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Milton Keynes Council ordered to pay £319,000 to victims of child abuse

Local authority held vicariously liable for negligence of social workers employed by predecessor

Milton Keynes Council has been ordered to pay more than £300,000 in damages to four claimants who suffered "the most appalling" abuse from their father, after it was held to have been vicariously liable for the negligence of social workers employed by Buckinghamshire County Council, its predecessor authority.

The claimants in ABB & Ors v Milton Keynes Council [2011] EWHC 2745 were three brothers and a sister who, during part or all of their childhood, lived in the area for which Buckinghamshire County Council was responsible. 

Throughout their childhood each of the claimants was the victim of sustained and serious sexual abuse, perpetrated by their father, between about 1990 and 2005, when he suffered a serious stroke. In 2007 the father pleaded guilty to 40 offences involving sexual abuse and was sentenced to life imprisonment. 

The Defendants' predecessors became aware of the father's abuse of the first and second claimants, in April 1992. The father moved to lodgings and the first three claimants were placed on the child protection register. The fourth Claimant was born over two years later on 23 September 1994.

No charges were brought against the father, who returned to the family home on the day of a Child Protection Conference on 22 October 1992. During the relevant period the family were engaged in counselling and other therapeutic work, there were further meetings and conferences. On 22 April 1993 the claimants' names were removed from the Child Protection Register and on 5 June 1993 the case was closed.
The father continued to abuse the three older claimants and during her childhood, from the age of about 7 or 8, fourth claimant. The court found that each of the claimants has suffered harm arising from that abuse.

The claimants alleged failure to investigate and analyse the background to the abuse and the relationships within the family adequately. It was alleged that the risks posed by the father were not adequately assessed and this led to the return of the father to the household and the exposure of the claimants to a foreseeable risk of harm.

The claimants sought compensation under various heads, pain and suffering, loss of earnings, disadvantage in the labour market and the cost of treatment. The defendants denied liability; whilst accepting that there has been injury, they did not admit he extent of the losses claimed.

After investigating the factual allegations made by the claimants, HHJ Hampton found the defendants vicariously liable for the shortcomings of the social work provided to the claimants' family during 1992 and 1993 and the failure to follow up the family when a further incident occurred involving the second claimant in October 1993. Damages were awarded to the Claimants as follows: 

 The judgment can be read in full here.