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Z & Y (Children : Care Proceedings) (Rev 1)  EWHC 644 (Fam) (27 March 2018)
 EWHC 644 (Fam)
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This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.
||Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 644 (Fam)
||Case No: ZW16C00111
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
IN THE MATTER OF Sections 31 THE CHILDREN ACT 1989
AND IN THE MATTER OF Y (A boy born [a date in] 2008) & Z (A girl born on [a date in] 2015)
||Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
MS JUSTICE RUSSELL
|| A LOCAL AUTHORITY
Y & Z
(Children by their guardian)
Kate Hudson (instructed by HB Public Law) for the Applicant
Allison Munroe (instructed by Osbornes Solicitors) for the First Respondent
David Bedingfield (instructed by Guile Nicholas) for the Second Respondent
William Baker (instructed by Bhatia Best Solicitors) for the Third Respondent
Pamela Warner (instructed by Bindmans) for the Fourth and Fifth Respondents
Hearing dates: 30th and 31st October 2017
HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT APPROVED
Crown Copyright ©
The Honourable Ms Justice Russell DBE:
- On 15th November 2017, following a short hearing on 31st October 2017 this court made supervision orders in respect of two children a boy Y ([a date in] 2009) then aged 9 years and 2 months and a girl Z (born on [a date in] 2015 and 23 months old at that time), on the basis threshold criteria pursuant to s31 of the Children Act 1989. The agreed facts are set out below. On 31st October 2017, the parties who had previously been in dispute as to the facts at issue, the conduct and extent of any fact finding hearing were adamant that they did not consider a trial was necessary as there remained a limited number of factual issues in dispute. The remaining issues to be decided, were, they agreed, better dealt with by way of submissions only. The court considered that, given the concessions made by the 2nd respondent (FG), the continued non-attendance of, and absence of any instructions from the 3rd respondent (FR) and the agreed placement of the children at home with their mother under a Supervision Order (SO), the need for a full trial of the remaining issues was not necessary or proportionate.
- Those issues which remained were; what contact, if any, the 2nd respondent is to have with Y and Z; and s 31 threshold in respect of FR the 3rd respondent. The parties also sought the courts conclusions as the future risk in respect of the subject children or other children who might be in contact with or be cared for by FG on the basis of threshold document that had been agreed. As the court did not hear any evidence I cannot make any findings; the conclusions about the risk posed by FG will be based solely on the evidence that formed the basis of the parties agreed document and the findings of guilt reached by the jury in the criminal trial. Nonetheless as there was no dispute about the outcome, which was to be the children's reunification with their mother to have a full hearing on the evidence as a whole would not have been proportionate or in keeping with the overriding objective as set out in rule1 of the FPR 2010, and the provisions of rule 1.4.
- When these proceedings were commenced in March 2016, it was as a result of the local authority issuing an application pursuant to the provisions of s31 of the Children Act (CA) 1989 because of the concerns regarding the safety and welfare of Y and Z arising from criminal charges brought against FG. The charges were serious; sex offences committed against his step-daughter (X, she is not a party to these proceedings) and offences of child cruelty in relation to his own daughter (W, she is also not a party to these proceedings) FG and M were living together with Y (who is the child of M and FR) and Z (who is the child of M and FG). As a result of the charges, and to ensure that the children could remain living with their mother, at the first hearing in the Family Court at Barnet, M and FG, agreed to live separately and for all contact with the children to be supervised by the local authority. A written agreement to that effect was signed at court. Y's father FR has played very little part in the proceedings (although he has been represented since the case came before me in November 2016) and, despite having been given the opportunity to do so during these proceedings, has chosen to continue to absent himself from his son's life.
- FG was due to stand trial for the criminal matters in October 2016, but defence counsel became ill and the criminal trial had to be abandoned. It was re-fixed for June 2017. It has fallen to the Family Court on several occasions during the proceedings to consider whether the care proceedings should be heard in advance of the criminal trial, being aware of the delay it would cause. Each time the court concluded that the criminal trial should be heard first notwithstanding the delay because it would not be in the best interests of the children to have the criminal proceedings compromised and to avoid the need for the alleged victims in the criminal proceedings from having to give evidence twice. Unlike many, if not most, of the cases where the family court has to consider the implications of criminal proceedings, the complainants in the criminal proceedings are not parties to or the subject of these public law proceedings. The local authority wished to avoid the need for the complainants to give evidence twice, particularly as any findings would be tangential, although relevant, to the findings sought in respect of the parties in these proceedings.
