The father of a now eight year-old girl won custody (a residence order) of his daughter after a court ruled that her mother’s new husband had abused her.
In Re S the mother had remarried after the parents separated. The applied for contact but while his application is in progress girl’s aunt claimed her stepfather had abused the girl. The father then applied for a ‘residence order’, specifying that she should come and live with him.
The police conducted interviews the girl, during which she claimed that the stepfather had hit her, but he denied this. The police did, however, discovered that the father had a previous conviction for indecent assault on a teenage boy.
The girl went to live with her father at his mother’s house, and the courts forbade the mother from taking her away. After she arrived, the girl said her step-father had abused her and repeated the claim to a social worker.
In court, a judge concluded that the girl’s claim was true and made a residence order in favour of the father. The mother’s new husband, the girl’s step-father, appealed the judge’s ruling that he had abused the girl. He had not been charged by the police.
At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Ryder said the evidence before the original judge supported her conclusions. The social worker had given detailed evidence in relation to claims that the girl had been coached into making her claims and concluded that she had not been, and the judge had been quite entitled to accept this evidence.
The step-father’s appeal was dismissed.