Children of parents wrongly accused of abuse can sue, court rules

Children who suffer negligence after their parents or carers
have been wrongly accused of abuse can sue councils and health
authorities, following an important high court ruling.

Master of the Rolls Lord Phillips decided that parents could not
sue, but children taken into care could claim compensation for the
period they are away from their parents.

The court heard three cases from parents claiming the right to
sue after being wrongly accused of abuse by health authorities,
and, in one of the three cases, a council as well.

The Association of Directors of Social Services has reacted to
the judgement by saying it is a “significant” extension
of children’s rights.

But president David Behan said social workers must still be
allowed to carry out their statutory obligations to investigate
cases of abuse.

He said: “What is vitally important is that staff should
feel supported in the professional judgements they make, and that
they do not feel as if they are working with hands tied behind
their backs, in fear of litigation.

“If, at the end of the day, we do not get it right, then it is
only right and proper that children should have redress for any
harm they suffer.”

In a case involving Kirkless council and Dewsbury Health Care
NHS Trust, a nine-year-old girl was taken into care after her
father was wrongly accused of sexually abusing her. The father and
daughter claimed psychiatric injury and financial loss arising from
the accusations.

Lord Phillips accepted the girl’s right to sue the council
and the trust, but rejected the father’s claim.

In the other two cases only the parents claimed the right to

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