- As the parties have agreed to the supervision order and do not dispute the factual matrix on which the threshold was met it is not necessary for the court to set out the history of the family or the relationship of FG and M in full. From the facts that have been agreed it is apparent that FG met M while still under investigation for the sexual and physical abuse of his step-daughter and daughter. His bail conditions required that he did not have contact with anyone under the age of eighteen. The police were not made aware that FG had moved in with a woman and her child (M and Y), still less that he had re-married; nor were any of the relevant child protection authorities. They had met in December 2014 and married in April 2015.
- The police and children's service first became aware that he was living with M, and married her, on 25th August 2015, when they were called out following an incident when FG had damaged M's phone and iPad (this is expressly referred to in the agreed threshold document set out below). He was reported to have become angry when she had a missed call from a former partner. The criminal charges and bail conditions were discussed with the local authority's out-of-hours team. FG told the police that X and her mother had concocted the allegations and M would not support any prosecution or arrest. She said she had no concerns for her own safety or that of her son, and the police left. By this time, of course, she was pregnant with Z.
- Social workers called on 29th October 2015 but FG, who was recorded as being aggressive and of being obstructive refused to show the social workers a copy of his bail conditions. He tried to argue that he was permitted to be with children if supervised by an adult, but he has now admitted that he was in breach of bail. He was reported as having said that the police were using social services to harass him. The behaviour of FG, as recorded by social services, is in keeping with the aggressive, controlling behaviour which formed part of the evidence which led to his conviction for child cruelty.
- A strategy meeting was held on the 30th October 2015 at which the officer in charge of the investigation for Greater Manchester Police provided a summary of the allegations, as a result a decision was taken to undertake a s47 CA 1989 inquiry. On 3rd November 2015 M was seen at home but she made no complaint and voiced no concerns. She and Y were visited by social workers again on 3rd November 2015, she would not allow Y to be seen on his own. That same day the police were told, anonymously, that arguing and banging could be heard from the family home; there were sounds of adults shouting and screaming and a young child had been heard crying and very distraught. The police called by, the adults appeared in a good mood and the child was said to be asleep. The male, presumably FG, refused to give his name and was reported as saying that the call was malicious and they were in a new relationship. Later, during a child protection meeting, FG was recorded as saying that it was Y's social worker who had made the call to the police.
- During November 2015 the s47 investigation took place and attempts were made to locate FR (Y's father) through the police but no trace after 2013 was found. Y was seen at school but made no complaints. FG was interviewed by the social worker but refused to speak about his relationship, acknowledge the incident when the police were called on 25th October and denied all the allegations against him. The baby (Z) was born on [a date in] 2015. M, to her credit, informed social services when she was discharged as hospital staff had not followed the child protection plan in place which was that a discharge meeting should have taken place. The baby and her mother were visited at home and written agreement signed that M was to supervise FG at all times with both children. FG was charged that month with the offences for which he was subsequently convicted. He was remanded on bail at Manchester Magistrates Court on 14th January 2016.
- FG failed to attend a Child Protection Conference on 28th January 2016. Meetings were held by social services regarding the children in February 2016. M was reported as saying FG was innocent and FG refused to accept that there was any reason why he should live separately or why he should have supervised contact. As he has not appealed his conviction for child cruelty, it is clear that he must have been fully aware why he could not be left alone with any child and why M and the two children should live separately from him.
- The local authority, now aware of the extent of the allegations, were concerned about FG's ability to exert considerable control over his family and to hide information from professionals. Those concerns were well founded, both in respect of his family containing W and X and in respect of M. He deliberately concealed his marriage to her during the police investigation. It is the view of this court that FG should be considered a dangerous man who has a history of trying to, and succeeding in, the coercion and control of his immediate family and in manipulating professionals by lying and concealing information. In turn the local authority found M's responses and lack of insight to the concerns about FG to be "extremely worrying" despite the fact that, at the very least, she was well aware that he had a sexual relationship with his step-daughter. The social worker presciently observed in his first statement that he believed that M would allow FG to have unsupervised contact to the children, even if they were to separate.
- Proceedings were commenced in Barnet Family Court in March 2016. On the 9th March 2016 M signed a written agreement at court; under its terms she had agreed to live separately from FG and for all his contact with the children to be professionally supervised. FG signed the agreement. The children remained in her care at home by agreement as there were no issues raised or evidence to suggest that M was not able to care for the children's day to day needs and their physical and emotional welfare needs were met by her.
