(Family Division, Cobb J, 20 December 2016)
Public Law Children – Human Rights Act 1998 – Failings in investigation of child sexual abuse – Application for declarations of breaches of European Convention rights of mother and children
Declarations were granted regarding breaches of the mother and children’s Arts 6 and 8 European Convention rights.
The mother and her two children, now aged 9 and 4, brought applications under the Human Rights Act 1998 for damages and declarations that as a result of the conduct of the local authority and the police force their Art 6 and Art 8 rights had been breached.
During a nationwide investigation into the downloading and distribution of child pornography, computers and other electronic devices were seised from the family home which contained 5,000 indecent images of children including a video of an adult female performing a sex act on a young female child. The police investigation concluded that the video was of the mother and the oldest child and in February 2015 officers exercised their powers of protection to remove the children from the home. The local authority initiated care proceedings and the children remained in foster care.
Expert facial mapping eliminated the mother as the woman in the video and subsequent police investigations concluded that the video had been recorded in the USA and, therefore, could not have involved this family. However, those discoveries were not communicated to the local authority or to the court for a number of months. Meanwhile the mother had separated from the father and he pleaded guilty to a number of charges of downloading indecent images of children. The children were only returned home in December 2015.
Significant concessions were made by the public authorities which established the grounds for the declarations and agreement was made to pay £10,000 to the mother and £5,000 to each child.