Local authorities may be liable for huge compensation claims
after a landmark judgement by the European Court of Human Rights
ordered a council to pay compensation to four children it failed to
The court in Strasbourg ruled that Bedfordshire Council had to
pay the siblings damages of £320,000 for abuse of their human
rights plus £39,000 for costs and expenses.
The judges unanimously agreed that article 3 of the Human Rights
Act, the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, had been
violated. The judges voted by 15 votes to two that the right to
effect legal remedy, article 13, had also been violated.
The children had been abused by their mother over five years and
despite Bedfordshire council being kept informed of this, it failed
to intervene until the mother threatened to batter her children
unless they were taken into care.
The ruling in effect removed the immunity social services
departments have from legal action if they fail to discharge their