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Poppi Worthington – the Judge publishes his decision about what happened to her


I think I’ve written nearly as many blog posts about Poppi Worthington’s case as I have about Re D, yesterday’s case.

The most recent Poppi Worthington piece is here


For those who don’t know, Poppi died in December 2012.  The Judge in care proceedings made findings about the causation of her injuries, and what also raised media attention was the Guardian’s list of lessons that ought to be learned or failings by professionals.  Those were all finally aired in the judgment above.  The Coroner  considered the case  in October 2014 and left the causes of the child’s death blank. The police decided not to charge anyone. Father as a result of some of the medical evidence obtained in the police investigation asked the family Court to reopen their findings and look at it again.  And all the way through this, the Press have been asking to be able to publish the judgments, and have had to wait until this.

I have to say that the November judgment contained a peculiar line, that the police took a forensic swab from father’s penis, which led to some obvious worries about what it might have been suspected had happened to poor Poppi, but I didn’t want to speculate about it given that the family were going through a re-run of the family Court fact finding hearing.

The father had obviously hoped and believed that the re-run of the finding of fact hearing would clear his name.

I’m afraid that for me, the detail of the case is too grim for me to want to rake over here. For those who want to read it, it is here.

F v Cumbria County Council and M (fact-finding no 2) 2016


The conclusion of the fact finding was this:-

  1. For the court to conduct a further hearing in a case of this kind is highly unusual. It does not do so simply because others hold different views to those of a witness whose evidence has been accepted. This further hearing took place because it was asserted that there was evidence capable of establishing an alternative plausible hypothesis for the bleeding, namely that it may have come from congested blood vessels that had been affected by a viral infection. But even before the hearing began, that assertion had vanished like frost in May.
  2. In conclusion, stepping back and reviewing the evidence as a whole, I arrive at the same view as I expressed at paragraph 142 of the previous judgment: Shorn to its essentials, the situation is one in which a healthy child with no medical condition or illness was put to bed by her mother one evening and brought downstairs eight hours later by her father in a lifeless state and with troubling injuries, most obviously significant bleeding from the anus. Careful assessment of the meticulous pathological and paediatric evidence has clearly established that the injuries were the result of trauma from outside the body.
  3. My finding at paragraph 152 was that the father perpetrated a penetrative anal assault on Poppi, either using his penis or some other unidentified object. That remains my conclusion. Some witnesses at this hearing have expressed the view that penetration with a penis would have been expected to cause more obvious injuries. That may be so, but the evidence does not exclude any one of a number of distressing possibilities. As I said before, it is not possible to reconstruct the exact sequence of events that led to Poppi’s collapse without a truthful account from the father.


Reporting restrictions still apply on naming Poppi’s siblings. The Press access to this particular hearing was unprecedented, giving them access to documents and reports and even allowing for daily reporting and tweeting about the ongoing case provided it was done after the end of the Court day. The Judge thanked the Press for their responsible behaviour.


  1. The ability of the media to report a hearing of this kind on a day-to-day basis is unusual and the arrangements here are probably unprecedented. At the outset, ground rules were discussed and established, as follows:

    1. The reporting restriction order made on 11 July 2014 and varied on 14 January 2015 remains in effect. Copies have been provided.

    2. The hearing is taking place in private. Accredited media representatives may attend and are asked to sign in on a daily basis.

    3. Any media representative who attends will be provided with the full 2014 judgment, the medical reports, the minutes of the experts’ meetings, the schedules of agreement and disagreement and the summary of medical evidence. These documents are for information, to assist with understanding the course of the hearing, and they are not for publication. They can be removed from court but they are to be kept safe and are not to be copied or given to others.

    4. The media may report daily on the proceedings on these conditions:

    (1) Such reporting is subject to any further directions given by the court concerning what can and cannot be published if an issue arises during the course of the hearing.

    (2) Reporting (whether by live reporting, Twitter or otherwise) may not take place until after the court proceedings have concluded on any given day, so that the court has had an opportunity to consider whether any additional directions are required.

    (3) Until the publication of the final judgment, nothing is to be reported that might directly or indirectly indicate the findings that the court made in March 2014.

