IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989
AND IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN U, V, W AND X
B e f o r e :
|A LOCAL AUTHORITY||Applicant|
|U,V,W, & X
(Children acting through their Children's Guardian, K)
|3rd to 6th Respondents|
Crown Copyright ©
U, who is 7 ¾
V, now a little over 9 years old
W, now 11 ¾, and
X, who is now 15 ¼
The evidence before the court
'I think Y is on the autistic scale but he has never been diagnosed with it… I think Y will understand what is going on in court but would probably like to pretend he does not. I say this because Y has always had behavioural problems since the age of 9 and would often use this as a way of pretending he does not understand that actions have consequences. He seems to think this does not apply to him and that he can do what he likes without any consequence.'
'This was the most interactive statement I have ever written – quite unusual to have someone so involved. [W] was meticulous in checking what I had written.'
My brother Y, when he lived with us at [ ] used to touch people's rude bits. By rude bits I mean my Willie. When he did that I shouted loudly for my mum to come. It would happen in the morning after I woke up. He would grab me by the arm and pulled me into his room. I tried to get away but he is stronger than me. I was wearing my onesie. He unzipped my onesie and held my Willie in his hand. He rubbed my Willie up and down. I am not sure how long this lasted. I shouted out for my mum. She came in and told Y off. This happened roughly 11 times. It first happened when I was 9 years old. I know it was naughty of Y to do this. My mum sorted Y out, stopped him from doing it. Mum told him he has got to be good to get credit for his phone. In order to do that he has got to stop doing what he did to me. Sometimes when I shouted, my brother X would come in and help me. He would punch Y and make him stop. Mum came every time it happened and told Y off.
I also remember that Y had my sisters V and U in his room. I think he had them in there one at a time. I saw them go into his room and they were dressed in clothes. Then a short time would go by and I would hear them screaming. I would go into Y's room and he would have the girls naked. I don't know what he was doing to the girls. I saw the girls in Y's room about 6 times. When the girls were in Y's room I checked on them to make sure that they were okay and they were still dressed. After a short while I heard them scream. I went to check them again and they were naked - no clothing at all. When I saw the girls naked, they were angry and trying to get away from Y.
And in paragraph 4: Triangle's involvement
Question: what did he used to do?
A: I do not want to talk about it
He was invited to write it down
A: I don't know… I don't want to talk about it… It is just I don't like talking about … Stuff… I don't like talking about even what I have been saying…
Question: how does that make you feel to talk about it?
(it is clear on the DVD that the child then begins to breathe deeply and in some increasing distress). Again, in the following pages, his reluctance is repeated until, at H83 on the transcript we read, just as we see on the video, that he wants to leave the room while his interviewers read what he has said.
A: I don't wanna hear it… It will stick in my head and I will not go to sleep… Not comfortable at all… I don't want to hear it… I've seen what I wrote but I don't want to hear it…
(The boy began hitting his head).
Question: when mum came in to help, I know you said she helped more than once. What do you remember anything she said?
A: (very quietly) she told him to stop
Question: anything else?
A: not to do it because it's wrong… [And moments later]… Took his hands away.
Question: when she helped, did she take his hands away one time or…?
[At this point the viewer detects that the child makes a brief, distressed sound before saying]
A: all the time.
[His interviewers, despite his increasing distress are then obliged to confirm where Y's hands were when his mother removed them]
A: you can say, you can say [he then starts tapping hard on the statement prepared by the interviewer, who reports "you're pointing to the word Willie"
The distress of the boy continues - he reports that he does not feel well.
A: I just don't feel well because I don't like thinking of these things… They make me feel weird.
A: I didn't tell anyone. Mum and X already knew because they helped me stop him. So they're the only people who knew… And when I talked to the police, they know about it.
The child then has his arm on the table before hiding his head on his arms, when he says
A:… I thought mum and X and the police needed to know more than anyone else because anyone else wouldn't be able to sort it except for the police and my brother and mum
Question: who helped U [get ready for school]?
Question: did Y ever help her?
Question: did Y help you?
A: no. Mum couldn't trust him… Because of the incident with our rude bits.
