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Supreme Court: Day Two

Posted on: February 9, 2017

The Supreme Court appeal hearing in the case of Armes – v – Nottinghamshire County Council, which resumed this morning for a second day of submissions, has concluded. Uppal Taylor act for the Appellant, Ms Armes.

The appeal focuses on the liability of Local Authorities for the actions of foster parents. The key issue to be decided by the Supreme Court is whether the local authority who placed the appellant into foster care is liable in respect of the physical and sexual abuse suffered by her and perpetrated by her foster carers, even though the local authority was not negligence in connection with the foster placement.

The hearing was adjourned at 14:40 by Lady Justice Hale who commented that the court would now consider the answers to the questions posed and deliver judgement in the usual way.
The appellant, during her childhood, was placed in the care of Nottinghamshire County Council. During her time in care she was placed with two sets of foster parents, Mr and Mrs A between March 1985 and March 1986, and with Mr and Mrs B between October 1987 and February 1988. During her time in these placements she was physically abused by Mrs A and sexually abused by Mr B.

The appellant brought proceedings against Nottinghamshire County Council. It was her case that the abuse had occurred through the negligence of the Local Authority. Alternatively, that Nottinghamshire County Council were liable for the abuse under the legal principal of vicarious liability, or that Nottinghamshire owed to the appellant a non-delegable duty of care and this had been breached by the abusive acts.

The matter came before The Honourable Mr Justice Males in the High Court in 2014 (Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council [2014] EWHC 4005 (QB)). The Judge found that the appellant had been abused by the foster parents, but he did not consider the Local Authority liable for the abuse. The Judge did not believe a case in negligence was held out, that the legal principal of vicarious liability did not apply to the relationship between a Local Authority and foster parents, and whilst the components of a non-delegable duty of care where held out as a matter of public policy a non-delegable duty of care did not exist.

The matter came before the Court of Appeal in 2015 (Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council [2015] EWCA Civ 1139) on appeal from the appellant. The Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the Court below. The appellant appealed, and the matter has now come before the Supreme Court.

The judgement of the Supreme Court is a long awaited clarification of the law relating to the liability of Local Authorities in connection with the abusive acts of foster parents.

Uppal Taylor Solicitors are specialist solicitors acting for victims of childhood abuse and maltreatment.