(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Rimer, Lewison LJJ; 13 January 2012)
Serious allegations of sexual abuse made by 5 children whilst in foster care due to concerns for emotional harm and neglect. In a last minute meeting with the judge the eldest child told the judge that the allegations were true. Judgment in fact-finding hearing found children had been sexually abused. Parents appealed in relation to the judge's meeting with the child in that they had no opportunity to make representations regarding the proposed meeting and that the judge used the opportunity to gather further evidence. The judge had been clear that he had already formed a view prior to the meeting.
The guidelines for judge's meeting with children were only guidelines but there were obvious risks of contaminating the evidence. Growing perception that meeting with children a valuable opportunity for judges. Appeals dismissed.