- It came to pass that the social worker's concern proved to be justified for, despite M agreeing to separate from FG, apparently having done so, and asserting that she did not intend to resume the relationship, so that the children could remain at home with her, in October 2016 the local authority found that M had posted a photograph of herself and FG together on Facebook with the comment: "To my partner in crime, my love, my dream come true, I love you to the moon and back." FG had posted a response saying: "Love you more." This gave the lie to her position as stated in court and to the local authority that she and FG had separated and that irrespective of the outcome of the trial, she had no intention of reconciling. At court, on 4th November 2016, she was found to have another photograph of herself and FG on her phone, apparently taken inside her flat. The court directed that she and FG should file detailed statements about their relationship. The local authority indicated that it was considering whether to seek interim care orders and the removal of the children because of this information about the parents' continuing relationship.
- On 4th November 2016, The Barnet Family Court moved the case to the Family Court at the Royal Courts of Justice for the matter to the be heard by a High Court Judge, because of the complexities in evidence in the proceedings involving parallel, but separate, criminal proceedings and in the hope that some pressure could be brought to bear on the listing of the criminal case to list to ensure that the case was heard as a matter of urgency.
- Within days the case was further complicated by M unlawfully removing the children overseas. On 8th November 2016, she travelled to Kenya with the children using temporary travel documents without informing the local authority. This was in breach of an order made on 31st March 2016 which had directed her to lodge the children's passports with her solicitor and prohibited her from applying for any travel documents for either child until the conclusion of these proceedings or until further order. M returned to the UK on 20th November 2016 without the children, having left them in Kenya with her mother. Their maternal grandmother was a stranger to the children before 8th November 2016, neither child had ever had direct contact with her. On M's return to the UK she stayed with FG.
- The efforts to secure the children's return proved to be protracted, stretching out over almost eight months. Eventually, social services in Kenya became involved as did the British High Commission and the FCO, and one of the local social workers, Rose Mwangi, visited the children and was able to provide a report as to their wellbeing. Again, despite M's assertions and assurances to the contrary, Y was never enrolled in school and did not attend school at all during the months he was in Kenya. The children were eventually brought back to the UK on 27th June 2017 in the care of, and accompanied by, Ms Mwangi. They were placed in foster care and remained there for the remainder of the proceedings. The children have had regular and frequent contact with their mother; over the summer holidays this was increased to a frequency of three times a week, with two of these visits lasting for three hours and one lasting for two hours. They had telephone contact with their mother each day that they did not see her. All the contact was considered to be a very positive experience for the children, who were often observed to be distressed when the sessions come to an end. Nonetheless Y was clearly caused distress by being stranded in Kenya by his mother and has continued to express his anger at her for doing so.
- M was assessed by Dr Jonathan Dowd, consultant forensic psychologist, who prepared a report for the court. M undertook work with Circles South East to inform her understanding of sexual offences against children and Beccy Scott of Circles filed a report regarding M's progress, dated 23rd August 2017. Ms Scott's report was very positive regarding the progress made by M and raised no immediate concerns about the children's safety apart from recognising that there were likely to be issues regarding managing Z's contact with FG in the future following his release from prison.
Criminal trial and sentencing remarks
- FG's criminal trial, re-fixed to take place in June 2017, finally took place. He pleaded not guilty and was convicted by a jury following a trial in which the complainants, W and X, gave evidence. On 7th July 2017, FG was convicted on all 14 counts on the indictment which consisted of five offences of indecent assault against a child; four offences of indecency with a child; three offences of rape; all concerning X and two offences of child cruelty concerning his daughter, W. He was sentenced to a total of 22 years imprisonment, by the trial judge His Honour Judge Rudland. The sentence comprised 6 years imprisonment for each of the offences of indecent assault and indecency with a child and 18 years imprisonment for the rape offences which run concurrently and to 4 years imprisonment, consecutive, for the child cruelty offences.
- The trial judge had heard the evidence and was well placed to set out the reasoning behind his sentence. I shall quote from it here. The description of FG's sexual and physical assaults and his controlling and abusive behaviour in the judge's remarks set out the extent of FG's depravity. FG became involved with X's mother when X was 12 years old. The judge said that X's mother was "a needy individual in my view who [FG] met, dazzled and rapidly made pregnant. She was in two minds as to quite where that relationship was going but she was in need of security, support and she was about to bear [his] child. That child was [W], [his] natural daughter who is now 17 years of age."
