Neutral Citation Number:  EWFC 25
Case No: DF13C00133 DF13C00134 IL13C00903
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
Royal Courts of Justice
THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE KEEHAN
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(1) THE LONDON BOROUGH OF BEXLEY
(2) ROYAL BOROUGH OF GREENWICH
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(4) SB (By her Children’s Guardian)
(5) PB and TB and BW
(By their Children’s Guardian)
(6) SA and JA (By their Children’s Guardian)
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Mr M Twomey (instructed by London Borough of Bexley) for the First Applicant
Ms Hall (instructed by Royal Borough of Greenwich) for the Second Applicant
Ms Pritchard (instructed by Lonsdale Mayall) for the First Respondent
Ms A Dixon (instructed by Powell & Co) for the Second Respondent
Ms T McLevy (instructed by Cale Solicitors) for the Third Respondent
Ms Dezonie (instructed by Russell Cooke & Co) for the Fourth Respondent
Ms D Fottrell (instructed by Eskinazi & Co) for the Fifth Respondents
Ms Ponting (instructed by Steel and Shamash) for the Sixth Respondents
Hearing dates: 26th June 2014 – 11th July 2014 inclusive
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Mr Justice Keehan
In this matter I am concerned with six children. I have before me three applications for care orders. One brought by the Royal Borough of Greenwich in respect of the A children, issued on 13 December 2013, one brought by the London Borough of Bexley in respect of the three B children, issued on 16.12.13, and one brought by the London Borough of Bexley in respect of BW issued on 16.12.13.
The A children are:
i)SA who was born on 6.11.98 and is 15 years of age. Her father is EA and her mother is CW; and
ii)JA who was born on 25.5.01 and is 13 years of age. His father is EA and his mother is CW.
The B children are:
i)SB who was born on 1.1.98 and is 16 years of age. Her father is VB and her mother is LG;
ii)PB who was born on 10.9.05 and is 8 years of age. Her father is VB and her mother is NC; and
iii) TB who was born on 7.11.05 and is 5 years of age. Her father is VB and her mother is CW.
BW who was born on 30.4.12 and is 2 years of age. His father is VB and his mother is ZB. She had been brought up by VB as a child of his family. For some time it was believed ZB was his daughter. It has now been established that he is not. ZB’s mother is NC.
The First Respondent is CW. She is 46 years old. She has two older adult children, C (27) and Ca (22).
The Second Respondent is VB. He is 42 years old. It is said he has another child, Sy who is 6 years old. It is not clear who her mother is or was. Sy is said to live in Haiti with SB’s mother, LG.
The Third Respondent is ZB, the mother of BW. There is an issue about her date of birth; it is either 4 April 1993 or 1996. I shall consider the circumstances in which this issue arose in my evaluation of the evidence.
In light of her age and a divergence of views with her children’s guardian, SB is separately represented; her guardian is Katie Draffan. PB, TB and BW are represented by their children’s guardian, Katherine Gledhill. SB and JA are represented by their children’s guardian, Clair Foster.
The case is listed for a fact finding hearing and a final welfare hearing. This judgment deals solely with the fact finding element of the hearing. The local authorities seek findings of fact, in broad terms:
i)against CW in respect of allegations of physical abuse of the B children, of failing to protect the children from exposure to domestic violence, and of failing to protect ZB, SB and SB from alleged sexual abuse by VB [see paragraph 50 below];
ii)VB in respect of the alleged sexual abuse of ZB, SB and SA [see paragraph 50 below]; and
iii)ZB in respect of her alleged knowledge of VB’s sexual abuse of SB and SA and her failure to protect them from the same, her failure to protect BW from exposure to VB’s sexual abuse committed in the family home and her failure to protect BW from alleged physical abuse by CW [see paragraph 50 below].
Those three respondents each deny and challenge the majority of the findings of fact sought against them.
Immediately prior to the commencement of this hearing VB stood trial on charges of rape and sexual abuse of SB and SA. On 4 July 2014 VB was convicted of one count of raping SB on 2.12.13, one count of raping SA over a period of time and of five counts of child cruelty relating to the B children. The jury were discharged from reaching verdicts on other counts of rape in relation to SB and SA. Sentencing was adjourned to permit the CPS to decide whether it would seek a retrial in respect of those latter offences.
It is conceded by all parties that the threshold criteria of s31(2) Children Act 1989 are satisfied in respect of each child who is the subject of these proceedings. There is a substantial issue between the parties, however, as to the factual basis upon which the threshold criteria are satisfied.Law
The burden of proof lies throughout on the local authorities who seek to prove the facts set out in the Schedule.
The standard of proof is the simple balance of probabilities: Re B (A Child)
 UKSC 33.Background
The factual background to this matter is complex and the evidence given in respect of certain significant events is either inconsistent and/or contradictory. I will consider those issues when I conduct my analysis of the evidence. For now I simply wish to set the scene for the events which precipitated the issuing of these proceedings.
CW was born and grew up in Ghana. There she met JS, now deceased, by whom she had her first daughter C. She then began a relationship with CaW, a German national. They married in January 1991 and travelled to settle in Germany with C. Ca was born in 1992.
Their relationship ended and she was divorced from CaW in 1998. In 1997 CW met EA, who is the father of SA and JA. They remained in a relationship for some 6 years. I understand that after their relationship ended EA played no role in the lives of the children.
CW then met VB in 2006 and shortly afterwards he moved into CW’s home with her four children. CW and VB were married in 2007. In 2008 TB was born. CW alleges she was physically assaulted by VB after their marriage and that violence continued throughout their relationship.
VB is a national of Haiti. Shortly before he met CW he had travelled to Germany. There is little clarity about his life in Haiti. He had relationships from time to time with NC and LG which resulted in the births of PB and SB respectively.
VB maintains that Sy was born as a result of a ‘one night stand’ with a woman known only as ‘Annie’ who, it is said, died after the Haitian earthquake in 2010 or from AIDs.
