(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Etherton, Lewison LJJ, 21 March 2012)
A 12-year-old girl alleged that her step-father had sexually abused her. Following the allegation and initiation of child protection procedures the step-father immediately left the home and had only supervised contact with the four children. At a fact-finding hearing the judge failed to consider the evidence of the parents and found in favour of the local authority. Following further submissions from counsel the judge issued an afterword including a summary of the step-father's evidence but without any analysis.
The step-father appealed. The only evidence in support of the allegations had been the words of the child who had been known to fantasise and not tell the truth. The evidence of the parents was particularly important and the judge's failure to deal with it was a fundamental flaw and the conclusion was unsustainable. Appeal allowed.