(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Patten, Richards LJJ, 27 November 2012)
A fact-finding hearing took place to determine whether allegations made by the 8 year old child of sexual abuse by the father were true. The mother had been admitted to a mental health unit and did not give evidence.
The judge found that as the father had not been able to cross-examine the child or the mother he had been placed at an unfair advantage and had not experienced a fair trial. He, therefore deleted the allegations insofar as they related to the father. The local authority responded by informing the judge that the mother would now wish to give oral evidence but the judge refused her permission asserting that it would not be fair to reopen the discussion once a decision had been made. The children's guardian appealed.
The appeal was allowed. The judge's initial ruling had been a bizarre act of reasoning and a bizarre conclusion. The judge had reached the wrong conclusion in the heat of the moment and should have concluded that once the mother had expressed a wish to give evidence he ought to allow more time for the mother to participate.