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Louisa Gothard
Louisa Gothard
Senior Solicitor, Head of Family Law
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SEXUAL ABUSE/FACT-FINDING: Re A (Vulnerable Witness: Fact Finding) [2013] EWHC 2124 (Fam)
Date:25 JUL 2013
Law Reporter

(Family Division, Pauffley J, 15 July 2013)

In the context of contact proceedings between the father and his daughter, allegations of sexual abuse were made against the father by his vulnerable 17-year-old niece. Following the Supreme Court decision [2012] UKSC 60 a fact-finding hearing took place in order to determine the truth of the allegations and the 17-year old was called to give evidence via video-link with the assistance of an experienced intermediary.

There was no ABE interview or narrative statement and the evidence against the father was made up of claims the young woman made to professionals working with her including that the father had sex with her, videotaped her and that the abuse was as a form of punishment for her telling the father's wife when she was younger that the father was having an affair. She later retracted the allegations before reasserting them.

During the hearing the young woman gave evidence over 2 days to her considerable distress. The father was requested to leave the courtroom part way through in order for the task to be made easier for her. The father continued to refute the allegations.

The judge had no hesitation in deciding that the young woman's claims against the father were fundamentally true; that however he began his despicable behaviour he did indeed inflict the most serious kind of sexual, emotional and psychological abuse upon her over a period of about 10 years; and that, even now, he continued to exert some form of sinister controlling influence so that she could not freely speak about what had happened.