion of claims brought by vulnerable children against local authorities (as laid down in X v Bedfordshire) could not survive the Human Rights Act 1998. The Court held that D v East Berkshire could no longer stand following the Supreme Court’s decision in Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales, in which the Court held that the common law of negligence did not require extending to accommodate Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, given that there was a statutory cause of action under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Therefore, relying heavily on the decision of X v Bedfordshire, the Court considered the Children Act 1989 and held that Parliament could not be taken to have intended to create a private law cause of action in negligence. Further, the Court held that the case did not satisfy any of the exceptions to the general common law rule that a defendant is not, without more, liable to protect a claimant from the actions of a third party.

January 28, 2018 В· Editorial Team В· Comments Closed
Posted in: Cases