    5. The final judgment, when available, will be published. At that point the full 2014 judgment will also be published.

    6. Any queries about the ground rules should be addressed to court staff who will consult with the parties and with the court as necessary.

  2. A copy of these rules was placed in the civil jury box where, as it happens, the media sat during the hearing. On the first two days, eight media representatives attended, with the number reducing on subsequent days. On a few occasions, issues about what could or could not be published were raised by a party or a journalist, and these were easily resolved. The opening of the hearing was extensively reported, with less coverage thereafter.
  3. I repeat what I said at the outset of the hearing:“I would like to emphasise that the unusual package of arrangements for this hearing arises from the application of existing law to the exceptionally unusual circumstances of this case. These arrangements do not establish new law or practice in the Family Court and they are not intended to set a precedent for other family cases.”
  4. I nonetheless record that the conduct of the journalists in court was entirely professional and their presence did not adversely affect the hearing; on the contrary, their attendance may be said to have reflected the seriousness of the occasion. The media’s ability to observe the court going about its work in this particular case, and to report and comment on the outcome and the process, has in my view been a valid exercise.


Where does that leave things (assuming there’s no appeal)?  Well, almost all of the national press are reporting that the Judge found that Poppi died having been molested in a vile way, and that the person who molested her was her father.

The police have made a decision not to prosecute  (that could potentially be reviewed by the CPS  – though given the press reporting, there might be issues of fair trial now, and of course there are the flaws identified in the last judgment about the process. ).

This particular father, because the child’s full and real  name is in the public domain and the Press took such an interest in the case, is probably now known to everyone in his local community and all of them will have a view about the case, yet he has not been convicted in a criminal court or even charged.  His name is actually within the judgment and naming him is not prohibited.

It is hard, of course, to have any sympathy for someone found to have done what this father was found to have done. It is a very tough test of transparency though – it does feel right that the Press were able to dig into this case and report it accurately and properly, but we do end up with a father who the police did not think it was right to charge being named and shamed in the Press as having done something that every person reading it would think was truly monstrous.


The Reporting Restriction Order is plain, and will apply to this blog and commentators. Don’t put anything in your comments that would breach it.




About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

37 responses

  1. Pingback: Poppi Worthington – the Judge publishes his decision about what happened to her | Sheva's Cross of Change Blog

  2. ashamedtobebritish

    Apart from feeling sick … why was the ‘other males’ DNA (not the father’s) not followed up? How could that possibly have happened?

  3. Pingback: Poppi Worthington - the Judge publishes his dec...

  4. I listened to the Today Programme interview about this case which made a point I was wondering about, a retired judge pointed out how respected this judge is etc. & that he had knowledge of the media case made to identify the father. Without either wanting to criticise the decision or condone, I would have liked to have that information in whatever way it could be made available, because otherwise we are labelling someone who is identifiable as having committed a serious offence without being charged. Simon Hughes has asked the police to review their decision, but there is no new evidence, and since the CPS would (presumably) need more evidence to prosecute that seems unlikely. I am fine with balance of probabilities to protect children, because there are other children in this family, and I am fine with info being shared should someone apply for a particular job etc. It doesn’t seem at all fair for everyone to know this man is being viewed as having committed this offence being in the public domain and I would be interested to hear what the press argument was.

    • Dear Helen

      I have found the judgment where the Judge decided that Poppi’s name and the father’s name should not be part of a Reporting Restriction Order. It seems that largely it is in order that a proper Inquest could take place (you will recall that the original Coroner complained that the RRO meant that an inquest’s hands were tied)

      One might consider that the father’s position was rather better when there was a finding against him in family proceedings that nobody knew the detail of and what was in the public domain is that the police had decided not to charge him. It was his application for a re-hearing and losing the re-hearing that has plunged all of the detail into the public domain. (That doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree that he should have been named, but the litigation has certainly made things much much worse for him)

  5. Paul Summerfield

    I was taught and had it drummed and drummed into my head at school during the 1960s that the British Justice System was the fairest and best system in the world, if this was a true statement then at that time, I would like to know at what point in time from then till now, did it start to decline and the reason why?

