The Judgment in the case of Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council has now been handed down by the Supreme Court. Here, Graham Roberts considers the impact of this significant and long-awaited decision.
The law dictates that local authorities are ‘vicariously liable’ for the actions of their employees as long as the actions are within the general remit of their duties at work. This means that if a teacher or other employee is found to have abused a child in their care, the local authority will be obliged to compensate that child
An example of this has been seen in cases handled recently by our Personal Injury team. The department has successfully obtained compensation from Calderdale Council for a number of adults who suffered sexual abuse as children, at the hands of Alan Birkby. Birkby was convicted of preying upon young children in his care at the Parkinson Lane Junior School in Halifax between 1969 and 1976.
The case of Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council has extended the law so the local authorities are not only vicariously liable for the actions of direct employees, but can be responsible for the actions of those whose relationship with a council holds characteristics similar to those found in employment (such as foster carers.)
It was also recognised in the case that a foster carer may often lack the means to meet an order to pay damages, or can no longer be located. The result of the case means that claimants can now recover their damages from the Local Authority.
No amount will ever compensate those that have been abused for what they have been through, but an award of damages can make a dramatic difference. As a starting point it can allow claimants to access private psychological and psychiatric treatment to help them try and come to terms with what they have endured.
We are also currently dealing with cases for a number of individuals whose only recourse to compensation for the abuse they suffered as children has been realised because of the decision in Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council, the abusive foster parent having died without leaving any assets that could satisfy an award of damages.
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