The circumstances in which ZB, SB and PB came to live with VB and CW in Germany are far from clear. Suffice it to say, there came a time when those three children were living in the W/B household.
When living in Germany the family came to the attention of the German authorities and social services. They were concerned that the children had been trafficked from Haiti to Germany. CW and VB did not co-operate with the German Social Services.
In late 2010 and in anticipation of further action being taken by German social services, the family left Germany and travelled in two cars to the UK. They settled in Telford. Prior to that time SB and PB were made the subject of Guardianship Orders in the German courts.
In 2011 the West Mercia police investigated VB for an alleged false passport application. They had concerns about child trafficking as had their German counterparts. The police contacted the local social services department to notify it of their concerns about this family.
In 2012 VB was arrested by the police in Scotland for alleged possession of crack cocaine.
In July 2012 a joint investigation was undertaken by the West Mercia Police and the local authority. All of the children were interviewed except for Sy who it was said by VB and CW was living with the family at this time. Conflicting accounts were given about the family’s life by VB, CW and the children.
During this enquiry VB told the police and CW notified the local authority that the family was to move to live in London. The local authority made a referral to the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s social services department.
In late September 2012 CW reported to the Metropolitan Police that she had been assaulted by VB. The following day she withdrew the complaint asserting that when VB bit her he had done so in self defence. A referral was made to Greenwich who undertook a core assessment. The home was found to be clean and tidy but there was concern about domestic violence. The assessment included making enquiries of German social services based in Cologne. At the conclusion of the core assessment a decision was made to make all of the children the subject of a child protection plan under the category of neglect.
At some point in 2012 or early 2013 it was asserted that Sy was returned to live in Haiti with LG. On 22 March 2013 Sy was visited by a social worker from Children and Families Abroad. There were no concerns about her welfare.
On 26 February 2013 CW called the police to the family home alleging she had been assaulted by VB in the course of an argument. He left the house and said he would report CW to social services for hitting the children.
As a result of his report to social services SB and PB were ABE interviewed by the police later that same day. Both made allegations that CW has assaulted them and some of the other children.
ZB was spoken to by a police officer but was not formally interviewed. She alleged that she, BW and PB had been assaulted by CW. She was formally interviewed on 12 March 2013 and repeated her earlier allegations.
On 27 February VB was arrested for his alleged assault of CW. He was interviewed under caution, denied the allegations and alleged CW had assaulted ZB, BW and PB.
VB was released from custody and returned to the family home where he lived with the B children including TB.
On the same day CW was arrested in relation to VB’s and the three children’s allegation that she had assaulted them and BW. She was interviewed by the police.
Later that day she was granted bail with a condition that she reside away from the family home.
SA and JA moved to live with their mother CW in June 2013.
On 26 March VB gave a statement to the police in which he repeated the allegations he had made in his police interview.
On 5 April 2013 SA and JA were interviewed by the police in relation to these alleged offences. They did not make allegations against their mother, save JA did say that his mother slapped and beat him. Both alleged that VB had assaulted their mother.
On 13 May 2013 CW applied for and was granted a non molestation injunction and a prohibited steps order against VB. In her statement filed in support of the application, CW made numerous allegations of domestic violence against VB.
Further she sought a residence order in respect of TB. TB, however, remained in the care of VB and CW did not pursue her application for a residence order.
On 5 December 2013 SB made an allegation at school that she had been physically assaulted by her father. The police conducted an ABE interview with SB on 8 December. It was agreed she would stay with a family friend Ms N. The father was arrested and interviewed on 6 December and bailed.
SB is alleged to have told Ms N on the evening of 10 December that she had been raped by her father since she was 14 years old. Ms N reported the matter to the police.
The police commenced an investigation and on 11 December SB and SA underwent ABE interviews and repeated the rape allegations. SB, PB and TB were made the subject of police protection orders and were placed with foster carers. On the same day SA was removed from her mother’s care and placed with foster carers; she returned to her care on 17 February 2014. VB was arrested and interviewed on the 12 December.
ZB was spoken to by the police and was later formally interviewed on 13 February 2014. She claimed she had had sexual intercourse with VB on one occasion only. She explained that CW had encouraged her to become pregnant to improve her prospects of being granted leave to remain in the UK. Accordingly she said she had ‘forced’ VB to have sexual intercourse with her by striking him on the head which caused him to be dazed and, in terms, unaware of what was happening. ZB said that VB was her biological father. She later retracted both assertions.
ZB made a statement to the police on 3 April in which she knew VB was not her biological father but that she had always called him Dad. Further she said her mother had recently told her, her date of birth was 4 April 1993 and not 1996.
On 4 April VB was additionally charged with 5 offences of cruelty and 1 offence of sexual activity with a child family member (ie ZB).
