Claims of sexual abuse involving a six year girl are entirely unfounded, a family court judge has concluded.
A (False Allegations of Abuse) concerned a girl called ‘A’, born to unmarried parents. Her mother was in her mid-20s and the father his early 30s and they had separated before she was even born.
The mother suffered from mental illness during the pregnancy and this deteriorated once A was born, to the extent that social workers began to fear for the safety of the baby. Doctors began to suspect potentially serious postnatal psychosis.
The newborn and her mother went into a residential unit for a period shortly after the birth but when Bury Metropolitan Borough Council applied for an emergency protection order she agreed to let A be taken into foster care.
The council then launched care proceedings. In October 2010, when she was still just ten months old, these concluded with A going to live with her father, under supervision by the council. The mother, meanwhile, was granted a programme of regular unsupervised visits.
The mother’s mental health gradually improved. She began a new relationship and gave birth to a second girl, referred to in the ruling as ‘B’. Later the same year she applied for shared residence of A and was granted regular overnight contact. The father also became involved with someone new, a woman he later married. The latter had a child from a previous relationship.
In the Family Court sitting at Manchester Miss Recorder Henley noted:
“A therefore had to adjust to not only no longer being an only child, but sharing family life with [the father] with his new partner and her daughter, and sharing time with [the mother] with her new partner and their baby. Further change for A happened just months after B’s birth when F and SM had a child of their own, D (born 29.04.13) shortly followed by their wedding on 3rd August 2013.”
In March last year a further round of legal action between A’s parents resulted in further changes to the mother’s visiting arrangements. Under a new child arrangements order, she would see her daughter every other weekend but no longer in the middle of the week.
The situation changed dramatically just a few months later, however, when the father and his new wife took A and their other children on holiday to Turkey. During the trip, A is reported to have announced that her mother had sexually abused her.
The father and his wife made notes and recoded a conversation with the girl, handing this evidence over to the police on their return.
The girl was interviewed by three times, but only mentioned possible abuse on the third occasion.
The mother was arrested and interviewed under caution, before being released on bail. A’s half-sister was taken from her and placed with her grandmother. But after investigation, the police decided not to press charges and B was returned. The mother relationship broke down under “ the stress of these events”.
Not long afterwards, the mother attended A’s school and the father and his wife issued further legal proceedings, claiming that she was trying to take A away with her. They sought a legal order preventing her from doing so and in addition, parental responsibility for the father’s wife.
The Judge conducted a fact-finding hearing into the truth of the allegations against the mother. She concluded that no actual abuse had taken place, just accidental contact during a family game of tickle. The stepmother had then attempted to “engineer the evidence in such a way so as to prove that A … was abused by [the mother].”
This included the wife accusing A of lying after one of the police interviews and saying she would not get any sweets as a result, prompting her to start crying.
The Judge referred to an earlier incident in which the wife herself believed she had been sexually assaulted during a holiday in Tunisia. The family flew home afterwards and her older daughter had been told what had happened. The mother underwent counselling but also came to believe that A had sexually assaulted her in a separate incident.
The Judge declared:
“[The father’s wife] perceives that she has been sexually abused in 2014 by this unknown adult male and then in 2015 by A. The apparent link made by [the wife] between these two incidents is deeply troubling and puts A at risk of very significant emotional harm within the household she shares with SM. I am satisfied that the treatment of A, a young child, who is being brought up to believe, and is treated as though, she is a perpetrator of sexual abuse, falsely, within her own home represents significant ill treatment.”
By contrast A’s mother had been “a credible and straightforward witness”.
The Judge concluded:
“I dismiss all of the findings sought by [the father] and [his wife]. I am satisfied that [the mother] did not sexually abuse the child, that she did not physically abuse the child and that A did not sexually abuse [the father’s wife].”
Read the ruling here.
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