Judge dismisses ‘conspiracy theory’ against social workers in care proceedings

A father believed his children had been encouraged to make abuse allegations against him by a social worker

Photo: tashatuvango/Fotolia

A judge has dismissed a father’s “conspiracy theory” about why his children made disclosures of abuse in a case where a 7-month-old girl was placed for adoption.

Judge Baker ruled that a lack of co-operation with social workers meant the girl’s parents could not be trusted to protect her from older siblings who had abused one another.

Assessments carried out on the mother and father of the girl, referred to as M, found they felt “difficulties lie with professionals and in the care system” and not with them.

Baker also ruled that the parents did not acknowledge or accept the level of abuse suffered by their older children, seven of whom had been placed in care earlier this year, while the eldest was found guilty of sexual assault and rape and given a custodial sentence.

Conspiracy theory

Their older daughter had been sexually abused by the two eldest boys, who had both suffered physical abuse which the parents defended as light “physical chastisement”. The judge found the father had “hit, punched and on occasions kicked” the two oldest boys.

During the hearings, the father repeatedly put forward a conspiracy theory against the local authority and the woman his oldest daughter, Z, was staying with when she disclosed she had been sexually abused.

“He alleged that they had been encouraged to make the allegations by the social worker and Mrs X [the family member with whom Z was living and to whom she made the initial allegations of sexual abuse],” an earlier ruling said.

He said social services “manipulated the thoughts of all the children” and that the original social worker had “been against him from the start”.

However, when analysing the risk of significant harm to M in her parents’ care, the judge said there was “no basis for this belief”, and highlighted the mother and father’s historic inability to engage with professionals and come to terms with the abuse their older children suffered.

Crucial question

Their eldest son was found guilty of sexually abusing M’s older sister earlier this year, and in care proceedings which concluded in March, M’s seven older siblings were all placed in local authority care placements. At this time, Baker rejected the local authority’s proposals for the two youngest boys, aged five and six, to be adopted because of the need to keep their bond with older siblings.

M was born during the last set of care proceedings, and was made subject to proceedings of her own.

“A crucial question for the court is whether the parents would cooperate with professionals in any care plan for M. Although the parents have cooperated with some professionals – including the staff at Orchard House [a residential unit where their parenting skills were assessed] and also subsequently after their return home – they have not in my judgment demonstrated any real co-operation with professionals over the central issues in these proceedings,” Baker said.

‘Defiant and confrontational’

While assessments found the parents were capable of providing physical care for their daughter, whom they loved very much, and the mother made some comments accepting that sexual abuse had happened to her older daughter, the judge was unsure of their ability to recognise and protect M from harm.

“It is clear to me that neither parent accepts the findings, or acknowledges the harm that their children suffered in their care. They do not accept that their parenting was deficient in any way,” Baker said.

He said at times they had been “defiant and confrontational towards social workers”, although their new social worker had reported no issues.

“Given the parents’ repeated minimising of their physical abuse of the older boys, which they persist to characterise as little more than minor physical chastisement, it has not been possible for the professionals or the court to reach a clear understanding of the reasons why, or the circumstances in which, the physical abuse occurred,” Baker added.

He concluded they had used physical abuse as a way of exercising discipline, which he felt would leave any child in the home “at an unquantifiable but significant risk of physical abuse”.

Baker described the case as “difficult and troubling”, and ruled that a placement order would be best for M, with decreasing levels of contact with her parents and siblings while an adopter was sought.

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