He was interviewed under caution and charged with eight counts of rape. He was remanded in custody to await the conclusion of his criminal trial. The police further interviewed him under caution on 25 March 2014.Procedure
The case management of this matter has been bedevilled by the serial failure of one or more parties not to comply timeously, or at all, with court directions. I refer to the judgment I gave on 16 June 2014: London Borough of Bexley and Another v V and others
 EWHC 2187.Findings of Fact Sought
The Findings of Fact sought by the local authorities are set out in a schedule dated 1 July 2014. They are as follows:
Findings sought against VB
i)VB has raped ZB, over a period of years, from the age of 12 until he knew that she had become pregnant in or about late 2011, causing her emotional and sexual harm;
ii)BW is the product of the inappropriate sexual relationship between VB and ZB;
iii)ZB, though not VB’s biological daughter, has been raised as a child of the family since moving to live with VB and CW in Germany. She was, at all material times, presented to the outside world and the other children of the family as VB’s biological daughter;
iv)Finding not pursued;
v)Finding not pursued;
vi)VB caused or allowed the children in his family, including SB, SA and PB, to believe that he was routinely involved in an incestuous relationship with their sister/step-sister, ZB;
vii)VB has had an incestuous relationship with his daughter, SB, by raping her on 2 December 2013 Jury’s verdict;
viii)Finding not pursued;
ix)VB raped SB, in the presence of BW, on 2 December 2013 Jury’s verdict;
x)Finding not pursued;
xi)VB has raped SA on at least one occasion Jury’s verdict;
xii)Finding not pursued;
xiii)Finding not pursued;
xiv)Finding not pursued;
xv)Finding not pursued;
xvi)VB routinely assaulted PB by placing his hands around her neck and choking her Jury’s verdict;
xvii)VB routinely assaulted SB, PB and TB by beating them with the flex of a hairdryer Jury’s verdict;
xviii)Finding not pursued;
xix)Finding not pursued;
xx)Finding not pursued;
xxi)Finding not pursued;
xxii)Finding not pursued;
xxiii)Finding not pursued;
xxiv)Finding not pursued;
xxv)VB assaulted CW in the presence of the children in the family on a regular basis;
xxvi)VB routinely assaulted SB with his belt;
xxvii)Finding not pursued;
xxviii)VB conspired with CW to remove PB and SB from the jurisdiction of the German Court notwithstanding the suspension of parental rights by virtue of the Guardianship Order which remained in place at the time of the said children’s removal, in order to avoid further enquiry in to the welfare of all of the children in their care;
xxix)Finding not pursued;
Findings sought against CW
xxx)Finding not pursued;
xxxi)Finding not pursued;
xxxii)In light of the close proximity in which the family were living; that SA and SB suspected that each of the other was being sexually absued by VB and they and PB knew about, what they believed to be, the incestuous relationship between VB and ZB, CW knew or ought to have known about the abuse that was being perpetrated by VB in respect of ZB, SA and SB;
xxxiii)CW failed to protect SA from the sexual assaults and rape committed against her by VB;
xxxiv)CW failed to protect SB from an incestuous relationship with VB, including the sexual assaults and rape committed against her by VB;
xxxv)CW failed to protect ZB from the inappropriate and harmful sexual relationship with VB and/or the other children in the family from the knowledge of that inappropriate and harmful sexual relationship and/or a relationship which the other children believed to constitute routine incest between VB and ZB;
xxxvi)CW described ZB as her biological daughter when they lived together in Germany causing ZB confusion and/or significant emotional harm by being caught up in deceit practised upon the German authorities, including the German Court;
xxxvii)All the B children display sexualised behaviour in their placement. It is likely that the same behaviour was displayed at home and CW knew or should have known of the abuse and failed to take actions to protect the children;
xxxviii)CW routinely assaulted ZB; PB and SB by beating each of them, including beating each of them to their head, as a form of discipline;
xxxix)CW routinely beat BW and, on one occasion, she struck him against the wall causing him to sustain scratches to his face;
xl)Finding not pursued;
xli)CW’s said assaults exposed the siblings and step-siblings of each assaulted child to domestic violence;
xlii)CW routinely applied, inserted or caused to be inserted in to PB’s anus chilli peppers in order to cause her significant pain and discomfort, for periods of up to 2-3 hours at a time, as a form of discipline;
xliii)Finding not pursued;
xliv)CW gave the girls referred to above money in order to persuade each of them not to disclose her assaults on each of them
xlv)On or about 26th February 2013, CW assaulted ZB by (a) slapping her and (b) pulling her hair, despite the attempted intervention of PB and, subsequently (c) pushing ZB against the wall;
xlvi)On the same date, CW assaulted PB by striking her to her head with her knuckles and then seizing her aggressively;
xlvii)On the same date, CW assaulted BW, causing him to be struck to his face, by tipping him out of his car seat directly on to the floor;
xlviii)On the same date, CW exposed PB and BW to acts of domestic violence against their siblings;
xlix)CW failed to protect the children in her care from the assaults of VB;
l)CW failed to protect her daughter C and JA, SA, ZB and TB from the domestic violence of VB in 2010;
li)CW has, since 2008, failed to protect the children in her care from exposure to domestic violence whether as between her and the children or between her and VB;
lii)Finding not pursued;
liii)CW routinely treated SB, PB, ZB and BW less deferentially to SA, JA and TB. Such treatment included the way in which the children were clothed, fed, disciplined and charged to undertake household chores;
liv)CW has left children in her care, from time to time, alone without adult supervision for significant periods of time, thereby exposing the children to the risk of significant harm, including: a.SA and JA in January 2002; b.ZB was left in charge of 4 children in May and July 2008; c.ZB was left in charge of SA, TB, PB and SB in July 2010;
lv)CW has routinely failed to ensure that the children in her care were educated consistently and/or, by reason of the summary moves of the family has regularly disrupted their education;
lvi)CW has, with VB, caused SB, PB and ZB to be removed summarily from their respective homes in Haiti and TB from Germany in an unplanned way and has been complicit in utilising false travel and other documentation in moving the children to Germany and to the United Kingdom;
lvii)CW failed to co-operate adequately or at all with the enquiry by the German Youth Welfare Office and/or the German Court in to the welfare of the children in her care and/or routinely obstructed their investigations;
lviii)CW conspired with VB to remove PB and SB from the jurisdiction of the German Court notwithstanding the suspension of parental rights by virtue of the Guardianship Order which remained in place at the time of the said children’s removal, in order to avoid further enquiry in to the welfare of all of the children in their care;
lviiiA) Insofar as ZB was not to be treated as a child of their family and/or was required to live in their family in order to provide domestic service and/or provide VB with sexual gratification, CW assisted in ZB’s removal from Haiti and/or her continuing to live outside Haiti, knowing or believing that she would be treated in this way. Accordingly, CW was knowingly involved in trafficking ZB to Germany and the UK when ZB was, at all times, a child; Findings sought against ZB
lix)In light of the close proximity in which the family were living; her own knowledge of VB’s sexual relationship with her and that SA and SB suspected that each of the other was being sexually abused by VB and they and PB knew about, what they believed to be, the incestuous relationship between VB and ZB, ZB knew or ought to have known about the abuse that was being perpetrated by VB in respect of SA and SB;
lx)ZB failed to protect protect the younger children in her family from VB whether by failing to recognise the possibility that he might have engaged in similar behaviour with them or, having recognised this possibility, failed to act to stop it from happening;
lxi)ZB failed to protect BW from VB whether by failing to recognise the possibility that he might have engaged in similar behaviour with them or, having recognised this possibility, failed to act to stop it from happening;
lxii)ZB supplied Class A drugs on behalf of VB over a period of months as a result of which: a)she was unable to prioritise the welfare of BW; b)she permitted BW to suffer or risk suffering significant sexual harm as a result of being directly exposed to VB raping SB in the same room; c)her association with drug users and dealers thereby placed herself and her son at significant risk of physical harm.
