Neutral Citation No:  NIFam 16
Judgment: approved by the Court for handing down
(subject to editorial corrections)*
16/037908, 16/037908/05 and 15/073330/AO1
(1) On 30 July 2015 Laura was presented to a hospital with the following injuries:
(a) Four bruises to her right buttock.
(b) A larger bruise adjacent to these at the junction between the buttock and lateral thigh.
(c) Four bruises to her left buttock.
(d) A bruise on the mons pubis in the midline.
(2) The likeliest mechanism of injury is fingertip gripping with the type and location of injuries being associated with sexual abuse.
(3) (Deleted by agreement).
(4) On 26 April 2016 Laura was admitted to hospital with genital bleeding. She was examined under local anaesthetic by Dr Alison Livingstone and Dr Choo. The outcome of the forensic medical examination was as follows:
Laura presented with acute onset of genital bleeding associated with significant genital injuries including a laceration through the posterior fourchette, fossa novicularis and extending into a complete hymenal disruption. There were also signs consistent with fresh bruising around the posterior fourchette and two linear lacerations at either side of the labia minora/clitoris. Laura also had a cluster of four bruises on her outer thigh.
(5) The most likely mechanism of injury was an acute penetrative sexual assault by a firm object.
(6) Upon the basis of the medical evidence all of the injuries noted above are non-accidental injuries.
(7) P perpetrated these two sets of injuries in a deliberate manner. P sexually assaulted Laura on more than one occasion.
(8) On each occasion Laura was in the primary care of her mother. She displayed a gross failure to protect Laura from harm. She was grossly negligent in her parenting.
(9) The mother was unable to give any appropriate explanation as to how the child sustained the injuries despite being her primary carer.
(10) The mother routinely and illicitly breached the safe care plan in relation to Laura by permitting P to have unsupervised contact with Laura. The mother allowed P to reside in her home with Laura notwithstanding the terms of the safe care plan.
(11) The mother was dishonest with professionals about the circumstances of P's contact with Laura. She repeatedly lied to the Trust and to professionals about his contact. Further she lied to the police regarding the fact that P had had unsupervised contact with Laura prior to her admission to hospital. Further the maternal family also lied to the Trust about these breaches of the safe care plan.
(12) The mother failed to provide a safe home environment for Laura and permitted Laura to come to significant harm and sustain serious penetrative sexual injuries while in her care. She failed to report the first set of injuries.
(13) The mother prioritised her wish to be in a relationship with P over the needs of Laura. She did so notwithstanding subsequent revelations made by her of aggression in the relationship towards her from P. In so doing she failed to protect Laura. Her dependence upon him is evidenced from the fact that she wished him to remain at the hospital with her in April 2016 despite Laura having sustained serious sexual injuries.
(14) The father was not having contact with Laura at the date of Trust intervention. He was not available to care for Laura at the date of her removal from the care of the mother.
(15) The father has had an inconsistent role in Laura's life. He was not proactive in seeking contact with Laura following her return to the care of the mother in October 2015.
- P was not to be in the mother's home while Laura was there.
- Laura's family would visit her daily to confirm that Laura was well and that there were no concerns which needed to be relayed to the Trust.
Laura's family appeared at the time to be people who could be trusted and relied upon. Sadly this turned out not to be the case.
(i) There is evidence that Laura is being "re-traumatised" through contact. The relationship between mother and Laura is such that Laura is reminded at each session of her mother's inability to protect her and this in itself elicits failings associated with the trauma she has experienced.
(ii) The emotional impact of Laura's history and injuries on new adoptive parents needs to be considered. It will affect their ability to support Laura in having continued contact with her mother. Insofar as continued contact is frightening for the adoptive parents it would also be frightening for Laura and she will be unable to feel safe with it.
(iii) There remains a significant risk that the mother may develop risky and dangerous relationships in the future and that as Laura grows older and more curious about her mother's life this could have an undermining effect on Laura's security and also on her adopters.