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County Council v SM and Others, Court of Appeal

25 September 2001
The issues

Local government – Striking out – Sex abuse

The facts

The claimants alleged that a woman and her son had moved into a flat opposite where the claimant lived. They claimed that the son sexually assaulted the claimants and committed acts of gross indecency on them. They alleged that the injuries that they had suffered had been a consequence of a breach of duty of care or negligence on the part of the defendant County Council. The son had been on bail for two charges of indecent assault and was on the County Council’s at risk register himself.

The defendant County Council tried to strike out and failed before the District Judge who ordered that the claims should be struck out unless the Particulars of Claim were amended. The amendments were made. Appeal was made by the defendant to the Judge who dismissed it. The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing that they accepted that European Authority was against striking out on the grounds that it was not fair just and reasonable to impose a duty of care, that there was no reason why a strike out could not succeed on the basis of foreseeability and proximity.

The claimants were not a member of an exceptional or distinctive category risk but were merely members of the general public.

The decision

The claimant’s allegations made out no arguable case on foreseeability and failed to establish proximity.

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