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AUDITORS TO APPEAL AGAINST DUTY OF CARE

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The Audit Commission is to seek an appeal in the House of Lords to contest a ruling that its district auditors owed...
The Audit Commission is to seek an appeal in the House of Lords to contest a ruling that its district auditors owed a duty of care to West Wiltshire DC.

The ruling by the appeal court at the end of last year opened the way for district auditors to be sued if it is proved that they have acted negligently (LGC, 9 December 1994).

The judgment was made on a case brought by two former officers of West Wiltshire DC involved in the sale of the council's software business.

They were appealing against an earlier High Court ruling that the district auditor did not owe them a duty of care. But as part of that ruling it was suggested West Wiltshire may be owed a duty.

The appeal court rejected the officers' case but accepted an auditor had a duty of care to the council.

A spokesman for the Audit Commission said the three district auditors involved in the case, Peter Day, Les Cond and Peter Heppleston, would apply for leave but would not necessarily pursue the case if the application was accepted.

He claimed the action was being taken by the district auditors and not, strictly, by the commission.

Audit Commission director of legal services Tony Child is representing the auditors. He has attempted to play down the case, claiming the courts were only dealing with a striking out order to exclude the auditors from the case.

He argues this only requires a court to decide whether a point is 'arguable' which means the judges' ruling does not necessarily make the duty of care a fact in law.

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