    This case is a complete and utter farce from beginning to the very end.

    This father whether he committed the act or not should never of been named because from what I understand there is no evidence to support the claims made against him.

    No authority should be able to make public serious claims about anybody without the evidence to support it, yet in this day and age they are being allowed by the court!

    • Paul, absolutely not the case that there’s no evidence to support the claims. You need to read the judgment carefully. He had two hearings, lost both times. The medical evidence was very strong. I wouldn’t have named him, personally, but he had a fair trial and the second time round had a QC to represent him and to get a second chance to test the medical evidence.

      • The evidence was destroyed?
        If he lost both times, why no criminal charges?
        I’ll ask again, who did the DNA ‘Belonging to a male who is not the father’ belong to? Why has that not been looked into rather than just briefly mentioned as if it doesn’t matter?

      • Why no criminal charges is pretty straightforward – the police didn’t consider that they had the evidence for a criminal prosecution. And that’s compounded then by what would be fatal weaknesses in a criminal prosecution to have not forensically secured all of the evidence.

        The DNA issue, I simply don’t know. We only have the documents that are in the public domain. The lawyers involved in the case, and the Judge, and the expert witnesses who were cross-examined had all of it. Unusually in this case, the Judge let the press have access to all of the reports and documents. It is inconcievable that if this DNA issue had significance that would have exonerated the father that it would not have been used in the fact finding case. [I agree that it would have been better if this had been explained more fully in the judgment]

      • ashamedtobebritish

        From where I’m sitting it’s vital, poppi had another males DNA upon her, that’s huge

      • The other male DNA was on a nappy found in the dustbin, not on Poppy. Paragraph 65.

      • ashamedtobebritish

        Aha I misread, that makes a difference, although it still concerns me somewhat … Gut feeling maybe that it’s holding some sort of clue.
        We’re never going to know but my opinion is that he got away with murder.

      • Paul Summerfield

        True, I have not read any of the court findings.

        I will do.

        But it seems to me that what you have here is the Hampstead Satanic Case here in reverse for some reason.

        What I mean by this is:

        Instead of the defence releasing evidence to the public during a court case against the local vicar, the school, the father etc during court proceedings, in this case the court itself has done the same thing to a father releasing information about this father without having evidence to support the claims made against the father, which is the reason why criminal proceedings in an open court cannot be made against him.

      • Yes, that’s a good way of looking at it (although unlike the Hampstead case here a thorough judicial scrutiny reached the conclusion that the abuse had occurred). I would not have published the child’s name or the father’s name, myself, because the consequences to father over and above losing his children – naming him as someone who killed a baby and did so in a very dramatic and dreadful way, are consequences that I think should only come about after a criminal trial. It does show that there is difficulty between the interaction between a family Court fact finding, an inquest and a police investigation / criminal prosecution. I think that transparency is a good thing generally, but in individual cases it can turn out to be unfair. I think publishing this man’s name and newspapers printing his photograph is unfair, even though I would accept the family Court findings against him as being correct.

    • Lets not forget, No evidence of a bloody childs nappy found at scene of crime, unless you believe the police investigating a scene of crime, missed it, well I for one DO NOT

      • ashamedtobebritish

        There wouldn’t be … He himself says he removed the nappy before she started to bleed

      • And then the nappy was disposed of. I’m not suggesting any bad faith here on the part of the aunt or that she was doing anything wrong, but the police clearly should not have let the nappy be disposed of in this way. The police should have preserved all of the evidence.

        38. After her arrival, the aunt removed the used nappy from the floor. She placed it in a bag and put it into a bin outside, telling one of the officers that she was doing so. She describes the contents as containing shades of dark brown very runny stool, like diarrhoea. She says that “there was a lot of it, too much to fasten the nappy tightly, or it would have seeped from the sides … it was bad”.

        One of the nappies was later recovered, which is where the point about the other male DNA comes from

        61. In August 2013, Mr Michael Scarborough of LGC Forensics was instructed by the police to carry out forensic tests. He reported on 21 August that tests showed P’s DNA was present on the shaft of the father’s penis, but there was no DNA from P on either the glans (the tip) or the coronal sulcus (where the tip and shaft join). Nor was there any blood or faecal matter on the penile swabs, as would be expected if there been insertion of the penis into the anus, though this would not be inevitable.

