Tort duties for discharge of social care responsibilities

June 10th, 2019 by James Goudie KC

The appeal to the Supreme Court in Poole Borough Council v GN (2019) UKSC 25, in which Judgment was given on 6 June 2019, was concerned with whether a local authority was liable for what was alleged to have been its negligent failure to exercise its social services functions so as to protect children from harm caused by third parties.  The principal question of law raised was whether a local authority, or its employees, may owe a common law duty of care to children affected by the manner in which the authority exercises, or fails to exercise those functions, and, if so, in what circumstances.

The Claimants sought damages for personal injuries suffered while they were children living in the area of the Council. They maintain that the injuries were suffered as a result of the Council’s negligent failure to exercise its powers under the Children Act 1989 (“the 1989 Act”) so as to protect them from harm at the hands of third parties. Read more »


Deprivation of Liberty: High Court refuses to interfere with Central Government’s alleged underfunding of the regime

May 5th, 2017 by James Goudie KC

In R (Liverpool City Council and others) v SoS for Health (2017) EWHC 986 (Admin) four English councils sought to challenge the Government’s “ongoing failure to provide full, or even adequate, funding for local authorities in England to implement the deprivation of liberty regime“, the costs of complying with which have proved to be very substantial, following the Supreme Court Judgment in Cheshire West. They suggested that the financial shortfall suffered by councils across the country generally is somewhere between one third of a billion pounds and two thirds of a billion pounds each year and claimed that the Government must meet that shortfall. They sought a declaration that, by his failure to meet those costs, the Secretary of State for Health (“the SoS”) had created an “unacceptable risk of illegality” and was in breach of the policy constituted by the “New Burdens Doctrine” (“the NBD”). They sought a mandatory order requiring the SoS to remove the “unacceptable risk of illegality” and to comply with the NBD. Read more »


Local Authority co-operation

March 3rd, 2016 by James Goudie KC

A Judge recently struck out a claim brought by two dogs. He did not see how a dog could give instructions for a claim to be brought on its behalf.  Nor did he see that it could be liable for any orders made against it.  Another limitation on litigating is that you cannot sue yourself.  If there is a dispute it must be resolved without recourse to litigation when the disputants do not have separate legal personalities.  A local authority has only one legal personality. So for example the client side of the authority cannot sue the contractor side or vice versa; and the department, say the social services department, cannot sue another department of the same authority, say the housing department.  This is a somewhat anomalous situation, because it means that in the case of a unitary authority the departments have to resolve any differences without going to Court, whereas in a two-tier area, with the functions split between the tiers, the potential is there for the authorities to litigate with each other. Read more »