- The judge observed that FG had immigrated from Romania to work in London and was "a hardworking man." FG decided to set up home with X's mother in Manchester rather than return to London. This was his second marriage, but "at a very early stage that relationship… deteriorated and it deteriorated because of the way [FG had] conducted [himself] in that relationship." The sentencing remarks continued with this observation directed at FG "I do not know whether it is because you are an inherently aggressive and controlling individual, or whether that approach and attitude were borne out of your upbringing in Romania, but the fact remains that your presence in that household was one of domination and aggression. You caused fear and inculcated fear into all those around you."
- Nonetheless, as a result of FG's behaviour his stepson who was older than X and in a better position to leave home, did so. X's mother gave birth to W, and X, who was then "13 years of age, still a young girl just about to enter puberty, or having embarked upon the journey that puberty involved, became the object of FG's attention." For a period of 14 years she was the object of sexual predation, control and manipulation by FG who molested and groomed her beginning, as the judge said, "[as] it always does - with the touching of the bottom, the tickling of the bottom, the touching of the breasts and then slowly, bit by bit, the sexual attention is increased, and you increased it in an incremental way. It is called grooming now, it wasn't then - but that is what it was. In this case, in the end, it became brain- washing because you convinced this young impressionable girl, who had few secure landmarks in her life, that you were the solution to all her ills and at the forefront of that association, and that is what it was, it was not a relationship - although she came to think it was, at the forefront was your desire for sexual gratification."
- The evidence of X during the trial was said to have shown that FG used "her as a sex object and nothing more. [FG] pretended to her that this was love but it was no more than his sexual gratification which continued day in day out, week in week out, month in month out, year in year out, robbing her of her adolescence and young adulthood." He said that FG's behaviour "went beyond grooming, it was brain washing, it was prolonged in the way that I have described and it was sustained." Such was the extent of his controlling behaviour that the judge found FG had "removed from her all those choices she could legitimately and quite appropriately have expected to make in relation to people her own age, not only in the context of relationships but also in relation to the wider world; mixing with people, mixing with her siblings, mixing with her relatives and perhaps most importantly in one sense educating herself as she wished in accordance with her own legitimate desires. All that was stolen from her by you in your incessant, relentless, sustained control of her life, and I cannot over-emphasise the nature of your attitude towards her in the terms that I have just employed."
- The situation in the home deteriorated to the extent that FG abandoned his family and X and moved to London. FG continued to exert his control over X in particular by telephoning - "incessantly" was the word used by the judge. FG used the telephone to maintain his control over the family and X, for it was she that he spoke to when he rang; the "object of [his] interest and indeed desires." The relationship between X and her mother broke down to the extent that X was persuaded to leave home and join FG in London. The trial judge found that she had done so while "in two minds as to what to do because she knew at the bottom of this there was huge wrong doing and that she had effectively colluded with it and she blamed herself for it, when she had and has absolutely no reason to do so at all. That is however, the way of these things, that is the insidious effect of the type of offending in which you engaged for so long."
- Once in London X's life and existence was controlled by FG. She had two children by him. As the judge said on the surface there appeared to be "a family unit that is existing in a sensible and normal way, but all the time there is the insidious under current of the control exercised by [FG] in the detailed way that we have heard in this trial." Meanwhile W (X's half-sibling) was growing up and there were contested CA 1989 proceeding over her residence, resulting in W coming to live with FG. W had been the subject of neglect, and was left without enough to eat by her mother.
- W was about seven or eight years old when she moved and was "delighted when those proceedings were concluded in [FG's] favour and she came to [FG] and to her much-loved sister who was again put in a difficult situation - having to act both as sister and, to a degree, as mother as well a situation which she undertook and carried out as best she could despite the presence of FG's mother." FG's mother was, found the judge "a lady who has had an interesting and difficult life of her own, borne out of the revolution in 1989, clearly a capable woman but nevertheless someone very much of her time and of her nation. She brought to bear in that household a strict regime." She was acquitted by the jury on counts of child cruelty, nonetheless the complaints made about her behaviour by W and X would give rise to serious child protection and safeguarding concerns within the context of CA 1989 proceedings; and the evidence against her may well have reached a different conclusion on the balance of probabilities.
- The household consisted of FG, his own mother, X, her two young children and W. W clearly had her own difficulties and interfered with, or assaulted, her two younger half-siblings. As the judge said there was "some room for speculation as to why that happened given that [FG was] in the household…". The family was seriously dysfunctional, W's assaults on her siblings upset X and while the judge found that FG's behaviour towards W could not be sexual in all the circumstances, and there was no evidence that he were interested in her sexually, it was certain … "that her presence in the household began to aggravate you and the way you treated her was a disgrace."
