Father fails in appeal against abuse findings

Family|April 9th 2014

The Court of Appeal has dismissed a father’s appeal against findings that he behaved in an inappropriate and violent way towards his son.

In R (A Child), in March last year, the mother of six year-old R told a teacher at his school had touched him in an inappropriate way on more than one occasion. The teacher reported the claim and social workers from the local authority were alerted.

The following day she repeated the allegation to a social worker and R was taken into police protection. The day after that, however, she retracted the allegation.

At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Ryder explained:

“By 12 March, she was alleging that there had been a professional conspiracy against her and, I deduce, against the father.  An emergency protection order was granted in the Family Proceedings Court on 8 March 2013 and the first interim care order was granted on 14 March 2013.

At a further contested interim order hearing on 13 May 2013, a District Judge found as a fact that the mother had made the allegations that she said she had not made to the teacher and to the social worker.  That finding was not appealed.  That did not, of course, deal with the truth of the allegation.”

The latter issue was addressed at fact-finding hearing held in July. The judge concluded that the father had indeed behaved as claimed, also ruling that:

*the mother had failed to protect R;

*that the father had been violent towards R and the mother had failed to protect him from that violence;

*and that both parents had failed to protect R from “exposure to their abusive relationship.”

The father launched an appeal. He argued that an interview with R conducted by the police had not followed proper guidelines so the judge should not have attached any weight to it. His legal team also claimed that the judge had not properly considered the mother’s history of making false allegations and her mental health issues; and that the judge had not properly considered the relevant law.

The appeal was dismissed in a unanimous ruling. Lord Justice Ryder said the key issue in the case was the reliability of the mother. He noted that the interview with R, which had not been recorded or videoed, had breached guidelines but said this did not mean it should be discounted.

“The guidance is not mandatory in the sense that a breach renders the evidence inadmissible or so fatally compromised that it is unreliable and should be given no weight.”

Turing the issue of allegedly false allegations, the judge declared:

“The [original] judge dealt with the family history of allegation and counter allegation in some detail.  He sets out in particular a referral to the consultant psychiatrist attended by the mother and father in 2010…In that referral, the issues to which the incident reports refer are canvassed; intimidation, threats to kill, mental health problems, domestic violence and the alleged control by the father over the finances and the mother herself.  The judge was very well aware of these issues.”

He continued:

“A judge is not required to comment on every document used in cross examination or contained in a bundle or to make findings on every satellite issue raised by a witness in evidence.  That said, I have to answer the question whether in dealing with the identified alleged falsehoods or failing to deal with others it would have made any difference to this judge’s perceptions of the mother?

“I have come to the clear conclusion that this judge had the precise measure of both the parents.  Dealing with the additional alleged falsehoods would only have reinforced his conclusions which were, in any event, well grounded in the evidence he had heard.  There is nothing sufficient in the additional material to which this Court has been taken to undermine the judge’s conclusions.”

He was equally dismissive of the claim that the judge had not properly considered the material.

“I cannot detect any error at all in the judge’s approach to the law or to the materials put before him.”

Photo by NobMouse via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Author: Stowe Family Law

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