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Mother sues council for mental scars; Woman cites official negligence over child sex abuse claims.

A MUM is suing a council for psychological damageshe suffered- over claims it failed to act on complaints her children were sexually abused by a neighbour's young daughter. Inalandmarkcourt rulingyesterday,aleading judge ruled her claim against Merthyr Tydfil council stood "a real prospect of success" and should be allowed to proceed to a full hearing.

The mum, who cannot be identified, says she still bears the psychiatric scars of her treatment at the hands of the council and is seeking a substantial damages payout.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom said the mother contacted the NSPCC in 2002 and complained that her two children had been subjected to "inappropriate sexual behaviour" by a neighbour's daughter, who was then aged just eight. The NSPCC passed on the complaint to the council, who advised the mother to keep her children indoors. She at first followed that advice but, as the child next door did not appear to be playing out of doors, she later allowed her children to again go outside.

However, further abuse followed in 2004 and, when the mum complained again, this time directly to the council, Merthyr Tydfil denied that she had ever reported any incident in 2002 andrefusedto get in contactwiththeNSPCCfor confirmation.

Asocialworkerwas allocated to the family but she was the same one allocated to the family next door whose daughter - the alleged abuser - has since been removed from her family and placed with foster parents.

The mother's legal team says her run-in with the council triggered acute psychiatric injuries, including "irrational guilt feelings that she has been unable to protect her children".

She is said to have felt "tormented by uncertainty" about how she could protect her children in the future and to have suffered "an acute anxiety attack triggered by her experience of the social services disbelieving she had previously reported abuse in 2002".

Her "acute distress at the knowledge that her children had been subjected to further abusive incidents caused her to suffer psychiatric illness in the formof panic disorder with agoraphobia", the mother's lawyers argue.

At the preliminary hearing at the High Court in London, the council's lawyers argued the mother's case should be "struck out". Among their reasons was that the mother, as a "third party"whowas not abused herself,was owed no legal "duty of care" by the council.

However, dismissing the council's bid to block the case, Mr Justice Hickinbottom said that although the mother faces "a number of challenges" in pursuing her case, her claim "has a real prospect of success ". Nodate has been set for the full hearing of the mother's negligence claim against the council.

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 22, 2010
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