Abuse by foster parents

October 19th, 2017 by James Goudie KC

In Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council (2017) UKSC 60 the appellant was in the care of the respondent local authority from the ages of seven to eighteen. The local authority placed her into foster care with Mr and Mrs A between March 1985 and March 1986, and with Mr and Mrs B between October 1987 and February 1988. She was physically and emotionally abused by Mrs A, and sexually abused by Mr B. The case proceeded on the basis that the local authority were not negligent in the selection or supervision of the foster parents, but the appellant claimed that the local authority were liable for the abuse, either on the basis that they were in breach of a non-delegable duty, or on the basis that they were vicariously liable for the wrongdoing of the foster parents. Her claim was dismissed by the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court has now allowed the appeal by a majority of 4-1, finding the local authority vicariously liable for abuse committed by the foster parents, but rejecting the argument that the local authority were liable on the basis of a non-delegable duty.

The case arose in the context of the regime under the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, the Child Care Act 1980 and the 1955 Boarding Out Regulations, not the present legislative regime and current fostering practice.

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