UK Children, But Not Parents, Given Right to Sue for False Child Abuse Claims

A Court of Appeals in Great Britain in July rejected claims of parents who wanted to sue doctors and social workers over false claims of child abuse, but it did rule that children involved in such cases could sue doctors and social workers.

In the UK doctors and social workers are legally obligated to report any suspected abuse. The Court of Appeals heard the claims of three couples who wanted to sue health care and social workers for negligence for falsely accusing them of abuse and, in one case, taking a child away from parents for almost 9 months.

In one case a woman was accused of Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, but ultimately it turned out that the child in question simply had severe allergies. In another case a father was accused of abusing his daughter, but it later turned out that she had a rare skin disease. Finally, an infant daughter was removed from the home of a couple for more than nine months after the girl’s parents were accused of breaking her leg. The girl was later diagnosed with a rare genetic condition which renders the bones extremely brittle.

The Court of Appeals ruled that although parents had no grounds to sue, that the children did under the Human Rights Act which requires the state to protect the rights of children. The court’s decision will likely be appealed.


Children can sue over abuse claims. The BBC, July 31, 2003.

Victims of child care errors win right to sue. Clare Dyer, The Guardian, August 1, 2003.

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