‘Failure to remove’ claims against social services – DXF v Coventry CC [2021]

Ever since CN & GN v Poole BC [2019] UKSC 25 (‘Poole’) we have been waiting for decisions applying the principles identified by Lord Reed. We have reported on some of these decisions, but now have the first authoritative decision applying these principles to a ‘standard’ claim for failure to remove: DXF v Coventry CC [2021] EWHC 1328 (QB).

The claimants are four children, who were removed and taken into care in 2010, after 15 years of social services involvement.  They alleged that Coventry City Council failed to remove them into care, and pointed to known concerns in 2002, 2003 and 2009 about the risk of sexual abuse by a third party known to the family, a report that one child had been sexually abused by that person, and later reports that other claimants were indecently assaulted by their father.  Criticism focussed on the investigation of child protection concerns and the instigation of care proceedings.

The trial in the High Court was heard in late 2020 and early 2021.  Judgment was handed down on 24 May 2021.  Mrs Justice Lambert found that the long period of social services involvement was a failure to provide a benefit (para. 195), and that no assumption of responsibility arose on the facts (para. 209). She also found for the council both on breach (para. 243 & 246) and causation (para. 251).  The carefully argued judgment is likely to have an impact on how future ‘failure to remove’ claims are decided and formulated. Adam Weitzman QC and Caroline Lody of 7 Bedford Row appeared for Coventry City Council. You can find their helpful note here.

Written by Geneviève Rich at BLM genevieve.rich@blmlaw.com

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