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NEGLIGENCE/SEXUAL ABUSE: Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council v C [2010] EWHC 62 (QB)

Date:21 JAN 2010

(Queen's Bench Division; Hickinbottom J; 21 January 2010)

The claimant mother sought damages for a personal injury in the form of a psychiatric condition. The mother had reported inappropriate sexual behaviour by her neighbour's child to the NSPCC who then informed the local authority. Some time later, further abuse was then reported and the local authority denied having received the original report and refused to contact the NSPCC for confirmation. Following a complaint by the mother, the local authority acknowledged its error and apologised. A misunderstanding of D v East Berkshire had led to the authority's mistaken reliance on a third party argument.

The judge held that as a children's parent is responsible for their safety, and as the mother had engaged with the authority directly, a distinct duty of care was owed to her. The authority's appeal was dismissed and there are reasonable grounds to proceed to trial.