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Father loses appeal over neglect and sexual abuse ruling

A father has lost his appeal against a court decision to remove his daughter to a family placement after she alleged that he had sexually assaulted her. 

The girl had lived with her father from the age of two to twelve after her parents ended their relationship.   

She was removed to a family placement after the police found her home alone. They found that the father had physically assaulted her, drank alcohol excessively and regularly left her home alone. 

The father was arrested on suspicion of child neglect and simply answered “no comment” to all questions during the police interview.  

During an Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interview the following month, the daughter repeated the allegations and later she told a social worker that her father had hit her.  

She had kept notes of incidents in her notebook and was made subject to an interim care order. 

The father denied his daughter’s allegations and claimed they had been fabricated under the influence of her mother and grandmother. 

As the investigation progressed, the police became concerned about another entry in the notebook that said the father had touched the daughter’s breasts and threatened her with a knife and that he would strangle her if she refused to let him. 

The daughter made further allegations during a second ABE interview and a fact-finding hearing was held. 

After watching recordings of the two ABE interviews, the judge was satisfied the local authority had acted correctly. The guidelines had been followed and the interviews carried considerable weight.  

The father appealed, claiming the ABE process was flawed because the daughter was referring to notes, an important discussion recommended in the guidelines had not been recorded and the police had asked leading questions.  

He said it failed to meet the burden of proof or allow him to explore inconsistencies in the evidence. 

The Court of Appeal ruled against him. It held that the judge had been aware of the notebook and other flaws in the process and had taken them into account when weighing up her decision. 

She concluded that the omission of the recording and the use of notes did not undermine the weight attached to the daughter’s evidence. 

The judge’s analysis had been careful and measured and based on her evaluation of all the evidence.  

Case citations: C (A Child) (Fact-Finding), Re No Substantial Judicial Treatment Court of Appeal 

Judge Peter Jackson LJ; Baker LJ; Andrews LJ  

If you would like more information or advice about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of family law please contact our expert legal team on 02080040065, by email at [email protected] or using the form below.

The contents of this article are general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.

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