This is a case in which a Judge had to consider very serious sexual abuse allegations and concluded that
The sad fact I have to record is that every female member of that extended family, with the exception of B, has, at some stage in their lifetime, been either sexually abused, or been the subject of inappropriate sexual behaviour, or been groomed for the purposes of sex.
The child B, had been placed with a man, Paul E, who was her uncle, but for five years she was brought up believing that he was her father and that Mary E (her aunt) was her mother. In that household lived an older child A, who really was the daughter of Paul E and Mary E, and thus was B’s cousin, but A and B were told that they were siblings.
B’s actual mother Carol M, lived in the house with Paul E and Mary E, and B was brought up thinking that Carol (her real mother) was her sister.
As will be apparent from the description I have given of the relationships between the individuals involved, this is a large family with different familial connections. For reasons which I will deal with in due course, Mary E has, at all times, maintained a house full of children. There has in recent times at the heart of this household been a significant lie. B was led to believe by them that Mary E and Paul E were her parents. Her mother lived with her as her sister. The obviously difficulty created by a lie is that it encourages dishonesty from all affected by that lie. What is clear to me is that when Cafcass, and when Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen Social Services have been involved in assessing this family in the past, they also have been lied to, as I will elaborate below. That has meant that the value of their assessments was completely undermined. There have been a number of investigations into this family, none of which have got close to the truth of what was going on.
The Judge raised that B had been placed there as a result of private law proceedings and that professionals had reported on the family circumstances, and had acquired a false sense of security about the family situation because of the previous involvement of the family Court and because reports and assessments had been written. That involvement gave what was a very risky and dangerous family set up a sense of legitimacy that was not warranted.
Legitimacy by court order
- One matter I should raise right at the outset. At the time these proceedings were commenced in 2015, A was living with Paul E, her father, and Mary E, his wife, pursuant to a court order made on 20th April 2012. B, at that time, was residing with Paul E and Mary E, neither of whom was her parent, as a result of a court order made on 26th September 2011.
- There have been previous proceedings in relation to A. Section J in the bundle was generated by proceedings in 2011 running into 2012, which include a Section 37 Report from Lancashire County Council, together with an addendum to that report, and a report from a Cafcass Officer appointed to assist the court in those proceedings.
- Documents relating to previous proceedings concerning B are in Section K in the bundle. Those include a Section 7 Report from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council from September 2011, provided to the court immediately before the residence order was made to which I have already referred. There was a Cafcass report in addition, which was effectively a letter from the Early Intervention Team setting out what was known about the family.
- There have been Social Services and Police involvement with other members of the family in circumstances that I will set out in a little more detail in due course. None of those investigations, whether by the Police, by Cafcass, or by Lancashire, or Blackburn with Darwen Social Services had, in reality, got to the truth of what was going on in the lives of the children who were being cared for by Mary E and Paul E. The fact that there had been investigations and court orders made in favour of Mary E and Paul E gave them a false authority, false in the sense that it was based on a false premise, but authority in the sense that it gave them validation for the way they were bringing up the children, a validation made in ignorance of the truth. It has only been with the benefit of a full investigation into this family that what I am satisfied is the truth has, at last, emerged.
Paul E (father of A, and uncle of B but caring for her) was the subject of some very grave allegations and the Judge in due course made a series of very grave findings against him. After the Court had heard the evidence and submissions, concluding on a Friday, but before judgment could be given, Paul E took his own life. That must have been horrendous for everyone involved, and awful for the children (no matter what he had done and what he had exposed them to )
The fact finding hearing began on 11th April 2016. By Friday of the second week, I had heard submissions from the advocates as they closed their cases. I had heard evidence from Paul E, and he had attended all of the hearings. On Sunday, 24th April, Paul E took his own life. He left a note maintaining his innocence, and I make it plain I had reached my conclusions on the factual matters in this case before his death. I do not regard his suicide as a tacit admission of his guilt of the matters alleged against him.
It emerged from the evidence, and the judgment, that Paul E had received a very serious head injury in 2005 having been assaulted in a pub and kicked in the head. The judgment reads as though this head injury had an impact on his personality, behaviour and possibly sexual functioning. That is not to excuse or condone the actions that the Judge found that he had undertaken, but it does to an extent provide a better understanding of it.
The Judge was also mindful of the effect of alcohol on Paul E
In fact the evidence I heard shows conclusively that throughout his adult life Paul E had drunk to excess and when under the influence of drink could be a very different man from the pleasant individual he could be when sober.