Guardian highlighted “poorly conducted” ABE interviews in the case
A judge has praised the work of a social worker in identifying false allegations of sexual abuse.
In Manchester Family Court, Miss Recorder Henley praised the observations of the children’s guardian in the case which led her to conclude that she had not seen any disclosures of sexual abuse which she could rely on.
The guardian had highlighted to the judge the “poorly conducted” Achieving Best Evidence interviews which she regarded as “the worst that she has seen” in 12 years of social work.
Henley said: “She [the guardian] agreed with me that it is surprising that given [child] A's age no Intermediary was used and that there was no use of visual aids, dolls or other props made available. She told me that in her view these were not child focused interviews, there being limited opportunity for the child to talk and that in her view it was abusive to carry out three ABE interviews in respect of a 5 year old child in what was effectively little more than a 24 hour period. I agree with all of the Guardian's observations.”
The allegations centred around Child A whose step-mother known as SM revealed on a holiday in Turkey “that A touched her vagina and disclosed that she had been sexually abused by M [the child’s mother]”.
Child A’s father and step-mother were asserting that Child A touched her step-mother’s vagina after being subjected to sexual abuse by her mother, an allegation which the mother strenuously denied.
The father known as F and step-mother had claimed that Child A had been demonstrating sexualised behaviour prior to the holiday to Turkey at school, yet a report to the court from the school reflected a positive account of Child A and did not mention any sexualised behaviour. While in reception class she had shown her knickers once, an action the school described as “a one off incident which is commonly dealt with by primary schools”.
The guardian submitted to the court that having objectively considered the evidence, many of the findings sought by the father and step mother could not be made.
“F and SM's accounts are inconsistent, uncorroborated by independent evidence and contradicted by the unchallenged evidence of the school,” said the guardian who raised concerns that SM and F had installed eight CCTV cameras in and around their home and could not confirm whether they had been stalled prior to or following the holiday.
“It is submitted that although it is open to me to find that these are innocent events which have been misconstrued by SM against a background of earlier sexual abuse, that would not account for F's attitude and behaviour. It is submitted that should I find that there has been capitalisation of innocent events, or any maliciousness on the part of F and SM then this would give rise to clear evidence of emotional harm and that A's immediate safety would demand removal from F and SM today,” said the judge.
“In so far as SM is concerned, the way that she perceives A is deeply concerning and emotionally harmful. She misinterprets ordinary innocent behaviour as bad, "nasty" and sexualised. This may be because her perception of A is as a result of genuinely held but distorted beliefs, it may be that this represents a more calculated attempt to set A aside as a "naughty" child. To ascertain this, expert psychological assessment of SM is required. I am satisfied that there is a combination of distorted perception and malicious behaviour at play in so far as SM repeatedly seeks to blame the child and M for the behaviours that she exaggerates and distorts,” she said, adding that the role of the father seemed to concentrate on “punishing” Child A’s mother and preventing contact between the mother and daughter.
Henley dismissed all of the findings sought by the father and step mother and was satisfied that Child A’s mother did not sexually abuse Child A and that Child A did not sexually abuse her step-mother.
Henley concluded by making an Interim Care Order sanctioning the immediate removal of A from the care of F and SM. “I am satisfied that following an innocent tickling game, and oppressive and leading questioning, F and SM have manufactured a case that A has been sexually abused by M,” she said.
“They have deprived A of a relationship with any member of her maternal family for nine months, thereby causing her significant emotional harm. They have taken her to attend therapy on the basis that she has been sexually abused and is an abuser,” she added.
Henley made an Interim Care Order for a period of 8 weeks in favour of Bury Metropolitan Borough Council alongside a s.37 Report, which she directed the council to complete.