Seven barristers from No5 Barristers’ Chambers have been involved in a Fact Finding Hearing in the Family Court regarding brothers who alleged physical and sexual abuse by family members.

Richard Hadley, who acted for the local authority, Kristina Brown, instructed by Talbots Law, Victoria Clifford, instructed by Harrison Clarke Rickerby Solicitors, Kathryn Taylor, instructed by Anthony Collins Solicitors, Lorna Meyer QC leading Louise Higgins, instructed by Rees Page Solicitors and Kirsty Gallacher, instructed by Sharratts Solicitors, were all involved in the hearing EF, GH, IJ (care proceedings) [2019] EWFC 75.

The hearing concerned brothers following the breakdown of their parents’ marriage. All of them were joined as parties to the proceedings and separately represented from the other. Serious allegations of sexual abuse were made by the brothers against their father and members of their paternal family.

Care proceedings were issued by the local authority in March 2019 in light of these allegations.

During the course of the hearing, each child retracted some or all of their allegations.

During the proceedings, the conduct of the police during the initial ABE interviews was criticised and the evidence deemed unreliable.

The judge’s findings stated:  “On the basis of the totality of the evidence presented to me, as I have summarised in this judgment, I could not even begin to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that these allegations of physical and sexual abuse are proved and to make findings accordingly.”

He said he had no doubt that the father, and members of the paternal family, were good and honest people, adding he had no hesitation in accepting the evidence each of them gave and finding that they had never emotionally, physically or sexually abused the brothers, stating ‘any assertion or allegation to the contrary is false’.

The judgement concluded that the mother’s fears for the boys’ wellbeing following the breakdown of her marriage had become increasingly irrational. This mindset meant that she did not reassure the boys that they were safe or challenge their allegations, including ones she knew to be false, or prevent escalation of the allegations.

The judgment deemed that in failing to act as a reasonable parent the mother had caused the boys significant emotional and psychological harm.

On this premise, it was concluded that the threshold criteria of s31(2) of the 1989 Children Act was satisfied in respect of each of the boys.