Consideration of allegations of sexual abuse

Consideration of allegations of sexual abuse

Re Annie (A Child) (Finding of Fact: Allegations of Sexual Abuse) [2024] EWFC 171

These proceedings concern a 6 year old girl “Annie”. Annie lives with her maternal grandmother. The maternal grandmother does not have parental responsibility for Annie but was caring for her under an informal family arrangement. There had been previous proceedings during which the court had made a child arrangements order for the child to spend regular overnight contact with the father.

However, 3 days after the previous proceedings concluded, the maternal grandmother and maternal aunt made allegations that Annie had told them that her father had sexually abused her. There followed a police investigation which included Annie being interviewed a number of times and being examined. Annie did not repeat the allegation of sexual abuse to the police. However, the maternal grandmother produced 2 videos during which she spoke to Annie about the allegation to record her accusing the father of sexual abuse. A second allegation of sexual abuse was made against the father following a further period of overnight contact and thereafter the father’s contact with Annie was significantly reduced and only took place in a contact centre following applications of enforcement against the maternal grandmother who had failed to promote such contact.

Annie’s mother was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and was assisted during the proceedings by an intermediary. She was described by the Judge as “vulnerable”.

A fact finding hearing took place to determine whether the two allegations of sexual abuse made by Annie’s maternal grandmother and maternal aunt were true.

The Judge found that the allegations of sexual abuse were not proven and that the maternal grandmother and maternal aunt either subconsciously or wilfully coached Annie into repeating the allegation in various terms and that this coaching has been detrimental to Annie’s welfare. The Judge found that the maternal grandmother and maternal aunt were influenced by their own traumatic experiences of sexual abuse.

The judge went on to criticise the social worker for displaying an “astonishing lack of procedural understanding as to what is happening by way of a fact finding hearing, and freely acknowledged that she had already reached conclusions as to F having sexually abused Annie.” The social worker had not considered all of the available evidence. The social worker had retracted a letter she had written herself explaining the outcome of a home visit she attended where she wrote that Annie had told her about the sexual abuse even though this was a pivotal point of evidential disclosure that was then relayed with a lack of proper care. The Judge also criticised the social worker’s skewed and gendered approach to parenting roles around personal hygiene and medical care by saying it was inappropriate for Annie’s father to medically care for the genital hygiene of his young daughter. The Judge recommended further training be put in place by the Local Authority for its social workers.

The father and his extended family had paid for his legal representation spending in the region of £40,000.

The Judge went onto consider directions including a global psychological assessment of the family to consider the impact of the maternal grandmother and maternal aunt’s actions on Annie’s emotional wellbeing and how best to support Annie to also include recommendations in relation to who Annie should live with and any spends time with arrangements.

The full case can be viewed here:

Annie (A Child) (Finding of Fact: Allegations of Sexual Abuse), Re – Find case law – The National Archives

Maria Chainani is an associate in the family department specialising in representing parents, children and extended family members in care proceedings and private law children proceedings. Maria is contactable on 01268 240400