Council’s errors prolonged exclusion of father

Family | 14 Dec 2016 5

A seven year-old boy was prevented from seeing his father for almost a year after social workers conducted a confused and inconsistent investigation into allegations of abuse.

The parents of ‘V’ met in 2008 and he was born the following year. They had a difficult relationship and separated not long after his birth. Multiple court hearings followed as each parent made allegations. Eventually they agreed to a partial shared parenting arrangement, with V living with his father for three nights out of every 14 and with his mother for the remaining time.

In the Family Court sitting at Manchester, Recorder Clive Baker noted:

“It would be fair to summarise those proceedings as acrimonious.”

Social workers and the Police had both been involved in arguments between the pair.

Later the parents reconciled and got back together but the reunion only last for a year. After they split up for a second time the former couple returned to court to try and reach new arrangements for their son, but the earlier arguments and allegations against each other soon resumed.

Recorder Baker explained:

“The degree of contention between the parents is perhaps illustrated by the fact that even after a contested hearing at which both gave evidence and a full judgment given by a district judge in October 2015, the exact terms of the order could not be agreed between the parties and further written submissions were required so that a final order could be agreed and drawn up, a process that was not completed until some months after the ostensible ‘final’ hearing.”

The new parenting plan agreed was that the V would spend four nights out of every 14 with his father during term time. School holidays, meanwhile, would be split roughly equally between the mother and father.

But earlier this year, vitriol returned when the father was accused of “sexually inappropriate behaviour” towards V. This claim arose after a family friend overhead the boy mention “massages” he and his father had apparently given each other. The family friend reported her concerns and V was interviewed at school by a police officer and social worker.

The school reported that V seemed to have a good relationship with his father, a “medical professional”. The latter was known to have massaged V in connection with a recent operation they explained.

When interviewed V insisted that there were “no bad things” about living with either parent and that his father had never done anything to make him feel “confused, upset or angry”.

Despite the boy’s denials, the mother wanted to prevent further contact. Advised that she would have little grounds on which to do so, she nevertheless attended a police station with V. There she was thought to be asking V “leading questions”.

Her son was interviewed on video but the resulting allegations made his father were “muddled and inconsistent”.

The same day she attended the mother successfully applied for a prohibited steps order, which prevented the father from seeing V for a full 43 weeks, an absence described by the Judge as a “great sadness” for the boy.

Unsurprisingly, the father denied all allegations and the Police eventually decided to drop the case. However, it was a full 22 weeks after this decision was made before he was able to see his son again.

The Judge explained:

“It is notable that by the conclusion of the father’s police interview (i.e. only 2 ½ weeks after the original referral to school) all of the primary evidence relating to the allegation of sexually inappropriate behaviour by V’s father had been obtained and it, in essence, amounted to very little indeed.”

Recorder Baker said this lengthy delay had been fuelled by “egregious errors”. The unnamed local authority had been too quick to assume the allegations were truthful and had taken too long to properly investigate them. No conference was held to discuss the available evidence.

A social worker investigating the claims had not spoken to the father and had produced a report containing errors and which had not explored inconsistencies in V’s claims. At one point it claimed there as a “likelihood” the claims had been influenced by his mother and at another point that there was no evidence she had done so.

Under a vaguely worded agreement, the local authority had  asked the mother to prevent V from seeing his father until “investigations” were complete, but this failed to define which investigations it referred to. The mother later used this agreement to argue in private proceedings that V should not see his father.

Eventually, as a result of those proceedings, social workers conducted a fresh investigation under section 37 of the Children Act 1989. This concluded that there was no real evidence to support the claims.

Recorder Baker noted that the resulting report declared:

“The writer concludes that V has suffered significant harm but that harm emanates from the acrimonious dispute between the parents rather than any form of direct sexual or physical abuse.”

Read V (A Child) here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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    1. Stitchedup says:

      Unbelievable, since when has a massage been inappropriate? I best let my local families first know, they have offer a baby massage course!!!!

    2. Vincent McGovern says:

      An excellent post and something I come across far too often. I’m only surprised the social workers didn’t insist on a forensic sexual risk assessment and if it cleared the father to then refuse to accept it. What else can be expected from a service that participates in the MARAC process where usually the DV agency involved contracted to the local authority will only accept evidence from ‘female survivors of domestic abuse.’

      I might add the same criticism of CAMHS and many other clingon agencies that so handicap the family court system, especially Cafcass with its ‘male perpetrator female victim’ mindset evidenced with its gender discriminatory DVIP/DVPP policy.

      Until and unless the system moves away from ‘child endangering gender discrimination’ and adopts ‘gender neutral impartial professionalism’ children’s welfare will be harmed. And what was the punishment for the mother who so eagerly indulged in parental alienation?

      A stupid question I know, but one I had to ask.

    3. JamesB says:

      Had some guy (with a smashed up face) kept touching me and my friends arms down the pub this year also, wouldn’t go away kept talking so we left him to it. A bit like Pulp fiction when they are discussing if a foot massage warrants being thrown out of a window by the feet’s boyfriend.

    4. JamesB says:

      Have done baby massage with all my 4 children they all liked it, don’t think anything wrong with that.

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