- The judge said W was "one of the most impressive young witnesses I have ever seen." He was complimentary about her present situation and said she had "struggled and strove to do her best to cope in that household. She went from the frying pan into the fire in leaving [her mother] and ending up with you. Initially times were good but, my word, how they deteriorated. The way you treated her physically was quite appalling, and the detail she gave and which [X] gave is clearly absolutely correct in relation to the assaults you inflicted upon her, and the dominating way you sought to punish her in the way you did. She was utterly underserving of that sort of treatment and the price must be paid by you for it."
- This court has read the transcripts of the ABE interviews of X and W made to the police in the course of the criminal investigation. Their evidence was accepted by the jury. It is not necessary to set out the abuse which they suffered at the hands of FG in full detail in this judgment as he has been convicted but they were subjected to a regime of abuse and controlled absolutely by FG. They were kept indoors as X said "[W] was always indoors, same as me, we were just, like, closed in and getting abused. And if we wasn't doing anything wrong we still got hit. Do you understand? It's just…And it was, like, normal, normal for us, that was, like, the norm, because we wasn't…That's all I was used to." X described seeing FG kicking W and kneeing her; hammering her on her head with his fist "only on the head he does it …And he's done the same to me. It's always the head."
- In her interview, X described being so scared of FG that she could not tell anyone and that she thought he might have killed them as he had threatened to do so. She though he was capable of it because of the abuse she had suffered and because had done "the things that he does to his own daughter, like, put his foot on …her head." X had told the police that FG has always been aggressive and described him assaulting W while she was still at primary school, putting his foot on her head and saying, "I'm going to squash your head, you little shit." She described how FG had hit W a lot, and dragging her about to scare her when she was "misbehaving". W had bruises and marks on her body from the assaults. Her description of a beating he gave W because she failed to run his bath to his liking is chilling; as is her description of his idea of the correct order of things in the household, "Well the kids don't go before me. If I tell you to do something, you do it, you leave the kids till last."
- The litany of sexual abuse and cruelty described by both young women is horrific. FG would throw lighters at W. He would beat her so regularly that neither she or X could enumerate or describe all the individual occasions on which it happened; X said in interview "Same, he's hit her. I can't remember exactly, but he's…You know, he just punches her, he goes…and. You know, it's all the same routine, that's why I can't remember exactly which is which." X thought it was nearly two or three times a week. One of his regular forms of abuse, and one could easily transpose the word torture for abuse, was to make W kneel on the kitchen floor with her hands in the air; or to squat and if she moved she would be hit or have something thrown at her, his food, an ashtray, a lighter and on one occasion a tin of Saxa salt which left a scar. Once, X said, W had to stay in the same position for 3 hours from six until nine in the evening.
- W said that he would hit her so hard that her head banged against the wall and he would just keep on hitting her. He hit, punched and kicked W, and if X tried to intervene he would hit or slap her too. Both W and X recalled an occasion when he hit W so hard in the face that he caused himself injury and started to bleed, leaving blood on the wall. W said that she tried not to cry as this made FG hit her more. W had also described FG handling her little sisters very roughly when they were very small. W and X would cling to each other for comfort.
- Eventually, and because there had by then been some social services intervention, initiated by W's behaviour toward the younger children which had been raised by the children's school, W and X managed to leave. They were, said the judge in his sentencing remarks, terrified for the immediate prospects for the two younger children in the short term, but "it was something they had to do and so it was they fled from [FG's] grip at long last." In her interview with the police X disclosed the extent of the sexual abuse she had suffered as a result of FG's depraved and brutal behaviour. I do not intend to set it out here as it would serve no purpose and would result in a publicly available document which recorded the vile, vicious and repulsive sexual assaults to which this young woman was subjected by FG. It is there in her interview and the jury accepted her evidence.
- The complaints made by W and X, led to FG's arrest and eventually to his trial. The trial lasted three weeks during which the jury have listened to the evidence against him from X, from W, from others which, as the trial judge said, all went "one way and points towards the offending and attitudes that [FG had] displayed over the last 15 years or so." FG is subject now, and on his release to an indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order. The judge, as I have already said, considered the appropriate sentence for the offences of cruelty to be four years concurrent with each other, but consecutive to the 18 years, making 22 years in all.
- On 25th July 2017, FG lodged an appeal against conviction and sentence. A copy of his grounds of appeal and the Respondent's notice on behalf of the Crown have been filed within these proceedings and were in the bundle. Significantly for this case, there is no appeal from the conviction of the two offences of child cruelty. This court is unaware of the progress of his appeal. Whether he is successful or not makes little or no difference to the view of this court in respect of the real danger he posed, and continues to pose, to any child in his care, or with whom he has contact. The evidence which led to his conviction for offences of child cruelty is more than sufficient to cause grievous concerns about the threat he is to the safety of his children and their mothers.