lxiii)ZB has provided multiple accounts of the circumstances for BW’s conception thereby hindering timely and/or effective care planning for him;
lxiv)ZB was likely to have failed to protect BW from her inappropriate sexual relationship with VB and/or knowledge of the routine incest between them;
lxv)ZB failed to protect BW from exposure to the inappropriate sexual relationship between VB and the other children in the family and/or was likely to have failed to protect him from the knowledge of the abuse that was being perpetrated by VB in respect of SA and SB;
lxvi) Finding not pursued;
lxvii)ZB colluded with VB in his aggression towards her siblings including one occasion when she repeated VB’s intimidation of SB during a car journey in order to drop the abuse charges she (SB) had levelled against VB.
At the conclusion of the evidence but before closing submissions Ms Fottrell, counsel for Katherine Gledhill, one of the Children’s Guardians, sought additional Findings of Fact against ZB and CW. They are set out in her submissions dated 10 July 2014 and are as follows:
i)No finding sought;
ii)ZB was groomed and trained by VB as a drug dealer starting in or around November 2012 when she travelled to Germany with him;
iii)That from April 2013 until at least 11th December 2013 when VB was arrested she was dealing drugs in Aberdeen;
iv)That she was present when VB brought drugs into the home in which the children were living and she was present when he cut them and prepared them for sale. The children were asleep in the home when this was being done. It happened on at least two occasions;
v)That the drugs were kept by VB in the home and remained in the home in his bedroom and could potentially have been found and accessed by BW or any of the other children including PB and TB. TB was sleeping in VB’s bedroom and it is ZB’s evidence that the drugs were cut and kept in his bedroom;
vi)That the remaining drugs which were not given to her to sell, may have been sold by VB from the home or from his car in London thereby putting the children at risk of harm from dealers or users who may have come to the home or who VB may have travelled to meet;
vii)ZB was coerced by VB into dealing drugs and she put herself at risk of harm by carrying and selling drugs on the streets in Aberdeen and the cash which that generated. She sold drugs at night to random people who were put in touch with her by VB;
viii)That she put BW at continuing risk of harm when he travelled to Aberdeen and stayed in a flat where drugs were present, large sums of cash were present and she/or VB may have been dealing from the location
ix)That she put BW at risk by leaving him in the care of VB knowing the nature and extent of his criminal dealings while she was in Aberdeen;
x)That she stayed in Aberdeen dealing drugs for up to a month at a time;
xi)That she stayed with a friend of VB. She misled the Court deliberately in oral evidence by claiming that H found her a place to stay when she met him at Church;
xii)That she has given an evasive and deliberately unclear account of how and when she met H. She claimed H did not know what she was doing in Aberdeen but she then brought him to a Court hearing on 3rd January 2014;
xiii)That she misled the social worker and the Court by claiming H was a pastor when she wanted to travel to Aberdeen in December 2013 but denied having done so in oral evidence. H stopped taking calls from social care and was evasive about where he lived;
xiv)That H and/or G were criminal associates of VB and were involved in the dealing of drugs and/or supervised or protected her while she was dealing drugs;
xv)That she has misled the court and professionals about H and concealed his involvement in VB’s business;
xvi)That D/O was involved in the dealing of drugs with VB and that he came frequently to the home in Telford;
xvii)VB paid him by giving him a car possibly for drugs or possibly so that he would agree to put his name on the [BW’s] birth certificate;
xviii)That O, a known drug dealer, was a frequent visitor to the home in Telford when the children were present. That he visited before VB was arrested in Scotland in June 2012 and after VB was arrested in Scotland;
xix)Finding not pursued;
xx)VB forced SB to carry a package (which is now known to have contained illegal drugs) from London to Aberdeen by coach on her own on two separate occasions when she was 14 or 15 years old, thereby exposing SB to risks of significant danger and harm. ZB received the drugs from SB in Aberdeen on the instruction of VB;
xxi)That ZB has continued to maintain links with H and that he has provided her with money over the past 6 months. She told Anya Gatehouse that he would give her £1000 if she asked him, that he gave her money and bought her diamonds. She denied telling Anya Gatehouse this in oral evidence;
xxii)That ZB has maintained a link with O via Facebook and that she invited him to call her in April 2014 when he contacted her about VB being in prison;
xxiii)That in maintaining links to H and O, ZB has continued to put herself and her child at risk of harm from drug dealers and business associates of VB;
xxiv)The police evidence is that VB was a dealer in Heroin, crack cocaine and cocaine and that he bought and sold significant amounts as evidenced by his phone messages between September 2013 and 4th December 2013;
xxv)ZB has not been honest with the Court about the nature and extent of her involvement in VB’s drug dealing even in her most recent statement and/or her oral evidence and in particular has feigned ignorance about the drugs sold. A text message from her phone dated 22nd October 2013 was ‘interpreted’ by Ian Broughton [a Police Officer] as follows ‘…this is the reply. Sara is clarifying that the deal for ___ is a £150 deal. At £150 for 3.5 grams the commodity is likely to be cocaine or crack cocaine or heroin. 3.5 grams is not usually a user quantity. Users of cocaine buy single grams at most while users of crack and heroin purchase at the 0.1-.02 gram levels”;
xxvi)On 4th July 2014 in her statement she set out an account which was inaccurate and she withheld important information including the facts set out at paragraphs [ ] above. She has minimized the risk to her and her child from these criminal activities;
xxvii)At some point ZB became so enmeshed with VB that she considered herself to be in a relationship with him. SB has referred to her being his ‘wife’. CW in oral evidence referred to a point in time when for VB ‘everything was ZB’. In oral evidence on 9th July 2014 ZB referred to VB as her ‘ex’. She wanted to see him in prison as early as 18th December 2013 (N3). She defended that wish in her oral evidence because ‘it was almost Christmas …see my baby’s father and ask him what’s happening is it against the law?”;
