Supreme Court rules against children who suffered alleged abuse – but reinstated an important legal right

The Supreme Court, London.

Two brothers who claim they suffered harassment and abuse from neighbours have lost a landmark Supreme Court bid for compensation from their local council – but the Court reinstated the potential for children and young people to bring negligence claims against local authorities who have failed to protect them from harm.

The pair, identified only as CN and GN, alleged Poole Borough Council negligently failed to protect them from harm between 2006 and 2011, when they were aged under 10.

Part of their case was that they should have been taken into care for their protection.

But a panel of five justices ruled that their claim could not go ahead because the local authority had not assumed responsibility for their safety and did not owe them a duty of care.

The judges said there were “simply no grounds” for the council to take them into care, because the alleged harm they suffered was from their neighbours and not from a lack of parental care.

Lord Reed, giving the lead ruling, said: “Although the court does not have before it all the evidence which may emerge at a trial, there is no reason to believe that the claimants could overcome these fundamental problems as to the legal basis of their claim.

“That being so, it is to the advantage of all concerned that the claim should not proceed to what would be a costly but inevitably fruitless trial.”

CN, who is severely disabled, and his brother GN claimed the council knew they were at foreseeable risk when they were housed next door to a family who engaged in persistently anti-social behaviour.

The pair were said to have suffered significant physical and psychological harm as a result of attacks, threats of violence, verbal abuse and vandalism, and GN attempted suicide at the age of 12.

They brought claims against the council for breach of a common law duty of care derived from statutory duties under the Children Act 1989 but, in 2017, the Court of Appeal ruled against them.

The Supreme Court justices agreed with the Court of Appeal’s decision that CN and GN’s case should not proceed, but came to a different conclusion on the effect of previous rulings.

Lord Reed said that, although it did not apply in this case, there are circumstances in which a local authority can be held accountable for failing to protect vulnerable children.

The case was supported by charities including Article 39, which fights for the rights of children and young people who live in children’s homes, prisons and other institutions, and the Care Leavers’ Association, which supports care leavers of all ages.

Lawyers from Simpson Millar, which represented the charities, welcomed the ruling, saying it offered clarification on the law and meant other claims – which had been on hold following the Court of Appeal decision – could now go ahead.

Peter Garsden, a partner at the law firm, said: “This decision affects some of the most vulnerable members of our society and we are delighted that those affected will continue to have access to the justice that they deserve in instances where they are let down by those they have put their faith in.”

Carolyne Willow, director at Article 39, said: “We are incredibly relieved that the Supreme Court has reinstated the potential for children and young people to bring negligence claims against local authorities who have failed to protect them from harm.”

David Graham, national director of the Care Leavers’ Association, said: “A court ruling that a local authority had a duty of care and acted negligently can give care leavers a real sense of justice and vindication, as well as financial compensation for harm that should never have happened.

“We hope the courts will now quickly deal with the backlog of cases from adults who were failed as children.”

Foreign convicts seeking to block deportation orders in human rights case

Ahm0012927. Forced deportations, Afghani nationals who have served prison sentences of over one year for crimes commited in this country, being boarded onto a chartered flight to Afghanistan by UK Border Agency staff and private security. 27th April 2009. Stanstead Airport. Sunday Telegraph.Foreign convicts are asking seven Supreme Court justices to block their deportation on human rights grounds.

The two men, referred to as HA and ZM, are an Iraqi national convicted of drugs offences and a Tunisian jailed for grievous bodily harm and weapon possession who say that removing them from the UK would be incompatible with their “right to a family life” under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Their appeals to the highest court in the land – one from the England and Wales jurisdiction and the other from Northern Ireland – are expected to lay down guidelines for future similar cases.

Critics’ complaints that thousands of foreign offenders have used human rights laws to stay in the UK are at the forefront of calls to scrap the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European convention into domestic law.

Both appeals are being heard on Tuesday by a panel headed by Lord Neuberger, the court’s president, and deputy president Lady Hale. Other panel members are Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, Lord Hughes and Lord Thomas.

Failed asylum seeker HA, an Iraqi national who came to the UK in 2000, remained without permission and was convicted and fined for possession of controlled drugs in 2005.

In December 2006 the 39-year-old was convicted of two counts of possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply and sentenced to four years imprisonment.

An automatic deportation order was made against him by Home Secretary Theresa May in October 2010 under the UK Borders Act 2007.

His lawyers are arguing that he has a long-standing relationship with his fiancee, a British citizen, and the weight being given by the Government to the public interest in deporting foreign criminals is incompatible with his right to a family life under Article 8.

Father-of-two ZM married a UK citizen in 1996 and she gave birth to a daughter the following year, when he also entered the UK. He was granted indefinite leave to remain in 1999.

He and his wife separated, but he remained in the UK and lived with another partner, who gave birth to a son in 2006.

Papers before the Supreme Court judges state he pleaded guilty in 2005 to offences committed in 2003 of assault causing grievous bodily harm and possession of an offensive weapon and was sentenced to three years and three months imprisonment.

After his conviction, ZM was not required to go back to prison because of the time he had served on remand, but was subsequently convicted of a number of less serious offences.

The Home Secretary ordered his deportation in October 2012 on the basis of his conviction after rejecting his claim that his removal would infringe his Article 8 family rights.

Among the issues being considered by the Supreme Court are whether Mrs May failed properly to consider the Article 8 rights of his children, and what was in their best interests, before the decision to remove their father was taken.