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Boughey v Somerset County Council, Yeovil County Court, 3 February 2005

10 February 2005
The issues

Negligence – Employment – Duty of Care to Process Job Application Promptly – Supply Teachers – Education

The facts

The Claimant applied in the summer of 2002 to be placed upon the County supply teaching register. The register was a central list of all approved supply teachers who were willing to work in County schools. Part of the procedure involved performing a background check upon applicants to ensure that they were suitable for working with children. Prior to March 2002 the procedure involved checking against the national “List 99″, a central list held by the DfES of all teachers who had been banned from working with children. The check also included a police check with the local force. From March 2002 in response to high profile childe abuse cases the DfES introduced a new system whereby schools should refer to the newly formed Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) who would carry out the necessary checks. Regrettably the CRB struggled to keep up with demand such that some schools were unable to open at the start of the new school term. On 5th September 2002 the DfES issued amended guidance stating that LEA’s should temporarily revert back to the old procedure due to delays in processing checks at the CRB.

The Claimant’s application was referred on the 11th September to the CRB notwithstanding the DfES advice. As a consequence she was cleared to work as a supply teacher from the 13th November, a delay of approximately two months.

The Claimant argued that the Defendant owed her a duty of care to process her application as expeditiously as possible. She further argued that the Defendant breached that duty by referring her application to the CRB when the DfES made it clear that they were entitled to use the old List 99 procedure. (The Defendant conceded that had it used that procedure the Claimant’s application would have been processed more quickly).

The Claimant claimed for lost supply teaching income that she said she would have received between September and November 2002.

The decision

The judge preferred to deal with the question of breach first:-

i) As to duty merely because an unsolicited application had been received, it could not be said that there was a duty of care to process that application speedily or at all.
ii) This was a claim for pure economic loss and therefore bound to fail.
iii) The Claimant had failed to show in any event that any loss had been caused by any putative breach.
iv) Had there been a duty there was no breach. Any delay on the part of the Defendant had been caused by the CRB; the September guidance was no more than guidance and it remained at the discretion of the LEA to use which ever method they chose to ensure the suitability of the Claimant.
v) The Defendant owed the Claimant no obligation to use the List 99 procedure.
vi) The Claimant was told in advance that her application would be subject to a CRB check.

Claim dismissed.

Comments

For further information about this case contact Daniel Turner on danielturner@veitchpenny.co.uk or +44 (0)1392 288336

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