xxviii)ZB gave historical accounts which were inaccurate as to the physical and sexual abuse of her and the physical abuse of the other children by VB because he told her directly to do so (before he was arrested) or he told her indirectly through Ms Ch;
xxix)That ZB began to contact Ms Ch from the end of January and she maintained contact with VB indirectly through Ms Ch and her mother NC and in doing so placed herself and her son BW at risk of continuing harm from him. She accepted that Ms Ch told her what VB wanted her to say about the conception and abuse of the other children and that as such she remained under his control;
xxx)She has been paid money by Ms Ch since January 2014 who was doing so on behalf of VB and as such ZB continues to be financially supported by him indirectly;
xxxi)That SB and PB told ZB about the physical abuse of them by CW but SB and SA were wary of discussing the sexual abuse of them with her because of her relationship with VB;
xxxii)That CW knew VB was sexually abusing ZB because of the intimate and inappropriate dynamic she observed between VB and ZB. She described ZB’s role as ‘not normal’ and being that of a wife which she can only have meant in a sexual way. She has described ZB as a rival to her. She stated in oral evidence that her role diminished as ‘everything was ZB’ with VB;
xxxiii)She kept track of the menstrual cycles of SB, SA and ZB and told VB about this. In oral evidence she admitted that she noticed ZB had stopped her periods and discussed it with VB;
xxxiv)She knew TB was sharing a bed with VB thereby placing her at risk of sexual abuse and/or exposure to his sexual activity and she took no steps to protect her despite her knowledge of the abuse of the other children. She lied to the London Borough of Bexley social worker in June 2014 as to whether she knew that TB was exhibiting sexualized behaviour in December 2013;
xxxv)She knew that BW was VB’s child which was why he was present at the birth of BW. She encouraged her children to lie about it eg JA telling social worker that BW was CW’s child. In March 2013 SB said the children knew that BW was ZB’s child;
xxxvi)Despite knowing about VB abusing ZB she did not act to protect her own daughter SA although she observed a change in her and saw she was ‘sad and withdrawn’. This change in SA was so marked it was noticed by PW when she saw SA after her move to the UK. It was also noticed and not acted upon by CW herself;
xxxvii)That CW and VB claimed child benefit for 8 children in their time in the UK;
xxxviii)That she had contact with Ms Ch about the allegations against VB including the day after VB was arrested on 12th December 2013;
xxxix)That she pressured all the children to lie to the social worker and other officials starting in March 2010 when the children were told to lie about VB’s assault on C, and continuing consistently through to 2013 when SA was found to be ‘distant and suspicious regarding engagement with the social worker’ once she returned to her mother’s care in June 2013.
I have read all of the statements, reports and documents the parties invited me to read.
I heard oral evidence from CW and ZB. In light of his convictions for rape and child cruelty VB did not wish to give evidence at this fact finding hearing and no other party sought for him to be called into the witness box to be cross examined. Ms Dixon counsel for VB, confirmed that he understood that, notwithstanding the fact that he chose not to give evidence, it was open to the court to make the findings sought by the local authorities against him on the totality of the evidence before the court.
On 26 February 2013 CW telephoned the police alleging VB had once again assaulted her. He left the family home with SB, PB and BW and took them to social services who made a referral to the police.
The police conducted an ABE interview with PB and then with SB. ZB was spoken to by the police but not formally interviewed. In the course of their interviews each of them made allegations that on frequent occasions CW was violent to each of them and to BW. ZB repeated her allegations when she was formally interviewed on 12 March. There was a material consistency between the allegations made by the three of them. I found each of them to give compelling and credible accounts.
On 27 February VB and CW were arrested and interviewed by the police. Both were granted bail.
On 5 December 2013 SB made an allegation when at school that VB had assaulted her. He was arrested and interviewed but denied the assault.
On 8 December SB underwent an ABE interview with the police in which she made numerous allegations of physical violence by VB against her. The following day SB told Ms N that VB has sexually abused her. Ms N informed the police.
On 10 December VB in the company of ZB, waited for SB outside the foster carers’ home. He drove her to school. During the course of the journey he told her to retract her allegations of physical abuse.
On the same day SB was again interviewed by the police when she told them that VB had frequently raped her from the age of 14. She said she knew something was going on with VB and ZB. SB told the police that she believed he was also raping SA; she had heard “bed noises” when she was upstairs alone with VB and afterwards SA was “unhappy and really quiet”.
As a result of what SB had told the police SA was interviewed later the same day. After initially denying the allegation she then similarly told the police that she had been repeatedly raped by VB from the age of 10. The rapes only stopped when she went to live with her mother in June 2013.
On 11 December VB was arrested on charges of rape and was interviewed. He denied all of the allegations.
PB and TB were interviewed by the police on 28 January 2014 in relation to the rape allegations. They told the police that VB had been violent to them and the other children on numerous occasions over the years both when living in Germany and when living in the UK.
On 9 March PB told her foster carer that she knew VB was BW’s father and that he had had sex with ZB, SB and SA. She told them SB and SA were angry about his sexual assaults but that ZB ‘liked it’.
I have read the ABE interviews of SB and SA, especially those in which they said they had been raped, with great care. Both interviews were characterised by long passages of free narrative setting out the sexual assaults and rapes in detail. I found the accounts given by both of these young people to be remarkably compelling and credible.
