Judge orders 'scared' toddler to see mum accused of sexually abusing her

A family court judge ordered social services to arrange regular face-to-face visits between a "scared and tearful" toddler and a mum charged with sexually abusing her.

A judge sitting at Liverpool's family court made an order that required an unnamed local authority to arrange direct contact three times a week between the child, referred to as T, and her mum. However, the local authority sought permission to appeal the decision, with senior judges in the Court of Appeal calling the ruling "fundamentally flawed".

Child T, aged 3, was removed from her mum's care after she was charged with three child sexual offences. Court documents showed the 20-year-old mum denied the offences. The court heard the mum reported her former partner, Mr A, to the police on January 1 this year, alleging he had sexually abused child T around 20 months earlier.

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The court heard: "She supported her allegation by showing the police a sexually explicit photograph stored on her mobile phone; she handed her phone to the police for analysis. That analysis revealed the presence of a second, recently deleted, photograph, taken a matter of minutes before the photograph implicating Mr A, which allegedly also implicated the mother.

"Potentially incriminating text messages were also discovered. The mother and Mr A were both arrested and interviewed under caution. Initially the mother was remanded in custody, but from January 10 2024 was released on conditional bail; one of the conditions was, and is, a prohibition on contact with T save as ordered by the Family Court."

The mum and her ex-boyfriend were each charged with sexually assaulting a child, taking indecent photographs of a child and possessing indecent images. The mum denied the offences and is on bail awaiting trial, while her ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentence.

Following the mum's arrest, child T initially stayed with her maternal great nan before moving to her maternal great aunt, where she continues to live now. At a family court hearing on February 27 judge Thomas Greensmith set out a "road-map" regarding contact between the mum and her daughter.

Court documents seen by the ECHO said: "The court was concerned that T had not had contact with her mother for some considerable time and expressed a view that contact should be taking place on a professionally supervised basis around 3 times per week.

"The court directed the local authority to facilitate contact forthwith. The court was further concerned that the local authority had failed to share information about the child's wellbeing and progress with her mother." The court heard contact would start with video calls before progressing to direct contact.

However, a video call on March 6 was noted as "not successful" by the local authority. The court heard: "The notes of the contact refer to T as scared and tearful, she was resistant to seeing her mother, and asked repeatedly for the contact to end...on March 12, T is reported to have referred to her mother several times as 'naughty'. The mother's case is that the contacts were improving in quality, and that by March 19, T was in fact unhappy about the contact coming to an end."

The local authority invited the family court to approve an arrangement for continued video call contact once per week, while the mum aspired for direct contact twice a week. During a hearing on March 22. Judge Greensmith said the local authority had "taken the word of a very young child as to whether contact should take place or not".

The judge added: "There really needs to be direct contact, even if it's just for a few minutes. But of course very heavily supervised. Of course. Closely supervised, shall we say. So that's really where I'm going to leave it… it's going to be twice a week." Four days after the order was made, the local authority sought permission to appeal on an urgent basis.

The case went before the Court of Appeal on April 23. A written judgement published two weeks later said Judge Greensmith's judgement was "fundamentally flawed".

The judgement, written by Mr Justice Cobb, who sat on the panel with Lady Justice King and Lady Justice Davies, added: "The judge's direction that the local authority should facilitate interim direct contact between T and her mother at this stage was, in my judgement, wrong, and cannot stand."

The panel added: "It is striking that the judge proceeded to determine the issue of interim contact between T and her mother without any, or any meaningful consideration of T's current welfare." At the conclusion of the Court of Appeal hearing, Judge Greensmith's order was set aside and the case was remitted to a different judge.

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