She then describes how Y would undress her and then at H117:
Question: you told the police that you tell mummy
A: and daddy… Every time when I first told mummy, she didn't do anything, she kept doing nothing but dad kept telling Y to stop it
Question: did you tell her what Y was doing?
Question: what did you tell her?
A: mummy you have to stop Y looking at my rude bits
and at H120:
Question: and what did mummy say about your private bits? What did she say?
A: don't let him touch you anymore (a similar answer given to that on the following page when in answer to a similar question about her 'parts that are private' – "what did mummy say?" V responds "don't let Y look at them)
Effectively, if I am to believe V, her mother CM was leaving it up to the children to protect themselves, and was making no or no adequate effort to terminate the abuse or protect them. I do believe V.
Question: so mum came and saw. What did mum see?
A: Y in the bedroom
Question: and what did she see Y doing in the bedroom?
A: looking at me
Question: … What were you doing when Y was looking at you?
A: getting dressed. Trying to get dressed really quickly. Then mum went like that one… She don't want anyone to look at me…
[Asked to explain, U continues:]
Question: how were they trying to help Y not look at you?
A: by covering me up.
I am satisfied from Y's admission, and despite the denials of his mother CM (that this was reported to her) and given the acceptance of his father, that this allegation is made out
(ii) on approximately 11 occasions, Y unzipped W's onesie, held his penis and rubbed his penis up and down.
I am satisfied from Y's admission, and W's disclosures, which I accept, and despite the denials of his mother CM (that this was seen by her) and given the acceptance of his father, that this allegation is made out
(iii) on each occasion this happened, W shouted for his mother, who came and pulled Y off. She told Y off on at least one occasion "he gotta be good to earn credit for his phone"
I am satisfied from Y's admission, and W's disclosures and despite the denials of his mother CM (who, remarkably, accepts that she made that threat when answering the allegation relation to V) and given the acceptance of his father, that the allegation that W shouted out for his mother is made out. The assertion that Y was threatened that his mother would withhold credit for his phone is a remarkable thing for W to invent. On the balance of probabilities I accept this latter allegation.
(iv) the first respondent mother was thus directly aware of Y's conduct and failed to protect W from the same. She also failed to report the same to the police or take any other appropriate protective measures.
This finding is a logical consequence of the findings at (i) to (iii). It is made out
Y admits the allegation. The Girls and W repeat it. It is made out
(ii) Y would pull her dress up and remove her clothes and look at V's "private parts" (vagina)
Y admits the allegations repeated by his brother and sisters. It is made out
(iii) V told the first respondent mother each time this happened.
Her mother denies that she was ever told. I do not believe her. I am satisfied certainly to the civil standard and indeed beyond that that mother knew very well that when her daughter cried out, it was because Y was abusing her. Whether V told her in terms or mother came to the door and then intervened does not matter. I am satisfied that this allegation is made out
(iv) her mother told her to tell her if it happened again.
V's Triangle interview is overwhelmingly clear and compelling. I do not accept the mother's denials. The assertions set out by mother on the Scott schedule that she 'constantly sought help' for her son is no answer to this allegation or those accompanying it. This allegation is made out.
(v) her mother said to Y "you're gonna get took away"
V's Triangle interview is overwhelmingly clear and compelling. Her mother suggests that although she said this, it was in connection with her son's 'poor behaviour'. I reject mother's attempts to deflect the allegation. It is made out
(vi) her mother told her to try and keep away from Y
V's Triangle interview is overwhelmingly clear and compelling. I do not accept the mother's response. She was effectively telling V to protect herself, which was a wholesale abrogation of her duties towards her daughters and indeed her youngest son. The allegation is made out
(vi) V told both her mother and her father
I am perfectly satisfied that she did.
In his 2nd, manuscript, amended statement, delivered on the 4th day of the hearing, father says this
1. W told me on about 2 or 3 occasions that Y had been touching his rude bits. I took that to mean W's penis. I told him to stay away from Y and that I would speak to Y.
2. On each occasion W came to me I spoke to Y after, I told him off and to stop this behaviour and to never behave like that again.