I read the ABE interviews given by PB, TB and JA. I viewed the DVD recording of the 2014 interviews of PB and TB. They gave their accounts in a natural manner. At no stage did I form the view that they had been coached to give their accounts nor that they were otherwise lying.Analysis
CW, during her evidence in chief and for the early part of her cross-examination by Mr Twomey, gave her evidence in English. At the close of the first day of CW’s evidence an application was made on her behalf that she give the balance of her evidence with the assistance of a German speaking interpreter. It was arranged overnight. Giving evidence in German did nothing to improve the quality or reliability of her evidence. I noted that towards the end of her cross examination when she was being asked by Mr Twomey about her knowledge of ZB, SB and SA being raped by VB she became very animated. She then, in a very agitated state, spontaneously answered the questions in English. It was only when she regained her composure that she reverted to using the German interpreter.
In my judgment the use of the German interpreter was a cynical ploy by CW to bolster her assertion that she had not understood the questions asked of her the previous day. She had understood the questions; she just could not or would not give honest answers to them. Further, I note, that when CW was interviewed by the social worker, Dr Stevens and Ms Gatehouse she spoke in English. It was asserted by CW for the first and only time in her oral evidence that she had not understood some of Dr Stevens’ questions. I unhesitatingly reject that assertion.
CW was a most unsatisfactory witness. She repeatedly changed her account of events and, as I find, she lied to the court with startling alacrity. On the basis of her oral testimony, I place no reliance on her evidence whatsoever.
I have reached those conclusions for the following 24 reasons:
i)contrary to her written evidence she admitted she had seen VB hit the children on more than one occasion;
ii)early in her evidence CW had said she was frightened of VB because of his violence to her. When asked why it was that she, on occasions, reported to the police his violence to her but made no mention of his violence to the children and never reported the same to the police, she replied it was because she was very scared and VB had threatened to kill her and the children if she did so. When asked why she had not earlier said she was frightened of VB because of his violence to her and to their children, she said that was because his violence to the children “had slipped her mind”. I find that response to be wholly disingenuous and false. Later in her evidence she had alleged that she had reported to the police VB’s violence to her but not to the children because her pastor had advised her that it would “cause trouble” if she did so. I reject that subsequent explanation as yet another lie.
iii)contrary to her oral evidence, CW told the police in February 2013 that VB had not been violent to the children. Further she made the same denial in her statement of May 2013 in support of an application for a non molestation injunction against VB;
iv)when the family lived in Germany, C made an allegation that VB had been violent to her. The German social services interviewed CW who denied C’s allegations were true. In cross examination she admitted she had lied to the authorities and that C’s allegation was true. She claimed she could not remember then telling the German authorities that she was not afraid of VB;
v)CW said in one of her statements that VB was not violent to any of her children. She told Dr Stevens that only her daughter, C, had ever witnessed violence between her and VB. When challenged about these assertions and answers she claimed she had not understood her statement or Dr Steven’s question. I find that to be a poor excuse and a lie;
vi)when asked why she had given the wrong date of birth for C in one of her early statements she said she had made a mistake because she had “too many children to remember”;
vii)on 15 July 2008 CW told the German authorities that TB was her 6th child; she was not, she was her 5th child. When asked why CW first said she had suffered a miscarriage. When pressed she then explained she had been counting ZB but then corrected herself by explaining she had not said ZB was her daughter and said she had explained ZB was her adopted daughter. There is no reference to an adopted daughter in the German notes of the meeting. These explanations were further falsehoods;
viii)she admitted she knew the date of birth given for Sy on a purported adoption certificate was false. She claimed VB had not told her the truth and said she did not really believe VB’s documents;
ix)in two of her statements CW claimed Sy had been present in the UK with the family between 2008-2010. That cannot be true because the family only came to live in the UK in late 2010. Furthermore ZB told me she had never seen Sy let alone lived with her. The best CW could do was to say she had made a mistake and Sy had lived with them in the UK in 2010. I then adjourned and CW had the benefit of a German interpreter the following morning. She repeated Sy had lived with them in the UK between 2008 and 2010. She confirmed Sy had not lived with them in Germany and that they had arrived in the UK in October 2010. She then said Sy had only lived with them for 4 to 6 months and that she returned to Haiti in 2010. I do not believe a word of this series of contradictory events. CW is lying. I do not know why.
x)CW said she adopted Sy in November 2009 when she and VB went to Haiti. She said she had adopted Sy because of the Haitian earthquake and in the next breath she said the adoption had nothing to do with the earthquake. At this point I adjourned briefly having warned CW of the importance of telling me the truth and inviting her to reflect on the same;
xi)CW said that she had met Sy's mother in Haiti. She told me she did not know her name, then said she had forgotten her name because she has a bad memory. She knew her mother was not LG. When asked why the latter’s name appeared as Sy’s mother on the purported adoption certificate she replied that VB had told her Ms G was Sy’s mother. There was no explanation given for the contradictory accounts. It was put to CW that she had told a social worker in July 2012 that she did not know who Sy was; she said she could not remember. She denied claiming child benefit. She agreed she had not had any contact with Sy since her alleged return to Haiti. CW denied she and/or VB had invented Sy. On the basis of this evidence I very strongly believe that Sy is not a child of VB;
xii)when reporting an alleged assault by VB to the police in September she told the police she had been in a relationship for 15 years and not from 2007 as she asserts in this case. When asked to explain the discrepancy CW said she had been in shock after VB’s assault and then said she had not understood the question asked by the police. She did not deny the account given by the police;
xiii)there was particular confusion in CW’s evidence about when ZB, SB and PB joined her and VB in Germany. Initially she said when she first met VB in Germany he was on vacation with ZB, SB and PB. Then she said that an ‘agent’ of VB brought first ZB to Germany in 2008 and then SB and PB in 2010. She then said that PB was a year or a year and a half old when she arrived in Germany which given PB was born in September 2005, would mean she had arrived in Germany sometime in late 2006 or early 2007. The first reference to SB or PB in the German police documents or social services records is July 2010. In March 2010 C told the German authorities that there were just 4 children in the household – ZB, SA, JA and TB. She made no reference to SB or PB. Furthermore, CW’s sister who also lived in Germany had no knowledge of PB prior to July 2010. CW’s explanation for this was convoluted and contradictory. I find she is lying and that SB and PB did not arrive in Germany until mid July 2010;
xiv)on a purported birth certificate produced for PB CW is named as her birth mother; that is plainly incorrect. She denied she was named as the mother in order to effect PB’s admission to Germany given CW’s status as an EU citizen. Her only explanation in response was that maybe somebody obtained that document in her name. I find she was lying. I find she obtained that birth certificate naming her as PB’s mother solely for the purpose of gaining PB’s entry into Germany.
