D-Day for failure to remove cases
The long-awaited decision of the Supreme Court in the CN & GN v Poole Borough Council litigation will be handed down at 9.45am on 6 June 2019. This decision will consider the nature and scope of the duties owed by local authorities to children living in their areas, more specifically whether social workers owe a duty to protect children from harm caused by third parties.
Claims for ‘failure to remove’ or ‘failure to intervene’ have been routine since the case of D v East Berkshire (CA, 31 July 2003). In these cases, the courts will scrutinise the investigation of child protection concerns (which often include concerns that children may be harmed by their parents, step-parents, relatives, or neighbours…) and the initiation of care proceedings.
This run of claim came to an abrupt halt in December 2017, when the Court of Appeal decided that local authorities do not owe a duty of care to such children. This case – CN & GN v Poole Borough Council (CA, 21 December 2017) – decided that no duty of care was owed by the local authority to two children who had been harassed and abused by a neighbouring family. Social workers cannot be found negligent in such situations, save for rare exceptions.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal against the Court of Appeal judgment, which we covered on the Blog last year. The Supreme Court heard submissions in July 2018. It will hand down its judgment on 6 June 2019, almost a year later. It is expected that this decision will determine the future of such claims for ‘failure to remove’.
We will report further once the Supreme Court decision is handed down.
Geneviève Rich, Associate Solicitor, BLM