Victims of abuse by parents may sue councils, appeal court rules

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Up to 300 people who were abused by their parents are set to sue authorities for millions of pounds for failing to take them into care, it was reported last night. In a test case, the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling which ordered Doncaster council to pay £25,000 to a man who was abused for 12 years.

The decision establishes that authorities can be liable for damages if they do not act to remove children from abusive homes. About 200 to 300 cases in which councils delayed taking action are now expected to be brought, The Times newspaper reported.

Jonathan Wheeler, of Bolt Burdon Kemp solicitors, said the appeal court had determined that the abuse of Jake Pierce would have stopped sooner if Doncaster council had acted correctly. There were "countless examples of similar failings by social services departments up and down the country".

"This shows that the death of Baby P and the failings of social services in Haringey which have been highlighted recently are not isolated incidents." Since the death of Baby P, who suffered prolonged abuse despite regular visits by social services and health workers, council applications to take children into care have risen by 26 per cent.

The court heard in the Doncaster case that Mr Pierce, now 32, was removed from his family and fostered for 15 months, but was returned. He suffered "severe physical and emotional abuse".