3. In respect of V and U, both girls told me on 2 occasions each, once they were together and one time they were on their own. They both told me on both occasions that Y had pulled them into his room and looked at their rude bits. I took that to mean their vaginas. I also told them I would speak to Y and I told them to stay away from Y.
4. As with W I spoke to Y each time. I told him off and told him that he must stop.
5. On each occasion I spoke with Y he promised to stop this behaviour.
We see from those paragraphs that indeed the father was aware, even from these limited admissions, of the abuse which was taking place under his roof. In my judgement he is still being coy. It is unlikely that there were only, in total, some four (or is it six?) complaints to him. The children were looking to him for protection (as indeed they were from their mother). He failed them. He did not report the matter to the police, and his assertion that he simply told Y off about his behaviour and sought to extract a promise from the boy that he would not repeat that behaviour, was, if it was designed to be a protective measure, wholly inadequate. The allegation is made out
As we have seen in this judgement and as we heard during evidence, Y now admits the allegation against him. The parents also agree that the local authority required them to sign a working agreement in the above terms
(ii) the parents failed to protect the children by ensuring that Y did not have access to the children without the parents being present
This is an unsatisfactory allegation. The working agreement has no time limitation, and is of such a generalised nature that I struggle to make a finding that the parents had any clear idea of the obligations to which the local authority required them to adhere. While both mother and father signally failed to protect the younger children, despite their knowledge of the significant concern of the local authority and indeed the police and despite their knowledge of the abuse which the younger children were to suffer, their failure to protect is far wider and deeper than simply failing to adhere to a working agreement
(iii) in particular, the parents slept downstairs while all the children slept upstairs
We know that this was the case. We also know that their home was specially adapted to take account of the difficulties which the children's father experienced in ascending and descending stairs as a result of a serious road accident when he was a late teenager. Thus, the family bathroom was on the ground floor and the parents made their bed in the living room. It seems to me, however, that given the parents' knowledge of Y's behaviour towards his younger siblings, they should have made arrangements for mother to sleep upstairs. Whether that would have been adequately protective, however, is doubtful, given mother's wholesale failure to take appropriate steps when confronted with the abuse as it took place.
Y and his parents admit that this is so
(ii) these offences took place while Y lived in the family home with the children
Y and his parents admit that this is so
The parents accept that this is so
(ii) the date range for those offences was 2001 to 2014
Father accepts that this is so
(iii) A sexual harm prevention order for life has been made restricting the father from having unsupervised contact with children
Father and mother accept that this is so
(iv) His probation officer has confirmed that he is identified as a high risk of serious harm to children
Mother responds that she accepts this allegation both in relation to children generally and his own.
In his response to the schedule, the father states that 'he does not believe that he is currently classed as a high-risk'. This response chimes with a number of answers he gave under cross examination which were highly suggestive of his inability to recognise the difficulties with which he struggles. The risk has been assessed by his probation officer and is set out in the presentence report to which I have referred. The allegation is proved.
In my judgement, the chronology and the local authority parenting assessment speak for themselves. I am not satisfied that her response (which is summarised in her reply to the schedule) is in any way persuasive. She states "mother accepts than when trying to deal with Y's behavioural problems and then when left on her own after father's arrest, standards slipped. She found it overwhelming dealing with 4 children on her own living in a small village with no transport."
In his response to the same allegation, the father writes "at times the house was less than acceptable however it was difficult for the mother to keep the property immaculate… The children are always clean and their teeth were brushed although [he] accepts that it may not have been to the highest standard given the fact that the girls have severe tooth decay". In my judgement, the parents' responses do not come within a country mile of explaining the several recordings of referrals made to the local authority and findings made on examination by local authority personnel and the police of the state of the property and the state of the children. Y simply stated in his oral evidence that the children are better off in foster care. I am afraid that he is right on so many levels. I am satisfied that the allegation is proved.
Obviously the tooth decay relates to the mother's failure to ensure that the children attended at the dental surgery for checkups or treatment. Her response to the police in interview was dishonest and misleading. When asked about the issue by me at the close of her cross-examination she asserted that X had had one filling. That, simply, was no answer. The dental report reveals a quite disgraceful failing. The allegation is proved
That concludes my judgement