Foster children will be able to sue a local authority for abuse which happened under their care following a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court.
Natasha Armes, now 40, from Nottingham, won her case against Nottinghamshire County Council after justices ruled by four-to-one that it was liable for abuse she suffered as a child 30 years ago.
In their ruling, the Supreme Court justices found the local authority was “vicariously liable” for the abuse committed by the foster parents, even though it was not negligent in choosing or supervising them.
Lawyers said the decision meant councils were now liable for abuse carried out by foster carers, whether it was historic or recent.
The ruling overturned previous decisions against Ms Armes made at the High Court and Court of Appeal.
In the judgment Lord Reed said the local authority carried out the recruitment, selection and training of foster parents, paid their expenses and supervised the fostering.
The “foster parents with which the present case is concerned cannot be regarded as carrying on an independent business of their own”, he said.
“Although the picture presented is not without complexity, nevertheless when considered as a whole it points toward the conclusion that the foster parents provided care to the child as an integral part of the local authority’s organisation of its child care services.”
Ms Armes’ lawyers, Nottingham firm Uppal Taylor Solicitors, described the ruling in a statement on their website as “landmark”.
They said: “Today, the long-awaited judgment found that local authorities are vicariously liable for the actions of foster parents.”
Kim Harrison, a lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represents children who have been abused by foster carers, said: “This judgment has finally put right a terrible injustice which has denied so many victims a legal redress that is widely available to other survivors of abuse.
“Until now local authorities had effectively been able to avoid responsibility for the devastating consequences of placing a child in the care of an abusive foster parent.
“This removes the arbitrary distinction which meant local authorities could be held vicariously liable for abuse if it took place in a children’s home, but not if it took place in a foster carer’s home.
“With this ruling, survivors will be able properly to hold to account the authority which so badly let them down.”
The justices said the next stage of the litigation was for damages to be assessed.