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Accountability of State Authorities

Over the past fifteen years the AIRE Centre has been involved in many cases where the responsible authorities either culpably failed to take the necessary steps to protect vulnerable children or culpably wrongly identified children as being at risk and so did not identify the serious medical conditions from which the children were suffering. Such professional errors unfortunately happen. What is different about these cases is that once the authorities were made aware of their wrongdoing they refused to accept liability for the harm they had caused the victims by their wrongful acts and/or omissions.

Osman v UK  (23452/94) - This was the AIRE Centre's first case in Strasbourg. The Centre acted for a child, his mother and his deceased father in a case where the UK authorities refused to accept responsibility for the fatal shooting, and the risk to life, of a family attacked by a seriously mentally disordered teacher who had developed a disturbing obsession with the child.  The authorities had long been aware of  the teacher's aberrative behaviour and had assured the family that they would protect them, but no protective measures were taken. The family brought a negligence claim which was struck out as the Court found that no duty of care was owed.  The Court found a violation of Article 6 - the right of access to court. The Centre was assisted by Louise Christian who had acted in the domestic proceedings and by Ben Emmerson QC and Professor Andrew Clapham.

Z and others v UK (29392/95): The AIRE Centre working with the Official Solicitor and Penelope Wood and Lizanne Gumbel QC,  assisted by Ben Emmerson QC represented the Applicants, five children who were subjected  to inhuman and degrading treatment caused by their parents.  The Court found a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. The Court found that the local authority were aware of the serious ill-treatment and neglect suffered by the four children (one withdrew from the litigation) and failed to take any effective steps to bring it to an end.  The applicants had brought a claim in negligence which was struck out on the basis that no duty of care was owed.  The Court found a violation of Article 3. In contrast to Osman, it found no violation of Article 6, but a violation of Article 13 as there was no effective remedy.

TP & another v UK (28945/95):  The AIRE Centre, together with Robert Sherman as Counsel, represented the Applicants in this case: a mother and her daughter. The daughter was taken into care on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations of  sexual abuse following an interview with her at the age of four. The local authority failed to investigate the facts with proper care and refused to disclose the crucial video-recording of the interview with the child.  The Court found a violation of Article 8 as the applicant had not been sufficiently involved in the decision-making process concerning her daughter's care.  As in Z  with which the case joined, the Court also found a violation of Article 13 because no duty of care in negligence was recognised.

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P, C and S  v UK (56547/00): The AIRE Centre represented the Applicants in a case regarding the removal of a child at birth and their placing for adoption in circumstances where only one of her parents was even alleged to present a risk. The Court found a violation of Articles 6(1) and 8 of the Convention. The Court stated that the lack of legal representation of the applicant mother during the adoption proceedings proceedings, deprived the applicants of a fair and effective hearing. The Court declined to rule on the disproportionality of the impossibility for conditions to be attached to adoption in the UK. The AIRE Centre worked with Leigh Day solicitors, Barbara Hewson, and  Dermot Casey as Counsel.

A.D. and O.D. v the United Kingdom (28680/06): The Applicants were subjected to unnecessary separation and distress as a consequence of the intransigent insistence by the authorities that a child was at risk, resulting in the failure to diagnose a serious medical condition in a sickly baby. Once the errors emerged the applicants were denied any remedy in English law for the human rights violations they had suffered. The Court found violations of Article 6 and 8 of the Convention.

R.K. and M.A.K. v the United Kingdom (45901/05 & 40146/06): The AIRE Centre worked with Paul Sykes of Levi Solicitors to represent the Applicants, who were victims of the authorities’ negligent conclusion that a child had been abused by her father, resulting in the failure to diagnose a serious medical condition.  The Court found violations of Article 6 and 8 of the Convention. 

B.P. v the United Kingdom (29619/08):  The Applicant was refused contact with his daughter for five years following wrongful accusation of child abuse.  Once the errors had emerged he was not granted access to an effective remedy for the human rights violations suffered. The case is now settling. The AIRE Centre acted together with Glyn Maddocks solicitor in conjunction with alternative domestic proceedings in which Nick Bowen QC is Counsel.

E.L. v the United Kingdom (33140/06): This case concerns the decision to place an infant in social care on the erroneous basis that the child's mother had inflicted injuries on the child.  The case has been communicated and is pending judgment. The AIRE Centre is working in conjunction with Pannone LLP and Maryam Tabib, Counsel. 

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