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Court dismisses father’s appeal over sexual abuse findings

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a stepfather accused of sexual abuse.

In A-H (Children), a 13 year-old girl claimed she had been sexually abused by the man for the previous two years. A paediatric examination supported her claims and in March this year, Mr Mr Justice Baker ruled that he had committed the abuse.

The stepfather appealed. Appearing for the unnamed man, Stephen Bellamy QC claimed that a report by Dr Smith, the paediatrician who had examined the girl, had been slanted, quoting evidence selectively and not making it sufficiently clear that such abuse was unlikely to leave no physical injuries or marks.

The barrister also said neither he, nor the judge or the opposing counsel had access to the medical evidence suggesting this unlikeliness at the earlier hearing and so had placed too much weight on Dr Smith’s report. A better informed cross examination of the paediatrician might have brought bias to light, he said, and so led to a different finding.

But Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Thorpe was unimpressed. He described the paediatrician’s report as “a model of how such tasks should be undertaken and how a report on an investigation should be written.”

The judge said no significance could be attached to the doctor’s failure to fully quote medical guidance that abuse was unlikely to leave no physical marks, because she had made it clear in her oral evidence that physical injuries can heal and the girl was physically mature for her age.

As a result, Dr Smith believed the medical evidence “neither supports nor negates [the girl’s] allegation.”

Lord Justice Thorpe concluded:

“I can see absolutely nothing in the submission of Mr Bellamy that would drive us to any criticism of Dr Smith or to the thoroughly unsatisfactory conclusion that the whole process of investigation and trial must be undertaken afresh.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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