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Z and Others V. United Kingdom: Human Rights, Private Law Duty, and Children's Access to Public Protection

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, Vol. 4, No. 4, p. 448, 2002

7 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2006  

Margaret Isabel Hall

Thompson Rivers University - Faculty of Law


This case in the European Court of Human Rights concerned the decision of the House of Lords in X. v. Bedfordshire County Council finding that a local authority did not owe a private duty of care to children in need of protection, despite knowledge of abuse and gross neglect and the possibility that the decision not to intervene was so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could have made it (taking the decision outside the legitimate exercise of discretion). A majority of the European Court held that the decision on the duty of care did not violate the plaintiffs'access to justice under Article 6, but that the plaintiffs' rights not to be subjected to torture and degrading treatment under Article 3 had been violated. It is argued that the retention of public authority 'immunity' for decisions not to intervene, alongside the House of Lords'rejection of any public authority immunity after the initial decision to take the child into care (Barrett v. London Borough of Enfield), will make public authority intervention less likely,even in cases of gross negligence. Recognition that children's rights under Article 3 include a right to be protected from abuse and neglect through positive action (intervention) is an important protection for the human rights of young people.

Keywords: Child welfare, negligence, European Convention on Human Rights, duty of care, torture and degrading treatment, decision not to take children into care

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, K31, K40, K42, K13

Suggested Citation

Hall, Margaret Isabel, Z and Others V. United Kingdom: Human Rights, Private Law Duty, and Children's Access to Public Protection. Available at SSRN:

Margaret Hall (Contact Author)

Thompson Rivers University - Faculty of Law ( email )

900 McGill Road
Kamloops, British Columbia
604 518 3136 (Phone)

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