Agreed s31 threshold criteria
- The parties, including FG, had agreed that this case should be delayed so that the criminal trial would be concluded. In the event there was an unexpected hiatus caused by M removing the children and leaving them in Kenya. The work done by the local authority with M in the meantime has resulted in a care plan that means the children are at home with their mother with the children subject to a supervision order. Initially FG contested the court making an order on the basis of his convictions and wanted a trial in the Family Court at which X and W would give evidence, and sought to argue that the court could not rely on his convictions and that he had a "right" to a re-hearing of the criminal matters. As a result, the case remained listed for a contested hearing.
- By contrast the other parties (except FR whose lawyers remained without instructions) wished to rely on the convictions and not deal with factual issues in dispute regarding the children and their mother, including the allegations that she had made about FG's controlling and coercive behaviour; some of which were in dispute. The court took the view that without findings of fact in respect of the subject children and the parents the threshold criteria, and any future plans based on that criteria would be deficient.
- In the event FG took the advice of his representatives and no longer sought to persuade the court that there should be a trial of the issues which had been before the criminal court. The parties prepared a document setting out agreed facts which they put before the court as meeting s31 CA 1989 threshold and providing for a supervision order to be made without the need for the court to hear any evidence. The facts which were agreed between the parties are reproduced in anonymised form immediately below: as in this judgment FG refers to the 2nd respondent and father of Z, the 1st Respondent is M the children's mother. W is FG's daughter and victim of child cruelty at his hands and X is his step-daughter who he sexually abused as a child and later had a sexual relationship with her, fathering two children. FR is the father of Y. The evidence relied on is referred to by its location in the trial bundle.
1) At the relevant date, being March 2016 when proceedings commenced, the children were suffering, or were likely to suffer, significant harm; and that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to the care given to the children, or likely to be given to them if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to them.
2) The harm the children were suffering or are likely to suffer is sexual, physical and emotional harm.
3) [FG] presents a risk of sexual harm to children –
a) [FG] is a schedule 1 offender. He was convicted on 7th July 2017 of 14 offences as set out in the certificate of conviction, in summary the offences were -
i) five offences of indecent assault against a child;
ii) our offences of indecency with a child;
iii) three offences of rape;
iv) two offences of cruelty to a young person.
b) The offences were committed over a period between March 1999 and April 2014.
c) The victim of all of the sexual offences was [X], who was [FG's] step daughter. She was approximately 12-13 years old when the first offence was committed against her.
d) FG entered into a [sexual] relationship with X. He had previously been married to X's mother and for the period 1999 onwards when X was 11 years old, he had been her step-father. He was approximately 14 years older than X. (X born: [a date in] 87, FG born [a date in] 73).
e) In the period 2012-2013 W, [FG's daughter] had been sexually abusing her younger half siblings. FG and X were aware of this behaviour but failed to report it or seek professional help. [H2-3]
f) Upon conviction, FG was sentenced to a total of 22 years, comprising 6 years for each of the offences of indecent assault and indecency with a child; 18 years for the rape offences to run concurrently and 4 years for the child cruelty offences to run consecutively. In reaching that sentence the sentencing judge took into account:
i) The incidents of rape took place shortly after the victim turned 13;
ii) FG groomed the victim to an extent that was tantamount to 'brainwashing';
iii) FG insisted the victim keep details of his actions secret;
iv) FG's actions amounted to a massive abuse of trust;
v) The offences took place over a very, very long time on many, many occasions.
g) An indefinite sexual offences prevention order was made at the time of sentencing.
4) FG presents a risk of physical harm to children
a) Two of the offences for which FG was convicted were offences of child cruelty.
b) The victim of the cruelty to a young person was FG's daughter, W, who was under the age of 16 at the material time.
c) On 25th October 2015 the First Respondent called the police to FG's home after FG had become aggressive towards her during an argument and smashed her mobile telephone and iPad. [C44 § 4] [C297 § 9]
5) The children have been exposed to arguments between M and FG and have suffered emotional harm.
a) On 25th October 2015 the First Respondent called the police to M's home after FG had become aggressive towards her during an argument and smashed her mobile telephone and iPad. [C44 § 4] [C297 § 9]
6) The First [M] and Second Respondents [FG] have been unable or unwilling to adhere to restrictions put in place to safeguard the children and the children have been thereby exposed to risk of harm
a) FG signed a written agreement at court on 9th March 2016. He breached the written agreement in that -
i) He attended at the [M]'s address and he had contact with the children other than agreed in advance with the local authority.
