ON APPEAL FROM THE PRINCIPAL REGISTRY
OF THE FAMILY DIVISION
HIS HONOUR JUDGE COMPSTON
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE MUNBY
LORD JUSTICE TOMLINSON
|In the Matter of A and L (Children)|
Mr Stephen Bellamy QC and Miss Helen Soffa (instructed by local authority) for the local authority
Mr Anthony Hayden QC and Mr Tim Hussein (instructed by H E Thomas) for the father
Mr Bernard Huber (of Edwards Duthie) for the children's guardian
Hearing date : 18 October 2011
Crown Copyright ©
Lord Justice Munby :
"There appears to be some strength in the argument that the trial judge needed to deal with issues such as this in some depth in order to explain why he was persuaded of the truth of the allegations he found proved in relation to the mother … It is arguable that his analysis of such issues was too superficial."
"It is well established that it is open to a judge to amend his judgment, if he thinks fit, at any time up to the drawing of the order."
In the context of a fact finding hearing such as we are concerned with here, it must be borne in mind that there may not be any immediate order at all; indeed, it is well established that the absence of an order is no bar to an appeal: see Re B (Split Hearing: Jurisdiction)  1 FLR 334.
i) The central question which we invite Judge Compston to revisit is what evidence he identified as supportive of his conclusion that the mother had both been aware of and a participant in the sexual abuse of A and L.
ii) In addressing this question we invite Judge Compston to address in particular the following issues in so far as they relate to what I have called the central question:
a) A's inconsistent accounts and the evidence of her propensity to fantasise. What weight, if any, needs to be given to any evidence which suggests that A may be an unreliable chronicler of events?
b) The absence of any sexual allegations in A's first ABE interview. What significance, if any, did Judge Compston afford to the absence of any such allegations in the first ABE interview?
c) The disparity between A's sexual allegations in the second ABE interview and the more detailed allegations made to the foster carers.
d) The emotional climate within the foster carer's home and the children's lack of contact to their parents;
e) The forensic or other significance of the allegations made against the paternal grandmother in the supervised contact;
f) The basis upon which Judge Compston exculpated the father and the grandmothers and why such factors did not apply to the mother;
g) What corroborative or supportive evidence Judge Compston identified to support the conclusions in his judgment of 27 May 2011;
h) Whether he is able to provide further analysis of his findings at paragraph 102 in respect of L.
i) The trial bundles as they were before him on 27 May 2011.
ii) The written submissions (including Ms Ball's analysis) which were before him on 27 May 2011.
iii) Ms Ball's note dated 9 June 2011 and the note of the judgment he gave on 10 June 2011.
iv) The transcript of the mother's evidence.
v) The judgment and order of this court.
Judge Compston will, of course, also have available to him his notebook and his judgment of 27 May 2011.
Lord Justice Tomlinson :
Lord Justice Patten :
"(1) It is also recorded that the findings in relation to neglect, contact and domestic violence are not challenged.
(2) It is recorded that the mother made important acknowledgment in her evidence:
(i) A's account of being locked in a cupboard was rooted in fact;(ii) She (the mother) had devolved an important aspect of parenting X (ie disciplining A by locking her in a cupboard) and recognised from the ABE interview that A had plainly found that experience to be frightening and it had played on her daughter's mind;(iii) A had plainly gained a knowledge of sexual matters entirely beyond what would be expected of a girl of her age. A had never displayed such knowledge in the past and had never exhibited sexualised behaviour;(iv) During the time her parents were together, A's school, which she attended regularly, had never expressed any concerns of a sexual nature;(v) She (the mother) considered that A's sexual knowledge had arisen post separation and must therefore have been gained either in the period when she (the mother) was solely responsible for her care or during her time in foster care.
(3) It is recorded that A's allegations in the second ABE interview set out an escalating picture of abuse which, though well known to professionals in this field, would have been entirely outwith the knowledge of a 6 year old:
(i) A gradual invasion of privacy (X staring at A's private parts in the bath);(ii) Inappropriate touching between A's legs (initially whilst clothed);(iii) Rewards (sweeties), punishments and an assertion of power (A locked in cupboard);(iv) Keeping secrets (asserted against X);(v) More serious sexual assault (oral sex with both male and female)."