Family Judge Finds Sexual Abuse Where Juries Could Not

Different standards of proof apply in criminal and civil proceedings and, in one case, a man who escaped conviction on charges of sexually abusing his stepdaughter was nevertheless found to have molested her by a family judge.

Prosecutors dropped criminal proceedings against the man after two trials had to be aborted due to juries being unable to reach verdicts. However, a local authority remained convinced that he was guilty and launched care proceedings in respect of five younger children of the family, aged between eight and 16.

Despite the failure of the prosecution and inconsistencies in the stepdaughter’s evidence, the judge found on the balance of probabilities that the man had shared her bed on a number of occasions and taken the opportunity to abuse her. The children’s mother, whilst unaware of the abuse, knew of the obvious risks posed by the bed-sharing and had taken no proper steps to protect her daughter.

Findings as to the five children’s welfare and future care remained to be made in the light of the judge’s findings of fact. However, the mother had said that, if her husband was found to be an abuser, she would divorce him and consent to care orders being made on the basis that the children would remain with her.