        62. Mr Scarborough advises that there is no test that could attribute the DNA found on the father’s penis to a particular bodily fluid. It is possible that the presence of DNA on the shaft of the penis is the result of secondary transfer, with the DNA finding its way onto the father’s hands during attempts to resuscitate P and then being transferred to his penis during urination. DNA could have been removed from the tip of the penis by wiping or washing it, something the father says he did not do on the day in question.

        63. Tests for semen on swabs taken from P’s mouth proved negative. The sheet taken from P’s cot proved negative for blood and for semen.

        64. In November 2013, Mr Scarborough reported the results of tests for semen on swabs taken from P’s anal rim and rectum. They were negative. Mr Scarborough advises that if the father’s vasectomy was effective it would be more difficult to test for semen and you would not expect to find sperm cells. Any material deposited in the anus could have been washed away by blood or defecation.

        65. In February 2014, Mr Scarborough reported the results of tests carried out on one of the nappies retrieved from the bin outside the property [SS/8]. No blood was found in the nappy, which contained significant amounts of DNA from P and a male other than the father, but no evidence of the father’s DNA.

        The only other adult male in the household that night was the grandfather, whose DNA was presumably tested and who on my reading did not have any care of Poppi during that night and it would be wrong to suggest that he is in any way implicated. The most likely explanation (and I’d agree that the Judge ought to spell it out) is that one of the officers involved in collecting that evidence from the bin and bagging it had contaminated it, or that given that the nappy was collected from a bin – hardly the most sterile source, that there was contamination at that point.

      • Presumably we now have to wait for the police review for the SCR? Though not sure how the police can review the same evidence and come to a different conclusion. Should they do so, having named the father and pronounced him responsible, it would be a stretch to think a fair trial could be achieved?

        I am in favour of transparency and the conflict between areas of law (coroner/family/criminal) is interesting in terms of achieving that, but whilst I can live with the naming of the child (just and not well – mainly because siblings will be able to Google) I think it is totally unfair to have named the father for all the reasons you state, primarily this being prejudicial in so many ways.

      • Yes, I think that if this case is showing up a gap about inquests and fact-finding hearings that can’t be managed with existing law, then we need some sort of fix that would allow anonymisation of an inquest in a rare case where it is needed to safeguard the rights of siblings or other family members.

        I can’t imagine that any of the reviews and bleating by bandwagon-jumping MPs are going to result in a criminal conviction here – like you, I think that it would be impossible to have a fair trial when it has been front page news not just that this man is suspected of doing something but that a Judge has decided that he did it.

      • ashamedtobebritish

        That’s why judges shouldn’t be in a position to make findings against people, that’s for a criminal court, in this case he was innocent in the eyes of the law, the family judge should accept that rather than completely dismiss his colleague’s decision and decide otherwise.

        The system stinks completely, if P Worthington had been afforded the no punishment without crime rules, then there may have been a different outcome.
        Social workers also do this, resulting in families being subjected to contact centres when they’ve done nothing wrong, but they prefer to use the fact that anyone can make an allegation resulting in arrest for the victim and use it against them.

      • We’d have to fundamentally disagree there. I don’t think that five children should live in the same house as someone who caused a baby to die in this way, just because the police bungled the investigation. Whilst I completely accept that there are different standards of proof, and some people find that troubling, I would not want this man to be around children. I don’t think he should be at risk of being assaulted in the street, but I’m glad that he’s not going to be near children any longer. All of the evidence in this case was heard twice, and father had a very tenacious silk to represent him (the same silk who convinced the President that having an ISIS flag in your house doesn’t make you a supporter of ISIS, so I’d say that he was pretty eloquent, persuasive and someone who leaves no stone left unturned), the findings completely fit with the facts and the findings are sound.