xv)contrary to the assertion in her last statement CW denied she had been to Haiti in 2010. At first she said she had not told the truth in that statement. Then she said she had not lied but had not checked her dates properly before making her statement. When it was put to CW that she had lied to distance herself from being involved with the removal of SB and PB from Haiti to Germany she simply replied “it all got too much for me”. I find she did lie and that she was involved in their removal with VB. She purported to have adopted the girls in order to effect their entry into Germany;
xvi)when asked why ZB had spent a very long period of time in Germany when she did not attend school, CW replied she did not know how to register her. This was palpable nonsense because she had registered SA and JA at school. She was pressed and admitted that VB had not wanted ZB to be registered because he did not want her true status to be discovered;
xvii)in the context of being asked questions about why the family had suddenly moved from Germany to the UK she said “it was all very difficult with 9 children”. At the time there were only 6 B/A children and 2 W children. Her first answer was to deny she had said 9 children. The advocates and I were clear she had done so. Then she said she had counted a prior miscarriage. Then she said she had included herself and VB. That made no sense at all because she was talking about the fear of the children being removed from them and, in any event, the maths did not add up. Finally she said she had made a mistake. Once again CW was blatantly lying to the court;
xviii)SB and PB were interviewed by the police in the early/late evening of 26 February 2013. They each made allegations against CW of assaults against them and the other B children. CW claims those allegations are untrue and that VB forced the children to make those allegations. I reject that assertion. In the afternoon of 26 February CW and VB argued. She alleges he assaulted her and so she called the police just before 5pm. VB left the family home with SB and PB and took them to social services who referred the matter to the police. PB’s ABE interview began at 8:41pm and SB’s at 9:21pm. The girls’ accounts of CW’s assault are detailed and consistent. In my judgment there was insufficient time for VB to have coached the girls to make detailed and consistent but false allegations against CW. Her assertion of coaching is a lie and was made by CW in a weak attempt to explain the girls’ allegations. I am satisfied SB and PB told the truth to the police in their respective interviews;
xix)for the first time in her oral evidence CW claimed that around February 2013 she and VB had agreed to divorce. This claim is not set out in any of CW’s six statements, it does not appear in her statement in support of her application for a non molestation injunction in May 2013 and nor did she report the same to the police, to any social worker or the Dr Stevens;
xx)recordings of a court hearing in Germany demonstrate that CW claimed ZB was her biological child. CW denies saying the same. I am satisfied that the only likely explanation is that she is lying and she did claim ZB was her child to mislead the German court and the German authorities;
xxi)CW was asked why she had told Dr Stevens in respect of ZB and VB that “it is always her and not me”. At first she said that ZB had a very good relationship with VB. Later she said she was not jealous of VB’s attention to ZB nor did she consider her a rival. She continued “it was not normal that a daughter should do what a wife should do”. Then she said she was concerned about the ‘abnormal’ behaviour and relationship between ZB and VB. I am satisfied that last answer gives a clearer view of CW’s knowledge about the relationship between ZB and VB;
xxii)further CW told me that “I was not his woman; everything was ZB at that point”. She denied, however, knowing that VB was raping ZB or that she had persuaded ZB to become pregnant to improve her immigration status or that VB was BW’s father. I reject those denials. The younger children knew that VB was BW’s father and they knew of inappropriate sexual acts between ZB and VB. I cannot accept that when this large family were living in small and cramped conditions and in light of my findings thus far, that CW did not know that VB was raping ZB and was BW’s father. I am reinforced in that conclusion because I accept ZB’s evidence that, once it was realised she was pregnant, CW told the family doctor that ZB had been raped. Moreover CW knew and thought there was nothing inappropriate in VB being present at BW’s birth; ZB being a girl who had been treated as a child of the family;
xxiii)after SB and SA had been interviewed by the police and had made allegations against VB, CW telephoned him because she said she did not know what was going on. She denied she telephoned him to ‘tip him off’. Further she claimed she only knew about SA’s rape allegation against VB when her daughter gave evidence in court. I do not accept that is true. The younger children knew VB was sexually abusing SB and SA. For the reasons given in (xxii) above if they knew, I cannot accept CW did not know. I find CW telephoned VB to tip him off that SB and SA were being or had been interviewed by the police;
xxiv)Mr Twomey’s last question to CW was ‘the position for ZB has been awful’. CW replied ‘in what way?’. Given all that ZB has suffered in this family, I find that to be the most appalling answer. It demonstrated a totally callous and cruel character who had not the slightest empathy or sympathy for ZB.
On the totality of the evidence I find in broad terms that CW:
i)conspired with VB in the trafficking of children;
ii)failed to protect the children from VB’s violence to her and to them;
iii)was violent to the B children;
iv)knew of the rape and sexual relationship between ZB and VB;
v)knew BW was VB’s child; vi)failed to protect SB and SA from sexual abuse by VB; and
vii)knew of the repeated and regular rapes of SB and SA by VB.
If I am wrong in my findings at paragraph 70 (xxiii) and 71(vii) above, I am satisfied that she turned a blind eye or missed the blindingly obvious. It is just as serious as a finding that she knew.
