'Abused' brothers launch test case

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FOUR brothers taken into care as babies claim they were physically abused throughout their childhood and, despite complaining, were systematically ignored by the local authority.

In a test case which will fuel mounting concern at the frequency of abuse in the local authority care system, three of the four are now suing Manchester City Council for exemplary damages in the High Court.

The children were allegedly beaten with high-heeled shoes, forced to put their heads into a lavatory bowl, and made to wear girls' clothes during an ordeal of abuse that lasted at least seven years.

The Independent disclosed last week that 70 children and young adults were taking unprecedented legal action against local authorities all over Britain alleging physical and sexual abuse while in care. Dozens more young people have telephoned since that report to ask how they can initiate proceedings.

Many of those who wish to take action are, however, unable to do so because under an old statute, writs must be issued within three years of the incident or of reaching the age of 18.

Lawyers, who estimate that there may be as many as 300 people currently suing councils, have called for an immediate reform of the law. Joan Lestor, Labour's spokeswoman on children, said that she proposed to raise the issue as a matter of urgency when Parliament resumes in the Autumn.

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