Judge raises concern over way eight-year-old girl was questioned over sexual abuse claims
A senior judge has raised concern about the way a police officer and council social worker questioned an eight-year-old girl who said her mother had sexually abused her when she was aged four.
Lord Justice Baker, who is based in the Court of Appeal in London, said the “deficiencies” in the investigation were on “such a scale” that “no court” could properly conclude that the girl’s allegations were true.
He raised concern in a ruling published on Friday following a recent Court of Appeal hearing.
A family court judge had ruled that the woman did abuse her daughter.
The woman appealed and Lord Justice Baker, and two other appeal judges, have upheld her challenge.
Lord Justice Baker, Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Newey have not identified the woman or girl and have not named the police force or council involved.
They said the original ruling had been made by a judge overseeing a private hearing at a family court in Liverpool.
The woman had been involved in a dispute over the care of another child.
Social services bosses had asked for a ruling on the girl’s allegations during that litigation.
Judges heard that the girl, who had been taken from her mother’s care, had initially made the allegations to a foster carer when she was eight.
She said she had been abused when aged four.
Lord Justice Baker said the girl had been nearly nine when interviewed, and was recalling events she said happened about five years before.
The judge said the finding that the woman had abused her daughter could not be “sustained”.
He said a conversation a police officer and social worker had with the girl did not comply with guidance “in a number of respects” and said a “formal interview” had “departed” from guidance on “such a scale”.
“I consider that the deficiencies in the investigation were on a scale that no court could properly make the findings of abuse against the mother,” he said.
“The police officer was… a truthful witness, but the way in which she conducted the investigation undermined the reliability of what (the girl) is recorded as having said.”
Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Newey said they agreed.
Judge said the woman had not been prosecuted.
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.