This is a County Court case (if there is such a thing any more, I have largely decided to ignore most of the Children and Families Act 2014 and just wait for the reboot restoring all the terminology to the way it was). So it isn’t precedent, and isn’t one of those case that you HAVE to read.
It is unusual though, and I am grateful to one of my readers (waves at Cara) for drawing it to my attention.
Re E (a child) 2014
This is a private law case, albeit one with a Social Services flavour. In effect, when mum and dad separated and got themselves embroiled in an argument about contact (see, I told you that I was just going to ignore the new terminology) dad started to become enamoured with the idea that if he could show the Court that mum was abusing the children, that would improve his own case.
In part, this involved him making a series of allegations to his GP, Dr C, and getting Dr C to take up the battle on his behalf and trying to get Dr C to make referrals to Social Services about how mum was abusing the children. That’s not nice, but it isn’t necessarily unlawful.
What IS unlawful, is that when the father produced documents to the Court provided by Dr C and signed by Dr C, they were partially faked.
There were a string of findings that the Judge was invited to make, but these are the pivotal ones for our discussion
The father has perverted the course of Justice:
a) The father has amended and/or created a false statement purporting to be from his GP, Dr C dated 4 October 2013, and forged his signature on the statement and then filed and served the statement with the court;
b) The father has amended and/or created a false second page to a letter originally written by Dr C dated 15 August 2013 and forged his signature upon the letter then filed and served the letter with the court in support of his application to call Dr C to give evidence. Both allegations are admitted by the father.
c) Altered the recording of E that he played to the police and to Dr C and presented it in edited form with the court to present a dishonest and/or misleading account of the original content. The father admits this allegation save that he does not accept producing a dishonest account.
For reasons that I cannot fathom at all, having produced this fake evidence from Dr C, the father was very keen indeed for Dr C to attend Court and give evidence. There’s a phrase ‘cognitive distortion’ which relates to when someone is so deep into their own lies that they start to believe them, and I can only think that this father for some reason thought that calling Dr C as a witness in the case was not (as you or I would think) a sure-fire way of exposing the documents as being fake, but in some way going to improve his case.
On 11 February 2013 [location redacted] Social services sent an email to Dr C informing him that Mr P had contacted them and had suggested that he, Dr C, had further concerns about E. They asked him to complete a referral form if that was the case. The doctor completed the referral form in which he stated:
“ The actions of the mum towards E are causing concern to E and the father R. Including withholding medicines, safety issues making her cross the road on her own, leaving her outside in the street, forcing cough syrup….” The father admits tippexing out the words which followed this entry before he filed the document with the court.
[Tippex is perhaps not the most sophisticated method of forging a document. It is rather beneath the level that one expects of a forger. Colin in The Great Escape, for example, would not have stooped to using tippex to create his German identity papers for those escaping POWs]
The father within the proceedings had also involved the media
During the course of these proceedings the father on two occasions threatened to tell his story to the press. On two occasions two judges, DDJ Murphy and HHJ Allweis warned him not to do so. However on [date in early 2014 redacted] 2014 an article appeared in the [name of newspaper given] in which the father’s account of his battle for residence and contact are repeated alongside a pixilated photograph of himself and E. Although the names were changed it was not too difficult for anyone in the relatively small local Jewish community to identify the parties. He gave the reporter details of her school so that the head teacher was interviewed. Her mother was also approached by the reporter.
In his statement the father acknowledged that what he did was wrong. The consequences for him have been stark as E has now refused to see him and the future of his contact is now uncertain.
The Judge gave judgment specifically on the consequences for father of having falsified documents lodged with the Court and relied upon
The father’s action in respect of the falsified documents
With regard to the falsifying of evidence. I find that the father falsified the letter from Dr C dated 15 August 2013 addressed to [location redacted] County Court at page C182 in the bundle by amending the second paragraph the paragraph at the bottom of page C182/3. He then forged the doctor’s signature. Thereafter he filed the document with the court as part of his evidence in the case. The letter which Dr C had signed is to be found at C 183(a).
I find that the father submitted a statement dated 4 October 2013 which he knew to be false in that it had not been approved or signed by Dr C purporting it to be a genuine document knowing that it would be used in litigation in the private family law proceedings being conducted in the County Court. This to be found at page C201.
The consequences of his actions are that there could have been a miscarriage of justice which could have affected the welfare of his daughter.
This is a serious and potentially criminal act. I have come to the conclusion that it warrants reporting the matter to the DPP for her to consider what if any action to take. A copy of my judgment and copies of the letters dated 15 August 2013 and the statements dated 4 October 2013 and 10 October 2013 shall be disclosed to the DPP or the police.
The Judge was also invited by those representing the mother to consider a referral to the General Medical Council in relation to Dr C, who had become embroiled in the litigation and had neglected his duties of fairness and safeguarding. Dr C had also learned that the father had submitted a fake document to Court but had left it up to father to own up rather than alerting the Court to this deception.
The role played by Dr C
The mother supports the guardian in submitting that the doctor should be referred to the GMC.
The doctor’s involvement has been summarised above in that he knew that the father was involved in a dispute about the welfare of a child which was proceeding before the courts yet he did not exercise caution before writing the letters and making the referrals to social services. He sought to question the child with her father present in order to obtain evidence of abuse.
I accept the submissions of the mother and the guardian. I make the following findings:
i) Dr C was naïve and was manipulated by the father. The evidence suggests that he was targeted by the father as a means of obtaining evidence to further his case. In so doing he allowed E to have unnecessary medical appointments;
ii) Dr C could and should have spoken to the mother. He did not know that the mother was a patient at the practice. A simple check before proceeding to refer to social services would have made him better informed in assessing the issues being raised by the father. He therefore failed to follow the safeguarding guidelines in that he did not provide support to the primary carer, the mother, before making the referral to outside agencies. Speaking to the mother would not have put the child at risk of harm.
iii) Dr C failed to keep an open mind as to the truth of the allegations. In doing so he failed to protect her from the father’s allegations and he allowed the father to be present when the allegations were being discussed. He accepted, and I find, that his letters were too subjective.
iv) Dr C admitted that he was not up to date with his safeguarding training;
v) Dr C’s clinical notes of appointments with E, where allegations of ill treatment were discussed, were not properly kept.
vi) He also admitted that he was not fully aware of the court procedures. This explains his willingness to issue the letters on Practice Headed notepaper. He did not consider what use the father could have made of these letters.
vii) Dr C failed to contact the Cafcass officer or the court to alert them to the fact that the father had admitted to fabricating his statement and had forged his signature and had submitted the statement to the court as evidence in support of his case.
viii) I accept the submission of the guardian that his actions albeit unwittingly, facilitated father’s emotional abuse of E.
I have carefully considered the submissions of the mother and the guardian. I agree that a copy of my judgment and a transcript of Dr C’s evidence should be sent to the GMC so that they can further investigate this matter and take appropriate steps if they consider that this is necessary.