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KT and AT v Devon County Council, High Court, 25 November 2005

13 April 2006
The issues

Article 2 (the right to education) of the First Protocol to the Human Rights Act 1998 and a breach, if any, of the right to education.

The facts

KT who was aged 15 years old and attending a school operated by the defendant local education authority, was the victim of an assault by two fellow pupils. She had been threatened prior to the attack but it was disputed by the Defendants whether she gave notice to the teacher prior to the attack of a direct threat or a rumour of a likely assault. She brought a claim for compensation for personal injury and other matters against the Defendant, supported by her father, who acted as her litigation friend. Her father, AT, also brought a claim in his own name, making several allegations regarding the conduct of the school, including fraud, defamation and a failure to discipline the two fellow pupils correctly.

It was specifically pleaded that the rights of both the father and daughter under Article 2, namely the right to education had been breached by the actions of the school. Further, the school had failed to act under their duty of in loco parentis which they owed to AT, the father.

At an interlocutory hearing, the allegations regarding fraud and defamation were struck out. The claimants appealed and, as this was a county court matter, the action was referred to the high court under section 9 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 for specific consideration of the human rights issues and consideration of the claimant’s appeal.

The decision

Mr Justice Cooke reviewed the matters in turn.

AT’s claim was based solely upon the claim that his human right had been breached and that the school owed him a duty in loco parentis. Mr Justice Cooke stated that “the alleged breach by the school has nothing whatever to do with the parent, set out in Article 2 of Protocol 1.” There was no suggestion that the school had failed to educate his daughter in conformity with his own religious and philosophical convictions. The duty of in loco parentis is a duty owed to the child and not to the parent and his claim on both grounds was therefore dismissed.

Upon the facts of the case, there was no evidence which suggested that KT had been denied the ability to receive an education and therefore her own claim that she had suffered a breach of human rights also failed. Her claim must therefore proceed upon an allegation of negligence and breach of statutory alone.

It was also found that there was no adequate basis for the allegations of fraud and this pleading was struck out from the claimant’s particulars of claim.

Action regarding defamation may not be commenced in the county court without the consent of both parties and therefore the decision of the district judge to strike out this claim was correct.

In relation to the failure to properly punish the two girls, limited disclosure was ordered from the Defendants.

The claimants have since sought permission from the Court of Appeal to appeal this decision and have been refused.

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