        [This case never went before a criminal Judge – so the family judge didn’t completely dismiss his colleague’s decision. The decision not to prosecute wasn’t taken by a Judge, but by the combination of the police and the CPS]

      • It is exactly the opposite and why you need balance of probabilities in such cases, which are decided by judges. Care proceedings were to protect the siblings, and should the SW not have taken this case to court, I suspect rather a lot of people would have had something to say. If a child has been cruelly abused and murdered, but the evidence for whatever reason would not be likely to secure a conviction in a criminal trial, that does not mean that a crime has not been committed. This judge hasn’t dismissed anything, the burden of proof is higher in criminal cases, it accepts there are issues with the evidence and evidence trail, but made a decision based on the evidence.

  6. In my home, baby cried, the whole family were awake, and in the same room in seconds

  7. It might help readers to see the original finding of fact judgment from March 2014 – this one was a re-hearing, largely based on whether there was an alternate medical explanation.

    This judgment only got published this week

    This one makes it plainer, I think, that the nappy that was DNA tested was not the one that the aunt disposed of, but one of five earlier nappies that had been put into other bins in the household. So the DNA in the nappy may not have any relevance at all, as it was not the one that father removed from Poppi on the night in question.

    Amongst many matters of doubt carefully raised by those representing father at two hearings, this particular aspect doesn’t feature in the judgment at all. Given that father’s team were seized of every single minute scrap of information and detail and that we are not, I think that this presence of other male DNA on a nappy that is not the relevant one, is probably assuming more importance in our discussions than it actually has. Would it be nicer if the Judge had specifically explained why it isn’t significant? Yes but that’s not a realistic expectation if it was not a matter that those in the case who saw, heard and tested all the evidence, considered to be significant.

    (After all, a suggestion that Poppi’s injuries were sustained by some other male, who broke into the house, did all that to a baby and then fled, leaving no other evidence of his presence, is not exactly a credible one)


    Everybody seems to be missing a vital point on this case. The only evidence against Paul Worthington is the medical opinion of Dr Alison Armour. I believe Mr Worthington had a few experts in his defence that believed the injuries weren’t caused by penetrative and there was no evidence whatsoever to support this other than Alison Armours decision. Now if you feel so strongly about this case, Google how many times this lady has been proven wrong. Also Google how many miscarriages of justice have occurred in the case of infant death. In fact here’s a few links for you. Article 3 is extremely critical of Dr Armour. It’s long but scroll down to 40% to half way. And just Google “Alison Armour cot death” “Alison Armour inquest”

    Article 1

    Article 2

    Article 3

    I am originally from Walney and had Dr Alison Armour accuse me of the death of my daughter in 2004. My daughter who was sudsequantly determined to have died from Cot Death by Dr Helen Whitwell, who is a leading pathologist in infant death and cleared Sally Ann cart (article 1) and from other expert pathologists. I also received indication fom the SIDS it was a classic example of cot death. Against a general home office pathalogist that believed in her opinion I accidently rolled on her in my sleep when drunk. A pathologist that does post mortems ranging from drownings to digging up 20 year old corpses( read article 3) to children, she’s not an expert in any field and has a history of jumping to conclusions that she’s not entitled to do and is regularly condemn in articles (article 3, the condemnation is pretty existensive).

    When your accused of something it’s the police and CPS against you, ie Dr Armour and Amanda Sadler. Versus Me. Your legal team and the experts in your favour. My legal team were excellent. My medical experts were leading experts in the field. Experts that said there was no indication of death by smothering and also that there were conditions missing that would have been there’s such as the haemorghing of eyes and bruising missing.

    I was never proven to have been drunk not surprisingly because I wasn’t. I had had a couple of drinks In the afternoon on a Saturday and a couple of bottles during the evening from 6 till 11 going to bed after match of the day and placing my daughter in my bed while I laid and fell asleep waiting for my to come in around 1am. I was blood tested which all confirmed these levels accurately.

    However I was still charged with manslaughter on the back of her opinion. Still plastered across the papers for 2 years accused of rolling on my daughter when drunk. A charge I was then found not guilty of 2 years later in a case that lasted 15 mins in crown court. Withhout the need to call the waiting 12 people of the jury, the judge pretty much said how has this even come to trial? I can imagine my trial was a massive cost to the taxpayer.

