A local authority that failed to risk assess a convicted sex offender, when he became the full-time carer of his nine-year-old nephew, has been strongly criticised by a judge.
The boy’s great-great-uncle, CJ, was convicted in 1991 of unlawful sexual intercourse and buggery, having abused his niece between the ages of 11 and 13. He pleaded guilty and served five years.
No risk assessment
Judge Bellamy, who heard the case, said he was concerned Leicester City Council did not undertake a robust risk assessment once it became clear CJ had taken over as the boy’s full-time carer, and took 16 months to initiate care proceedings.
He said: “Given the slow pace at which the local authority meandered along, it is hardly surprising that its application for an interim care order was rejected by the court [last March].”
The boy, referred to as D, was placed in the care of his great-great-uncle by his father at least two years ago. The local authority became aware of this arrangement in November 2013.
His father, the man’s great-nephew who he raised as a son, suffers from dwarfism and has a problem with alcohol.
Complex mental health problems
D’s mother has a learning disability and multiple complex mental health problems, and has previously experienced auditory and visual hallucinations and engaged in self-harm.
The boy’s father accepted he was not in a position to care for the child. His mother sought care of the child alongside her current partner who is also her registered carer, referred to as Miss T.
The local authority in its care plan had weighed up whether the boy should be cared for by his uncle, CJ, or his mother and her partner, and had put forward a recommendation that the mother should take over primary care of D.
Lack of urgency
But, Judge Bellamy said, “The lack of urgency and, equally important, the lack of a robust risk assessment of CJ inevitably meant the local authority was unable to satisfy the judge that the test for ordering interim removal was met.”
The judge also said the local authority had only considered placement with the uncle or mother, and hadn’t given due consideration to the benefits of long-term fostering.
The last time a risk assessment was carried out, in which CJ was deemed to be low risk and able to care for the boy’s father, then aged 14, was in 1996.
Dr Melissa Jackaman, a psychologist instructed to undertake a new assessment of CJ said the approach to the assessment of sexual risk had become much better understood in the 20 years since the last assessment. Jackaman described CJ as a “high deviance individual”.
She told the court: “His level of risk is more significant than the previous assessment ascertained. In particular, he continues to show some very worrying pro-offending attitudes in the form of distorted thinking patterns regarding children and sexual matters, and very poor levels of victim empathy either for a hypothetical victim or indeed his own victim.”
D had expressed a desire to remain living with his uncle and aunt, with whom he had a close relationship.
Nevertheless, Jackaman said she could not rule out the risk of sexual abuse towards D, adding: “Even if he were never to abuse D, I would still question his ability to educate and support D in his progress through adolescence in a way which allowed him to acquire healthy and appropriate levels of knowledge and beliefs about sexual matters.”
D’s mother is in a long-term stable relationship with a same-sex partner. She has claimed she is now stable in her mental health and has not self-harmed for almost two years.
But the judge said this could change rapidly. He added while the mother was in a currently stable relationship, the fact she had been in eight relationships and lived with five partners over the last ten years led him to take a “cautious view” of the long-term stability of the relationship.
Given her mental health, the judge said he was not convinced should the relationship break down that she would be able to care for D alone.
The judge rejected Leicester council’s recommendation that D should be cared for by his mother and her partner.
He said: “Foster care would provide D with a neutral environment from which to maintain a relationship with key members of his family—his sister, his parents and his grandparents.”
The local authority agreed to change its plan to one of long-term foster care.