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Ask Clare Your Own Question
Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 34898
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practise since 1985 and have specialised in Family Law for the last 10 years
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My daughter is defending herself following allegations of

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My daughter is defending herself following allegations of sexual abuse by her ex-husband towards their 3 year old child - a boy - and he is requesting access. Child services initially failed to offer support to my daughter and soon closed her case as her son did not make disclosures. The police failed to interview her son properly and only when the Dorset Police & Crime Commission intervened pointing out police and social service failures, was the case reopened by both police and social services. However, although her son did make disclosures to the police, his nursery school, child services and a child therapist specialising in child abuse, the police say they cannot interview the father again until new evidence comes to light. My daughter is on income support and now the father has requested access to his son she has to defend this in court. Can she get legal aid as she is on income support?
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
For clarity - do Social Services accept that there is a risk involved?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Initially Child Services closed the case after the Police interviewed my grandson but this was conducted inappropriately according to the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner who highlighted the very real risks to my grandson. He wrote: Urgent safeguarding referral, concluding his letter to the Chief Constable and the Head of Child Services, "To be absolutely clear, I would like this letter to be a record of inter alia, 'The fact that I consider James Simpson to be at risk of sexual harm in his father's unsupervised presence, and I request that this is logged as a safeguarding referral.'"

This forced the police to reopen a case that they had closed in December, which prompted social services also to close their case offering no support for my daughter. Following continued disclosures to her and James' half sister, my daughter sought advice from Child Services on 2 occasions but was told that they couldn't help.

Following James' violent, aggressive behaviour and continued disclosures about abuse by his father, my daughter sent several emails pleading for help to the local safeguarding office but these were lost and an apology was received for the failure to respond 4 months later.

When the case reopened, the child service officer ignored the allegations sexual abuse by the father and accused my daughter of not moving on, suggesting that she was emotionally abusing her child - even after the child services officer attended a police interview of James under appropriate conditions and in my daughter's absence, when he again disclosed, now recorded on camera. She stated that the disclosures were "out of context". A letter from James' nursery also confirmed that James had disclosed at school about sexual abuse by the father.

The police subsequently informed my daughter that despite these disclosures, they could take no further action unless new information came to light as they had previously interviewed the father. That decision was then provided to my daughter's ex-husband in a letter.

A Child Protection Conference was then held and a child protection order was made for James at the recommendation of the child services officer - the allegations of sexual abuse were left for the courts to decide on.

However, the order cited emotional abuse by both parents and a guardian has been appointed. My daughter was criticised for not moving on, despite supportive letters from her GP who stated that access to the father must be supervised. A similar letter from a child therapist to whom James disclosed repeated incidents of sexual abuse by his father was also discounted. He had recommended strongly that any access to the father (who had now applied to the courts for access) must be supervised. Finally, the father threatened to sue the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner over his letter alleging child abuse.

As my daughter is on benefits supplements by maintenance, she has met the costs of a solicitor and a barrister by using her overdraft, taking out a loan and paying my credit card. My wife and I (both pensioners) have met the costs of a barrister at the last court hearing, and her solicitor - circa £7,000 - but we have run out of cash.

Although we were told by the Citizens Advice Legal Aid team that my daughter qualified for legal aid, our solicitor says the fact that my daughter was cited on the Protection order for emotional abuse means that she does not qualify for legal aid. However, we have been informed by the Practice Safeguarding Officer of my daughter's GP that the Child Protection Report submitted by the Child Protection officer was unsigned and hence was an illegal document. This document was also not discussed with my daughter before the Child Protection Conference as it should have been.

Sorry to be so lengthy, but the situation is complex, and failures by both Police and Child Services have made an already difficult situation more difficult for my daughter who is only trying to protect her child. Without legal support, it seems that she will be unable to protect her child from abuse. Bot***** *****ne, can she obtain legal aid as the Citizen's Advice Legal Aid team suggest she is entitled to?

Was there any violence involved in the relationship between your daughter and her ex?
What contact has the Guardian suggested/
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare,

My daughter was subjected to acute emotional abuse during her short marriage which forced her to leave her home with her children.

Her husband was obsessive about money and would not provide for Anna and her children, including his own child. He is prone to fits of anger and consistently criticized Anna's appearance and the cleanliness of their home and would shout and threaten her. He stopped having sex soon after the marriage saying it was dirty but favoured inserting his finger into my daughter's anus, a trait that he shares with his identical twin brother according to his former girlfriend. So no physical abuse but acute emotional abuse.

A court guardian has only been appointed very recently and he is due to observe James with both father and mother, but this has yet to begin. However, Anna agreed at the last court hearing (as recommended by her GP, James' child therapist, and the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner,) to permit supervised access which has happened on 3 occasions.

However, the improvement to James' behaviour has now deteriorated markedly and very rapidly. Indeed, it has been reported to Child Services by his nursery school where James' anger and aggression to other nursery children has accelerated over the past 3 weeks since contact with his father was reintroduced after 4 months of no contact (as advised by social services.) They have requested funding for one on one care at nursery or they will have to decline to have James attend. At home, James has reverted in character (which had been improving and attacks mum, his sister and their new puppy.

Finally, I am concerned that the Police will not interview the father again, despite James disclosing to a female police officer and a child services worker on camera and to a child therapist who wrote "James gets cross because he feels that fingers should not be put in bottoms, as they are private places. He himself said that dad had done this, using his big finger eight times on the same day. He said his dad was lying because he didn't want to tell the truth. He said what happened was a secret. Dad did it in a playroom and they had no clothes on."

How honest do you wish me to be with you?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

So that's a no then? Please be honest.

Hi William
I will be honest - and blunt, so please forgive me - and remember that I can only give you an overview based on the very little I have read here - and the (mis)assumptions I have drawn
The wording that the child is meant to have used is not that used by a child of three - however bright and chatty. The fact that the therapist reports it as such immediately gives rise to some doubt about the ability of the therapist .
The fact that he was clearly a very bad partner - and his sexual preferences with his wife (and most certainly those of his twin) are utterly irrelevant - and introducing them into the case would again reflect very badly on your daughter.
Equally the deterioration in behaviour since contact has resumed could just as easily be a reaction to the heightened concern and anxiety naturally exhibited by your poor daughter
Neither the GP nor the therapist have sufficient qualifications to make any form of decision or recommendation regarding contact and the fact that they have done so sadly raises the spectre of your daughter being manipulative - and the fact that a document is unsigned makes it bad practice not invalid.
In a case such as this the mother needs to be very circumspect and careful to ensure the long term protection of the child - and sadly it seems that in this case she has allowed herself to be out maneuvered by her ex leading to the unhappy position that the child is now on the At risk Register for Emotional Abuse by both parents.
Whilst your daughter is undoubtedly financially eligible for Legal Aid I am afraid that it is no longer available in cases dealing with Contact unless she falls into one of the criteria listed here
It does occur to me that any ongoing depression/distress could fall into this section
l that you have a report from a doctor, nurse,
midwife or licenced psychologist confirming
you were examined, in person, in respect
of an injury or condition consistent with
domestic violence within the past 2 years.
The report does not have to be from the health
professional that actually examined you, it can
be from another health professional that has
access to your medical records;
And I am more than a little surprised that her solicitor has not suggested this
It is time for a rethink of Tactics I am afraid
Please ask if you need further details
Clare and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you