Woman’s Neglect Claim Against Council Can Proceed


Anyone who has suffered serious neglect in childhood may be able to claim compensation if professionals failed in their duty to protect them. In a recent case, a woman succeeded in persuading the High Court that her claim against a local authority had a real prospect of success.

The woman contended that she had suffered serious neglect while in her mother’s care, including dirty and inadequate clothing, poor diet, limited access to education and neglect of her medical needs. Although social services had first become involved with her family when she was 12, effective action was only taken after she turned 18. She claimed that the council’s failure to act earlier amounted to a violation of its duty to protect her under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects against inhuman or degrading treatment, and Article 8, which enshrines the right to respect for private and family life. The council applied to strike out her claim.

The Court found that, in this case, it was necessary to look at the cumulative impact of how the claimant had been treated, rather than at specific incidents. It noted that there had been a regular pattern of deterioration followed by some improvement, and she had not been consistently living in a poor home environment: however, she could not have known whether and when such improvements would occur. The Court also observed that some of the professionals involved had felt that greater intervention was warranted. It was arguable that removing the woman from her mother’s care would have prevented the alleged breach of her rights under Article 3.

The Court also accepted that, even if the woman’s claim under Article 3 was unsuccessful, she could still succeed in her Article 8 claim. Accordingly, the council’s application was dismissed and her claim can now proceed to trial.

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