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Whiles Abuse Case: Supreme Court Ruling Could Help Victims Gain Justice From Council

Judgment Means Local Authority Could Be Held Responsible For Teesside Couple’s Abuse


James Clarke, Press Officer | +44 (0)161 838 3169

Lawyers representing two survivors who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a Teesside couple found guilty of historical child cruelty and sexual abuse in late 2017 have said a recent Supreme Court judgment could be “a vital step forward” in their battle for justice.

Kenneth and Peggy Whiles, from Eston, were found guilty of offences related to four victims in the 1980s and 1990s, but were spared custodial sentences in September 2017 due to the former suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and the latter being disabled.

Two of their victims, who can cannot be named for legal reasons have instructed specialist abuse lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help them gain justice regarding the ordeals they endured.

While the legal experts are continuing to investigate the prospect of direct legal action against the couple, they have revealed that a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court now means that the local authority which placed the then children with the couple could be deemed responsible for what they faced.

Emma Crowther, the specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office who represents the individuals, said: 

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“One of the issues with historical abuse cases is that taking direct legal action against those responsible does not always ensure access to the financial redress required to access specialist help to come to terms with their abuse. This is because abusers will most likely not have the assets to meet any Judgment against them.

“In addition, taking action against a local authority has not often been possible, as it would be reliant on evidence that the council knew of a foster parent’s wrongdoing or abuse, which is of course not always feasible.

“However, the ruling in the Supreme Court case of Armes v Nottinghamshire Council has changed all of that and has opened up the prospect that our clients – and many more survivors of abuse who may have struggled to get justice in the past – could now get access to the support they deserve.”
Emma Crowther, Associate Solicitor

The ruling in Armes v Nottinghamshire Council found that the local authority involved could be found ‘vicariously liable’ for abuse that a woman had suffered when she was placed her with foster parents. 

Emma added: “The move is significant as it widens the scope of liability and means organisations like councils can be held responsible for the actions of foster carers who they engage to look after children in their care.

“This is a vital step forward which will change the landscape for survivors of abuse. This means that they will now be able to get access to vital funds which will help in their recovery following them suffering severe physical and psychological injuries as a result of abuse they experienced across a number of years.

“While we continuing to consider our options, we are hopeful that this will ensure we can secure the best possible outcome to help our clients get access to the support they need to get the most from their lives.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in abuse claims.