Poole Borough Council v GN and another [2019] UKSC 25

This was a seminal decision in which the Supreme Court considered the extent to which local authorities and their employees owe a common law duty of care when undertaking their social welfare functions.

The Supreme Court held that a local authority could owe a common law duty of care in negligence in the exercise in the exercise of its social welfare functions, but that this would be fact-specific. This may include a duty of care towards children in the exercise of its social services functions short of statutory intervention under Part IV of the Children Act 1989, including a duty to protect children from harm caused by third parties. In so holding, the Supreme Court explicitly departed from previous authority and dismissed many of the public policy arguments that had previously prevented such a duty from being owed.

Three members of Chambers acted on behalf of children’s organisations who were permitted to intervene in the appeal. Andrew Bagchi QC, instructed by Nuala Mole, acted on behalf of the Aire Centre. Deirdre Fottrell QC and Tom Wilson, instructed by Noel Arnold, acted on behalf of the Coram Children’s Legal Centre.

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