0370 270 6000

already registered?

Please sign in with your existing account details.

need to register?

Register to access exclusive content, sign up to receive our updates and personalise your experience on brownejacobson.com.

Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

D v East Berkshire Community Health NHS Trust, House of Lords, 21 April 2005

9 September 2005
The issues

Liability of Social Services Departments – Liability of Local Authority – Mistaken Diagnosis of Child Abuse by Social Services

The facts

East Berkshire was one of three cases, the others being MAK v Dewsbury NHS Trust and RK v Oldham NHS Trust.

In each case the parents of children brought actions alleging that healthcare professionals were negligent in investigating alleged child abuse. In the Dewsbury case a child was also a Claimant directly and the local authority which was responsible for its Social Services Department was an additional Defendant.

The claims had all been struck out at first instance. In all three cases the Claimants appealed. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals of the parents but allowed the appeal of the child in the Dewsbury case.

The parents appealed in all three cases to the House of Lords. There was no appeal from the local authority against the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Dewsbury case.

In that case the Court of Appeal had found that x v Bedfordshire ought not to be followed because it was inconsistent with the child’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. It was decided that it was reasonably arguable that a local authority owed a duty in negligence to a child in relation to its investigation of suspected child abuse and the commencement and seeing through of care proceedings. It was however not prepared to say that there were situations where there might still be no duty.

The decision

1. There was potential conflict between the interests of parents and the interests of children when child care decisions were being made. For example, at the time when the professionals were investigating alleged abuse they would not know whether there had been abuse by a parent. Thus the professionals would be torn between the interests of the child namely that the professional should report suspicions and investigate further, and the interest of the parents which were clearly contrary in such a situation [Lord Roger “the world is full of harm for which the law furnishes no remedy”] 2. Because of that conflict there were good policy reasons for not imposing on Social Workers and Doctors a duty of care owed to parents in respect of such decisions.
3. The majority of the House of Lords reserved its opinion on the effect of the ECHR on the common law of negligence. It is still therefore potentially open to the Court to reach a different decision in respect of the parent’s claim arising after 2nd October 2000.

focus on...

Legal updates

Non-payment of insurance premiums during the Coronavirus pandemic

The forced closure of many businesses as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Recent reports from the Office for National Statistics state that the economy was 25% smaller in April than it was in February this year.


Legal updates

Reinstatement for property damage losses – when does it apply?

The Court of Appeal has recently considered the correct test for measuring the indemnity for property damage losses and has provided useful guidance on whether an insured needs to intend to reinstate the property to its pre-loss condition.


Legal updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19) insurance considerations

With instances of COVID-19 rapidly increasing throughout the UK, many businesses are considering the options available to limit staff and customer exposure to Coronavirus.


Legal updates

Insurance annual review 2019-2020

Welcome to our review of 2019 as we look ahead to what is on the horizon for the insurance sector in 2020.


The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up