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NA -v- Nottinghamshire County Council

Posted on: July 28, 2017

Judgement is still awaited for our client in the ground-breaking Supreme Court case of Armes (NA) – v – Nottinghamshire County Council UKSC2016/0004.

The issue that will be decided by the Supreme Court is whether the Local Authority, Nottinghamshire County Council in this case, is liable in respect of sexual and physical abuse suffered by our client and perpetrated by her foster carers, even though the local authority was not negligent in connection with the foster placements.

THE FACTS: Our client, Miss Armes, was placed with two sets of foster parents in the 1980s by Nottinghamshire County Council. Whilst in the placements Miss Armes was subjected to physical abuse by Mrs Glenys Allison between between 25 March 1985 and 27 March 1986, and sexual abuse by Mr Mark Blakely between 23 October 1987 and 23 February 1988.

Miss Armes brought a claim against Nottinghamshire County Council for the abuse that she had suffered. The matter came before the High Court in 2014 in the case of NA – v – Nottinghamshire County Council [2014] EWHC 4005 (QB). The Judge was the Honourable Mr Justice Males.

The Defendants argued that the claim was statute barred but Males J allowed the claim to proceed under the provisions of s.33 Limitation Act 1980. Both Mrs Glenys Allison and Mr Mark Blakely gave evidence denying that they had abused Miss Armes. Males J did not accept their evidence and found that some of the allegations of abuse against the foster parents was proved but that the Local Authority were not liable to Miss Armes in negligence for those abusive acts. It had been argued, on behalf of Miss Armes, that regardless of negligence the Local Authority owed to her a non-delegable duty of care and therefore they were liable. Males J agreed that the five components stated in Woodland (Appellant) – v – Essex County Council [2013] UKSC 66 were present, but due to public policy considerations it would not be fair, just and reasonable to impose such a duty. Males J also rejected arguments that the Local Authority were vicariously liable for the acts of their foster parents.

Miss Armes appealed and the matter came before Lady Justice Black, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Burnett in the Court of Appeal in November 2015. The judgement of the Court of Appeal is set out in NA – v – Nottinghamshire County Council [2015] EWCA Civ 1139. All the Court of Appeal Justices held that the Local Authority was not liable to Miss Armes. They ruled that that Local Authority did not owe Miss Armes a non-delegable duty of care and that the Local Authority was not vicariously liable for the acts of its foster parents.

Miss Armes applied for permission to Appeal to the highest Court in the UK, the Supreme Court – and permission was granted. The matter was heard by five Supreme Court Judges on 8th and 9th February 2017. The Supreme Court bench consisted of Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Reed and Lord Hughes. Judgement is awaited and is now not expected until after the new Supreme Court term begins in October 2017.

Uppal Taylor Solicitors are specialist child abuse solicitors.
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