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BBC Panorama highlights couple wrongly accused of child abuse

24 AUG 2010

Panorama - Copyright BBC 2010 Last night's Panorama programme shown on BBC 1 highlighted the case of a couple whose three-month-old son was put on the Child Protection Register when neither parent could explain how the child broke its leg.

The couple, who spent nearly two years fighting to clear their names, won the right to tell the full story of what happened to them after the High Court lifted reporting restrictions.

Jake and Victoria Ward, first-time parents from Cambridgeshire, were investigated by police and social services after tests showed that their son's lower right leg was broken - an extremely rare injury in a child not yet walking.

The couple were arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and child cruelty. They were also suspended from their jobs at Cambridgeshire County Council, the same local authority that was investigating them.

However, the child was allowed to stay with his parents, on the condition he wasn't left alone with them. Consequently the child's grandparents moved into the family home to supervise.

After a medical expert gave evidence that it was wrong to assume child abuse just because there was no other explanation for the injury, it was held that there was "no cogent evidence" the couple had injured their son and Lord Justice Munby made an order ‘disapplying' s 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 allowing the couple to report their case to the media (A v Ward [2010] EWHC 16 (Fam), [2010] 1 FLR 1497).

The couple's solicitor, Nick Barnes, said their experience highlighted the difficulties families faced if there was not an obvious explanation for their child's injury. He said without one it led to "a presumption of guilt and responsibility".

"This case, in my view, shows the need to remain objective and forensically minded, despite the horrendous pressures on professionals and parents, and the potentially devastating human cost to families if we get it wrong," Mr Barnes said.

Panorama: Please Don't Take Our Child, is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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