Public Authority Liability Update - Summer 2011 - A Tale Of Two Strike Outs

Ahmad v (1) London Borough of Brent, (2) National Probation Service, (3) Ministry of Justice, (4) Parole Board for England and Wales (2011), High Court

Following the well known decision in JD v East Berkshire Community Health NHS Trust (2005), the High Court has rejected an attempt by a claimant to impose a duty of care on a social services department in circumstances where there was a conflict of interest between the claimant and his daughter.


The factual background was both complex and disturbing. The claimant had been convicted of murdering his 19-year-old daughter in 1991 in an "honour killing". He was sentenced to life imprisonment but was a model prisoner and was released in 2001 on licence. His licence contained certain conditions and in particular, that he should have no direct contact with his surviving 13-year-old daughter without the prior written authority of social services.

In due course supervised contact with the surviving daughter was allowed. However, in 2006 a social worker from the London Borough of Brent prepared a risk assessment detailing concerns she had regarding the claimant, including that he had been having contact over and above that which had been permitted in accordance with the licence. Following this, the probation service prepared a report to the prison service who revoked the claimant's licence. He was sent back to prison.

The claimant appealed to the Parole Board immediately. The Parole Board ultimately decided that the claimant's recall had not been justified and in particular, that he had not been having contact in excess of what was permitted by his licence. By this time the claimant had spent a year in prison.

The claim

Once released the claimant brought a claim for damages arising from his loss of liberty against all of the agencies involved.

The claim was brought in negligence, misfeasance in public office and for a declaration of interference with the claimant's right to private and family life, engaging Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. As against the local authority it was alleged that the risk assessment prepared by the social worker was incorrectly prepared and led to the claimant's wrongful recall to prison. It was alleged that the social worker owed a duty of care to provide accurate information to the other agencies, that the social worker was reckless as to the information that went into the risk assessment and that this ultimately caused him to lose his liberty.


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