Allegations of abuse made by a bitter mother and daughter against the father were untrue, a Family Court judge has ruled.
The case concerned a brother and sister, now aged ten and seven. The parents were married but split up shortly after Christmas last year, when the mother took the children with her and moved back to Lancashire, her home county.
The father took immediate legal action, seeking the return of his son and daughter or at least contact with them. The mother responded to these by making allegations of physical and emotional abuse. The children were interviewed by the Police and care proceedings subsequently began.
The case came before His Honour Judge Duggan in the Family Court at Leyland. He allowed ‘G’, the older daughter, to be questioned again at a session observed by the Court over a live video link.
In his ruling, Judge Duggan noted:
“In the course of that exercise G quickly announced that she had the most annoying dad in the world. She proceeded to say that she didn`t remember any of the relevant complaints that she had previously made. She concluded the exercise by asking for a photograph of the Judge which was duly arranged.”
“The law places the burden of proof in these Care Proceedings on the Local Authority. The principle is that he who asserts must prove and findings must be established on the balance of probabilities.”
Judge Duggan considered an earlier ruling by a different Judge, who had reached some damning conclusions about the mother. He had rejected her allegations of abuse, concluding that the relationship between the parents had simply been a toxic one in which the children had witnessed rows between the parents. What’s more, he believed the mother had frequently lost her temper with the children, becoming “emotionally and verbally abusive”. Curiously, however, he ruled that the children should nevertheless stay with the mother, rather than going to live with the father “pending further assessment.”
Judge Duggan explained:
“The Local Authority now invite me to find that these children have been harmed emotionally by their parents. Both parents, in their different ways, have contributed to the development of very distressed and confused children.”
“It is sad that the father has upset the children during the periods of breakdown and contact. G has sided with her mother in the matrimonial breakdown. G has made allegations which contain a deal of truth. Her mother believes the worst whenever she hears anything about the father, and this has had the effect of encouraging G to exaggerate and expand untruthfully on her complaints about him.”
In a concise judgement Judge Duggan was critical of the parents:
It became clear during the course of this case that the parents each had a rather sad motivation to establish that their ex-partner was worse than themselves. Parents who are listening to this Judgment with a score card for that purpose must now know that the outcome of this match is a draw. I am afraid it can only be described as a dishonourable draw so far as both parents are concerned. There are no winners but two very obvious losers, in the form of [the children]. How disappointed they must be in the parents that they love.”
Judge Duggan endorsed the earlier judge’s view that was no substance to the mother’s complaints and said he believed G had been motivated to invent allegations to please her mother, but he did not believe the mother had deliberately instigated this.
“I accept that the mother has contributed. She assumes the worst. She is interested in complaints against the father. No doubt she asks for the detail of complaints against the father. She clearly involves G in her battles. However coaching and invention are one step further, which I do not find to be justified on the evidence.”
Referring to a recent row over a birthday cake made by B, the younger boy, and the father for G, he said the mother had allowed a “scene to develop”, adding:
“[The mother] blames everybody apart from herself.”
“The case now moves on to its next phase, and I do urge the parents to try a new approach. For the mother I would hope that there should now be cause for celebration. Her beloved G has not been sexually abused by her father and has not suffered the harm that this would entail. G therefore is safe to be with her father, if he can act in such a way that she can come to enjoy being with him.”
Read Lancashire County Council v Z here.