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Supreme Court to hear arguments over a local authority's duty of care to children

Appeal goes to the Supreme Court on behalf of two people who as children suffered from abuse and harassment from neighbours, whilst not protected by their local authority

The UK Supreme Court

16 July 2018

The hearing will begin in the highest UK Court, the Supreme Court, today (Monday 16th July) in the case of two people, known as CN and GN, who allege that Poole Borough Council did not do enough to protect them as children from "harassment and worse" from their next-door neighbours.

Poole Borough Council was the local authority responsible for child protection in the area in which GN and CN, a severely disabled child, lived.

The Council faces claims that it failed in its common law duty of care to protect CN and GN while they lived on the Grange estate in Poole; that it failed its statutory duty under the Children Act 1989 ss.17 and 47 to safeguard the welfare and promote the upbringing of all children in their area; and that did not ensure co-operation between local authorities and other agencies to promote the wellbeing and safety of the children in their area.

Lawyers from law firm Leigh Day, who represent GN and CN, argue that Poole Borough Council negligently failed to protect them from harm for five years between 2006 and 2011 and that they suffered personal injury as a result.

They allege that the local authority knew GN and CN were at foreseeable risk of harm in that they were aware that in placing them next door to a known “delinquent” family there was a foreseeable risk of GN and CN’s family being subjected to anti-social behaviour.

In 2017 the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier High Court ruling that Poole Borough Council owed no common law duty of care to GN and CN.

Lawyers for GN and CN were granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in March 2018.

CN and GN say that they suffered harassment and threats from the family next door, on the council estate they lived on as children.

They claim to have suffered constant threats and episodes of anti-social behaviour. During the harassment GN attempted suicide, and the boy’s legal team argue that their childhood was ruined because of the harassment they faced.

Emma Jones from the human rights team at Leigh Day, who represents 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 1990’s 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.”

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