The High Court has dismissed a number of allegations made by a mother involved in an acrimonious child residence dispute.
The recently published case of TB v DB concerned a couple who married in 2005. Their son, called ‘D’ in the judgement, was born in 2007 but the couple split in 2009. The mother, ‘DB’, left the couple’s home with the child without telling her estranged husband where she was going. She lived with relatives and in women’s refuges before moving to Cambridgeshire.
The father, ‘TB’, applied to be told where she was and to see his son. A contact order was issued in October 2009 but he was not able to actually see the boy until June the following year. The visit took place at a contact centre. Various hearings regarding contact followed, and the father made undertakings, including that he would not drink alcohol before seeing his son.
A month before unsupervised contact was due to begin, the mother alleged that he had been violent towards her and plans for the man to see his son unsupervised were postponed. A complex series of hearings followed. Eventually, in January last year, the courts made a shared residence order – “the intention being that neither parent would have priority or primacy over the other”, noted Judge Michael Keehan QC.
In April D stayed with his father for nine days. Not long afterwards, the woman claimed that a remark made by the boy had led her to believe her ex-partner’s brother, ‘SB’, was sexually abusing the child.
A similar conversation allegedly took at the home of a friend of hers two days later, but Judge Keehan was unconvinced by either account at a High Court fact-finding hearing.
He said the mother had persisted in her questions even when the boy denied her suggestions.
He was also sceptical of the conversation that supposedly took place the home of DB’s friend., ‘JN’. She had, he said, delivered her evidence “with a high degree of passionate fervour”, but he “simply did not believe her”.
Subsequent conversations about the incident had featured “ill-informed, unregulated and “aggressive” questioning.”
The allegations were subsequently reported to the police on a number of occasions and contact between father and son was eventually suspended.
The father’s brother, SB, was arrested but denied the allegations and police accepted his claims, deciding not to refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The case eventually reached the High Court, where Judge Keehan was asked to consider whether the mother’s various allegations were true or not. He found against on her on all the points raised.
He described the mother as
“…all too ready to assume and to interpret the events with the worst possible connotation. I also find that by her actions of making allegations to the police and the Local Authority from time to time… her purpose and intent was to stop, disrupt and minimise the father’s contact to D.”
He noted that her various allegations of violence by TB and SB “have either not been made in statements but have subsequently been reported to the police or to the Local Authority or earlier allegations have increased in severity from that first reported.”
A claim of rape made during the fact-finding hearing had not appeared in previous court findings. The judge said of DB:
“I…do not understand how she could in her evidence assert that it was her desire to sit and talk through problems with the father when she has never done so in the past and, as has been demonstrated, her first recourse is not to apply to this court but to go to police and Social Services.”
“…this mother did not hesitate to put the most sinister of explanations to what her four year old was saying and did her utmost to thwart the father’s contact and his relationship with his beloved son. I regret to find that her actions were not borne of acting in D’s best interests but were part of her concerted and long-standing campaign against the father.”