A LANDMARK Supreme Court case opened today that could protect thousands of vulnerable children from abuse and harassment.
The two-day Supreme Court hearing has been brought by CN and GN, who allege that Poole Borough Council did not do enough to protect them from “significant harassment and worse” by their neighbours.
CN suffers from severe physical and learning disabilities and was considered a “child in need” under the 1989 Children Act.
In 2006, the pair, aged seven and nine, and their mother were moved to a housing estate in Poole near to a “delinquent” family they say was already known to all the agencies involved.
The family was subject to repeated harassment that made CN suicidal. But, despite regular complaints to the local authority, landlord and police, the family were not rehoused until 2011 after a Home Office-commissioned independent case review.
They brought a claim against the council for breach of common law duty of care under the Children Act but the Court of Appeal rejected that in December.
Emma Jones of law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the family, said the Appeal Court ruling represents a “return to the ‘washing your hands’ approach witnessed in the 1990s” to the care of vulnerable children.
“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,” she said before today’s hearing.
Campaign group Article 39, which fights for the rights of children and young people in institutions, and the Care Leavers Association were given permission to make representations.
Representing the charities, Peter Garsden said the appeal “raises issues of very great public importance.”
He said it concerns whether a local authority is responsible for protecting young people who may not be in a care institution, but are known to be at risk of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
“It affects some of the most vulnerable members of our society and will have far reaching ramifications,” he said.
“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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