    So you can say I have experience of Dr Alison Armor and her opinions and the hurt they can cause. I also thank my lucky stars blood was only trickling from my daughters nose (a classic sign of cot death according to experts and the SIDS society) and not her anus as maybe she would have said what she’s saying about this man about about me. Who knows at the end of the day it’s her formed opinion as a professional. Once again I’ll reiterate, time and time again gets disproven. My case, the cases I’ve attached for you people to read.

    I know how it feels for innocent person to be accused of something and know how hard it is to have to deal with when you should be grieving for the death of your daughter. We fought the system and received the justice we deserved and the answers we needed. I always have known I didn’t do anything and so did my friends, family and more importantly my wife. But after being accused , the process of fighting this and finding out the truth and clearing your name is the chance everyone should have.

    The 2 cases are shockingly similar, same expert, same police, same opinion against opinions but thankfully the cases are extremely different as I had chance to prove my name and find out the truth of my daughters death. I’m afraid this man hasn’t had this opportunity and it’s a serious miscarriage of justice for all parties, poppi her family and Paul Worthington

  9. Here is another cases Dr Alison Armours’ opinion had been disagreed with and the coroner has gone with another expert.

    I believe the experts in the Poppi Worthington case who believed Alison Armour’s findings were incorrect were

    Dr Victoria Aziz – Forensic Physician in Sexual Assault and Child Abuse.

    Dr Cary – Home Office Consultant Forensic Pathologist

    I believe there were 2 other experts as well who disagreed with Dr Armours’ findings. So therefore this couldn’t have gone to trial as there was and is no evidence of sexual assault other than her opinion which was contested by some would say specialists in these fields.

    The only other evidence was a tiny amount of poppi’s DNA found on the defendants penis which was accepted by the expert as transfered from hand to penis during urination. The expert said he would have expected to find a lot more if a sexual assault had taken place.

    I think we all need to start to wonder not only if it was right to publish the fathers name, but also whether the father was actually responsible for any of this and it wasn’t yet again an unexplained death which happens time and time to infants between birth and 18 months. Is this another miscarriage of justice but this time without even a criminal trial and a miscarriage through the family courts. I ask you again to read this article and ask how the hell this had happened again.

    Paul Worthington will never be able to walk the streets of his home town again and will be constantly under threat of vigilanty attacks and he’s never been convicted of a thing. I hope you agree there’s a possibility Poppi died of cot death like my daughter. If this is the case just put yourselves in Paul Worthington shoes now. Not a good place is it. I thought this is why we had a judge and jury and not a judge and executioner in the UK these days.

    • I think your perspective raises the very real problems of having named and shamed someone where the case was not dealt with in a criminal Court, and I’m very grateful to you for sharing it. I don’t think that it has ended up being right that Poppi and her father were named, because of the consequences for the father. However, I expect that if they hadn’t been, given the huge media attention on the case, what the rent-a-quote MPs would now be baying about is that “secret Family Courts are covering things up”, so there’s not a perfect solution.

      • Paul Summerfield

        As I wrote before this case is like the Hampstead Satanic court findings in reverse.

        There were two striking bits of evidence in the case.

        1. The children claimed that there father had sexually abused them (Alienation)

        2. The original medical report on the children confirmed they had been sexually abused

        The court hearing in this case in very very rare circumstances pooh poohed the medical report that claimed the children had indeed been sexually abused!

        Now why on earth did the court go against a consultant’s medical report?

        Only because the mother and her boyfriend made one mistake in this by taking the alienation on the children just a little further then they should of because they claimed that the local vicar, school teacher and members of the local community in Hampstead were also involved in the sexual abuse of her children.

        I have no doubt in this whatsoever if the mother, the boyfriend and the children just claimed that the father had did this to his children they would have all got away with it because the medical report would have been upheld as good evidence by the court.

      • There’s absolutely not a grain of truth in the Hampstead allegations. The judgment is overwhelmingly clear – the abuse that was happening to those children was from the people coaching them to make the allegations. And the medical report in that case was considered by the Court and it was just plain wrong.

      • ashamedtobebritish

        Indeed … There was great emphasis on the RAD test, you never use RAD, ever.

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