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RULE ON RESPONSIBILITY FOR CHILDREN IN CARE'S CRIMES

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Lancashire and Shropshire CC's are fighting a vital test case in London's high court after being ordered to pay com...
Lancashire and Shropshire CC's are fighting a vital test case in London's high court after being ordered to pay compensation to victims of crimes committed by teenagers in their care.

Youth Courts in Burnley, Preston and Telford independently ordered the county councils to pay bills totalling thousands of pounds for the crimes of four teenagers.

The councils claim that the powers under which the courts can make compensation orders against the parents or guardians of tearaway teenagers do not extend to local authorities.

They are waiting to learn if their challenge has been successful after Lord Justice Leggatt and Mr Justice Buxton reserved their judgements. No date was given for the court's ruling.

The court was told that teenager 'A', aged 15, was living at a childrens home in a Telford suburb when, in May and June last year, he burgled three homes.

He was also convicted at Telford Youth Court of going equiped for theft, taking a car without consent and asked for a further 14 burglaries to be taken into consideration.

On August 10 last year, the court ordered Shropshire County Council to pay £3,248 compensation to the victims of A's crimes.

Teenager B, then 15, was convicted in August last year at Telford Youth Court of damaging a car, smashing a window and then wounding two policemen who arrested her at the scene of the crime.

Shropshire CC's claim that she did not have a habit of absconding and had no history of violent offending did not dissuade the court from ordering it to pay the owner of the car £920.58 compensation and a further £100 each to the two policemen.

Teenager C, also then aged 15, who lived near Preston, was convicted of criminal damage to a vehicle and assaulting two Lancashire County Council employees, causing actual bodily harm.

Preston Youth Court ordered the council to pay £561 compensation to the vehicle owner and a further £100 to each of the two assaulted employees.

On July 8 last year, Preston Crown Court rejected the county council's appeal, after hearing that C had a 'long history of unruly and aggressive behaviour'.

Teenager D, then aged 16, was living at a children's home in Blackburn when he made a threat to kill. He pleaded guilty to the offence before Blackburn Youth Court in October 1993.

He was ordered to perform 200 hours community service and Lancashire CC was ordered to pay his victim £100 compensation.

The county council's appeal to Burnley Crown Court against the compensation order was dismissed on June 10 last year.

James Townend QC, for both County Councils, said the issue was whether the Youth Courts had been required to consider the reasonableness of steps taken by the councils to prevent the teenagers offending.

If the councils had done all they reasonably could within their powers, the Youth Courts had no power to make compensation orders against them, he claimed.

Mr Townend also asked the High Court to decide whether there was a distinction between parents and guardians and local authorities responsible for children in care when it came to making victim compensation orders.

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