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B v The Attorney-General [2003] UKPC 61

Negligence - Professional Conduct - Investigation into alleged sexual abuse of children by father - Father and children brought negligence claim against social worker and clinical psychologist for alleged failure to investigate allegations properly - Claim struck out - Common law duty of care owed to children in respect of whom statutory duty for prompt inquiry existed but not to father - Unsatisfactory to impose duty of care in favour of both alleged victim and alleged perpetrator - Children’s claim permitted to proceed to trial

12 September 2003

In 1988, D2 told a friend at school that her father (B) had sexually abused her. The Department of Social Welfare was notified and it began an investigation. A clinical psychologist, the second defendant, interviewed D2 and her sister (D1) in the presence of a teacher and a social worker, the third defendant. Consequently, the social worker laid a complaint under s 27 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1974 (New Zealand) and obtained a warrant for the removal of the children from B’s care under s 28 of the Act. The children were placed in foster care. B did not know of these events until he was interviewed by police. B denied the allegations against him at all times and the police never laid any charges. The social worker arranged for the children to be examined by a doctor. The appellants’ negligence claim was based on the alleged failure of the social worker and the clinical psychologist to investigate properly allegations that B had sexually abused D2. The claim was struck ou...

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