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Coxon v Flintshire County Council (formerly Clwyd County Council), Court of Appeal

19 February 2001
The issues

Child Abuse – Quantum of Damages – Applicability or Otherwise of the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines

The facts

The Claimant was a victim of her parent’s physical and emotional abuse and was bullied at school. At the age of 14 she was taken into the care of the Local Authority. She was bullied by her fellow inmates without intervention by staff and subsequently was subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of members of staff. On leaving the home she was placed with Foster Parents. She had a series of temporary jobs and developed a serious drink problem. She was left damaged and vulnerable. She became involved in drugs and married a heavy drug taker. She suffered from panic attacks, self-destructive behaviour. She met an older man who bullied her and blackmailed her to stay with him.

In the course of the North Wales Children’s Home litigation she was awarded £35,000.00 for pain, suffering, loss of amenity, £20,000.00 for loss of past earnings, £5,000.00 for future loss and £10,000.00 for the cost of future psychotherapy. The Local Authority appealed against the finding in respect of general damages arguing that this was not a case that fell into the category of severe psychiatric damage as defined in the JSB. It argued that the maximum that should have been awarded for pain and suffering and loss of amenity was £10,000.00.

The decision

The Court of Appeal was far from satisfied that the JSB applied in cases of this kind. Physical emotional and sexual abuse fell into a category wholly different from psychiatric damage that followed up personal injuries. There was therefore no definable bracket into which to place the case. The Judge was correct to take a broad-brush approach and could not be criticised for his findings of quantum.

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