A judge should have viewed the evidence provided by a 13 year old boy when considering a care application, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
In Re L, a local authority had launched care proceedings for his sister’s child, a 17 month-old toddler, after he claimed that the mother had been sexually abusive. The authority was also concerned about domestic violence in the home, neglect and exposure to other sexual offenders.
At a case hearing, the judge considered whether or not the teenager should give evidence in the care proceedings. The judge was unable to watch a videotaped ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ interview with him, which was available on a DVD. He therefore relied on a social worker’s report, which stated that the boy was “distressed”. The judge therefore ruled that the teenager should not give evidence in the case. In addition, the judge ruled that it was not necessary to include documents relating to criminal proceedings involving the mother in the care case.
At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justices Tomlinson and Ryder, along with Lady Justice Gloster, said it was clear that the judge should have viewed the DVD or at least read a transcript of the interview before making any decisions. They set aside the earlier ruling.
Documents relating to the criminal proceedings should also be included, they declared. Such documents would allow fair cross-examination and proper consideration of the evidence.