ii) FG spent time at the [M]'s home in the weeks before she fled to Kenya in November 2016.
b) The First Respondent signed a written agreement at court on 9th March 2016. She breached the written agreement in that -
i) she failed to inform the local authority that FG had attended at her address.
ii) she failed to inform the local authority that FG had had contact with the children other that agreed in advance with the local authority.
iii) she allowed FG to visit her home on a regular basis in the period preceding her removal of the children to Kenya.
iv) She allowed FG to have contact that was not authorized by the local authority.
c) The First Respondent breached the court order of 31.03.16 in that
i) she applied for travel documents for the children when she had been prohibited from making such application.
ii) she took the children to Kenya knowing the court had put in place restrictions in the order of 31.03.16 specifically to prevent her from removing the children from the jurisdiction.
7) The First Respondent failed to act to protect her children from the risk of harm from FG -
a) She was aware that FG was being investigated by the police but failed to ascertain the precise details of the offences for which he was being investigated, and only discovered the extent of the allegations against him when told by the local authority at a child protection conference in November 2015.
b) She continued her relationship with FG notwithstanding becoming aware that he had previously been in a sexual relationship with his step-daughter and it was his step-daughter who had made allegations against him.
c) She failed to separate and/or maintain a separation from FG.
d) She continued to support contact between FG and her son Y, notwithstanding the serious allegations against him and he own perception of him being emotional abusive and controlling.
e) She allowed FG to have contact that was not authorized by the local authority.
f) she allowed FG to visit her home on a regular basis in the period preceding her removal of the children to Kenya.
8) The First Respondent is unable or unwilling to work in an open and co-operative way with professionals to allow the risk of harm to her children to be minimized and/or to promote their welfare
a) She either lied to the local authority and the court when she said that she had ended her relationship when she was continuing the relationship, or failed to inform the local authority/court that she had resumed her relationship with FG notwithstanding having previously asserted that the relationship was over and in doing so, she deliberately misled the local authority and the court into thinking that the relationship between her and FG had ceased.
b) She failed to disclose to the local authority until December 2016 that she regarded herself as being the victim of sustained and undermining emotional abuse and controlling behaviour in her relationship with FG. In failing to disclose this information, the mother failed to secure assistance from the professionals which would have allowed her to separate from FG.
c) When the First Respondent returned to the UK she went back to live with FG.
d) She breached the written agreement and the court order of 31.03.16 (see 6 (iii) & (iv) above)
e) She lied to the police who attended to take her passport in November pursuant to the order of the court, saying that she could not find it. C287.18
f) She refused to give details of the address at which the children were staying until brought to court on 25th November, and then failed to provide all of the information the local authority had requested [B122 recitals C and D]
9) FG is unable or unwilling to work in an open and co-operative way with professionals to allow the risk of harm to the children to be minimized
a) He failed to inform the local authority/court that he had resumed his relationship with the First Respondent notwithstanding having previously asserted that the relationship was over, and in doing so, he deliberately misled the local authority and the court into thinking that the relationship between him and the First Respondent had ceased.
b) He has consistently maintained his innocence in respect of the criminal charges against him against the weight of evidence meaning that no therapeutic work could be put in place.
c) He breached the conditions of his bail and the written agreement. (see 6 (i) and (ii) above)
d) In the period 2012-2013 W had been sexually abusing her younger half siblings. FG and X were aware of this behaviour but failed to report it or seek professional help. [H2-3]
10) The First Respondent has a good and warm relationship with her children and is capable of meeting their practical care needs, but she failed to prioritise the needs of her children
a) She continued her relationship with FG against the advice of the professionals without consideration of the risk of harm to her children.
b) She took the children out of the jurisdiction to Kenya without informing the court or the local authority. She informed the court via her solicitor that she did not see herself returning to England anytime soon.
c) She removed Y from his school and made no alternative arrangements for him to attend school. He was not attending school or receiving any formal education from the time of his removal in November 2016 until he was returned to the UK in June 2017.
d) Less than a fortnight after going to Kenya, she left the children with their grandmother while she returned to the UK. Neither child had previously met their grandmother and they were distressed at being left by their mother.
e) Her stated plan was to return to collect the children on 5th December. Even on this plan she was not proposing being with her daughter on her first birthday.
