Law Report: Child in care cannot sue council: X (minors) v Bedfordshire County Council - Queen's Bench Division (Mr Justice Turner), 12 November 1993

A child in care has no right to bring a private law action against a local authority for failure to discharge statutory duties under child care legislation or for negligence in discharging its duties.

Mr Justice Turner, giving judgment in open court, struck out the plaintiffs' statement of claim against the council. Five infant plaintiffs, suing by the Official Solicitor, claimed damages as a result of the council's negligence and/or breach of statutory duty. They alleged that the council had failed to discharge its statutory functions under the Children and Young Persons 1969, the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, the Child Care Act 1980 and the Children Act 1989 (the Child Care Acts). The council applied to strike out the action on the grounds that the Child Care Acts did not confer any private law right of action for a breach of the statutes, that a local authority's exercise of its powers under the child care legislation could be challenged only by judicial review and that no claim in negligence was recognised.

Ian Karsten QC and Lord Meston (Vizards) for the council; Allan Levy QC and Elizabeth Anne Gumbel (Conway Wood & Co, Harpenden) for the plaintiffs.

MR JUSTICE TURNER said that it was not the intention of Parliament to confer on a child injured as the result of a failure of a local authority to comply with the duties imposed on it by any of the Child Care Acts a private law right of action. The House of Lords negatived the existence of a private law right in A v Liverpool City Council (1982) AC 363. The principle of stare decisis applied. There was not only no obvious intention on the part of the legislature to disturb the effect of the Liverpool City Council case, but the 1989 Act pointed strongly in the other direction.

If the local authority might be liable in a private law action for breach of a statutory duty, so too might other agencies involved, such as police, health and education authorities. That might be a sufficient indication that Parliament did not contemplate the possibility of actions for damages for personal injury arising out of alleged failings by any of the agencies involved. The duty which a local authority was called upon to discharge was one imposed on it by law and was not voluntarily assumed.

Turning to the claim in negligence, although the fact that hitherto no tort of negligence by a local authority towards children had been recognised did not mean that the law should not recognise such a tort, there would have to exist compelling reasons of social policy before such a tort should be recognised.

The whole point of the legislation was that the child should be rescured through the machinery which the local authority was obliged by the legislation to operate to protect him or her from the inadequacies of his or her parents of carers.

However it was neither just nor reasonable that a private law action should be brought, for it was contrary to the public interest that such actions should be permitted. Such actions would not assist local authorities to discharge their duty towards others to whom their efforts should be directed.

Scarce resources would be diverted into investigating such actions and the content of records maintained by the local authority would come into the public domain and that would not be in the interests of the child and might lead to guarded or defensive record keeping to the disadvantage of others. Considerations of public policy denied the proposition there should now be declared to be the legally enforceable private law right asserted.

The plaintiffs had no right to claim damages for breach of statutory duty nor a cause of action in negligence. The proper exercise of discretion required his Lordship to strike out the statement of claim.

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?