In the premises I make all of the findings sought by the local authorities set out at paragraphs 50 (xxxii) – (xxxix), (xli) – (xlii), (xliv) – (li), (liii) – (lviiiA) above. Further I make the findings sought by one of the Children’s Guardian, Ms Gledhill, at paragraphs 51(xxxii) and 51 (xxxiv) - (xxxviii) above.
VB was convicted of:
i)raping SB on 2 December 2013;
ii)raping SA from the age of 10; and
iii)of five counts of child cruelty.
Prior to his conviction it had been submitted on his behalf that SB and SA should be called at this fact finding hearing to be cross examined. Subsequent to his conviction that application was not pursued. Thereafter, VB took no active part in the hearing and did not seek to challenge the findings sought against him. He did not wish to give evidence and no party sought to cross examine him.
On the totality of the written and oral evidence, I am satisfied so that I am sure that VB serially and frequently raped ZB, SB and SA.
I am completely satisfied that VB was regularly physically violent and emotionally and psychologically abusive towards CW and all of the children in the household. He was extremely controlling. He cast aside all social norms of family life.
Whilst I find he was, from time to time, abusive towards CW, I wish to make clear that that finding does not detract from my findings against her. She was able to and capable of conspiring and assisting him in the trafficking of the children and in much of his abuse of them. At the very least she should have but did not protect them.
I am of the clear view that he is a manipulative, cruel, and dangerous man. He has expressed no remorse or regret for any of his actions. ZB, for a considerable of part her life, believed he was her father. In any event she had been treated as a child of the family. It gives a real insight into VB’s functioning that he considers his ‘relationship’ with ZB, that is his repeated rape of ZB when under the age of 16 and his successful grooming of her to believe he was her ‘boyfriend’, was ‘appropriate’. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am satisfied that he conspired with CW to traffic children from Haiti. I am further satisfied that he caused ZB to become involved in drug dealing for him.
In the premises I make all of the findings sought against VB by the local authorities set out at paragraphs 50(i) – (iii), (vi) – (vii), (ix), (xi), (xvi) – xvii), (xxvi), (xxviii) above.
In my judgment ZB should principally be considered a victim of the gross sexual, physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of VB and the serious physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of CW. She was trafficked and used as a sex slave for and by VB. Very sadly this abuse has greatly affected her emotional and psychological well being.
The extent of that damage is well illustrated by two aspects of the evidence: i)when interviewed by the police on 13 February 2014 she gave an account to the police about her sexual ‘relationship’ with VB. It makes for very sad reading. ZB explained that VB was BW’s father as a result of she and he having had sexual intercourse on one occasion. Rather than describing herself as a young victim who was repeatedly raped by VB, she described how she forced him to have sex with her. ZB alleged that she struck VB twice on the head which dazed him and she then caused him to penetrate her; at one point she suggested VB was so dazed he did not know what was happening. In the course of her evidence she admitted this account was wholly untrue. She gave that account in an attempt to defend VB; and ii)after VB’s arrest in December 2013, ZB wanted to visit him in prison. When asked in evidence why she wanted to see VB she replied ‘I wanted to see my ex – the father of my baby’.
It is plain that over the years she suffered sexual abuse, VB groomed her to think of herself not as a victim but as a willing sexual partner who was in a relationship with him. She is enmeshed with him and was dominated by him. Although she gave some evidence against him she did so very reluctantly.
ZB said she had been told not to say anything against VB. When I asked by whom, she paused for a considerable period of time and said Ms Ch, VB’s sister who lives in the USA. ZB admitted that since VB’s arrest Ms Ch had, from time to time, sent her money. She denied the money was given to her to buy her silence. I regret I find that was precisely the purpose for which the money was paid to ZB.
Documents were produced some of which asserted that ZB was born on 4 April 1993 and others that her date of birth was 4 April 1996. At the outset of her evidence she told the court that she was born in 1996 and thus is 18 years of age. She said that VB had made the suggestion that she was born in 1993 and produced the documents to that effect in an attempt to avoid a charge that he had had sexual intercourse with her when she was under 16 years of age. On this point I accept ZB’s evidence especially in light of my findings against VB.
ZB reluctantly and eventually accepted that she knew that VB would – given his high sexual appetite and his prolonged sexual abuse of her – sexually abuse SB and SA. Her maintained denial of knowing that VB was sexually abusing SB and SA is, I find, simply not credible given the small and cramped living conditions and when it is plain that PB knew of the sexual activity of VB with ZB, SB and SA.
ZB began her evidence in a nervous but open fashion. As her evidence progressed she became increasingly truculent and reluctant to answer questions about VB’s violence, his abuse of the children and his drug dealing. I regret to find that in these aspects of her evidence she was not honest or frank with the court. She sought to protect VB or to minimise his actions.
Her denial of witnessing VB assaulting the other children is, in light of all of the evidence, simply incredible and I reject it.
She gave an account of meeting by chance a young man, H, in the middle of Central London. They became friends. He lives in Aberdeen the town where ZB knew she would be and was sent by VB to sell drugs for him. When in Aberdeen she met with H. Her account that this was a chance meeting and that H had no involvement in drug dealing with VB or her is beyond coincidence and belief. Cruel though I find VB to be, I do not accept that, for his own self interest, he would have allowed this young woman to deal drugs on the streets of Aberdeen, collecting hundreds if not thousands of pounds, without having some protection or oversight.
She accepted she had left BW in VB’s care when she knew or, at least, suspected he was sexually abusing SB and SA and she knew of his propensity to be violent to the children. Indeed SB gave an account of VB raping her downstairs when BW was present in the room. ZB’s damaging and enmeshed relationship with VB led her to fail to protect her son.
In the premises I make all of the findings of fact sought by the local authorities set out at paragraph 50 (lix) – (lxv) and (lxvii) above. Further I make the findings of fact sought by Katherine Gledhill one of the Children’s Guardian, at paragraph 51 (ii) – (v), (vii) – (ix), (xii) – (xiv), (xvi) – (xviii) and (xx) – (xxxi) above.