f) She refused to give the local authority contact details for her sister so that they could assess her as a potential carer for the children when they returned to the UK so that placement in foster care could be avoided [B122 recital F]
11) FG subjected M to sustained emotional abuse in the course of their relationship
a) he was a very dominant and controlling presence in the home and would lose his temper very quickly over small, trivial matters.
b) he would try to control who M saw and spoke to and aspects of her life inside and outside the home.
i) FG did not allow M to have friends independent of him
ii) FG would insist that M speak to her friends, male or female at home so that he could monitor her telephone calls
iii) FG would check M's mobile phone to see who she had been calling or speaking to
iv) FG would check M's Facebook activities during the day
v) FG would ring M constantly during the day
vi) FG would become angry if M spoke in her own language to her friends and family as he could not understand what was being said and therefore could not control or monitor the conversations
c) FG would criticize and undermine M as a person -
i) FG would expect M to wait hand and foot on him and would expect meals served in a particular way, wine poured for him and if not done correctly he would explode in anger
ii) FG would expect M to run his bath for him and if it was not the correct temperature for him he became extremely abusive verbally towards her.
12) On 8th November, having become aware of the children's removal or imminent removal from the jurisdiction to Kenya by M, FG failed to notify the court or the parties of this in a timely way.
13) FR has failed to protect his son
a) He has not played any significant role in his son's life for many years.
b) He has failed to ensure that his son's physical, emotional and educational needs were being met.
c) He has failed to demonstrate any interest in the current and future welfare of his son, in that he has failed to attend court for any of the hearings and failed to give instructions to his solicitors on a consistent basis.
- The court has not heard evidence and the decisions made are based on the matter set out above and the agreement reached by the parties. The threshold is met and comprehensively traversed. On the basis of the convictions for child cruelty and the controlling and aggressive behaviour that FG had already started to exhibit with M, Y and Z, which seemed to follow the path of vicious, violent and abusive behaviour and the treatment he had meted out on his previous families, there is, and cannot be, any doubt that he posed and will continue to pose a serious risk of significant and serious harm to any child of his or any child present in a household of which he forms a part.
- On the uncontested evidence which formed the basis of the agreement FG is also a danger to any partner or wife, including M. It would not be safe for M to go to the prison where he is incarcerated to allow contact to take place with Z. Given his track record for coercion and control and the total absence of any comprehensive and meaningful intervention with FG, there is no evidence other than that which would indicate that he would, once again, seek to gain control. The local authority did not propose FG should have contact with Z, she is an infant and would have to be taken to the prison by her mother; it is not safe for either of them. In the absence of additional professional support M cannot be compelled, against the interest of her own safety, to take her infant daughter to the prison where FG is incarcerated to see him. There is no discernible need in terms of Z's welfare which would justify her being taken alone and by a stranger, albeit a child care professional, allowing for there being such a person available, to spend time in the prison environment with another stranger. Unless and until he is released from prison and has successfully undertaken a lengthy period of work and therapeutic treatment, the results of which have been thoroughly assessed, it would not be safe or in the interests of Z's welfare for any contact to take place.
- Y is not FG's child. There is no expectation that he should have contact with FG. FG only lived within the same household for a short period of time, of no more than fifteen to sixteen months at most. If, it is an if as no assessment has been carried out, FG was a part of Y's family life at that time, that is over long since as far as Y is concerned. More time has now passed than all the time Y spent with FG and during which Y has endured a separation from his mother, being stranded in Kenya and absence from school and from all that was familiar. There is no conceivable benefit for this child to be reintroduced to a man, who was abusive and controlling when he was, briefly, in Y's life. The fact that FG is insistent that he should have contact with Y raises more concerns about FG's need to continue to control and dictate terms to any family in which he has played a part. There is to be no contact.
- FR effectively abandoned Y and has abdicated all responsibility for his child. His counsel, absent of any instructions from FR, sought to argue that the threshold was not met in respect of FR. On the contrary, the fact FR has failed to provide his son any care at all and certainly not care that it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give as set out in s31 (2) (b) (i) must have contributed to the harm Y suffered. That the absence of care contributed to the harm suffered by Y, is self-evident. FR has never sought to take any steps to inform himself of his son's welfare and well-being far less take steps to intervene when it was necessary. His ignorance of Y's situation does not absolve him of responsibility. Moreover, FR was aware of the proceedings and did attend court on occasion but did not then do anything to assist Y or provide him with any care; had he as a parent should have done and provided the care it was reasonable to expect some of the harm that was caused to Y may have been avoided.
- This is my judgment.