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(Family Division; Miss Pamela Scriven QC sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court; 6 May 2010)
The mother had three children including twin teenage boys by two different fathers. The twin boys made allegations of physical abuse by mother. The mother pleaded guilty to two counts of cruelty to a child under 16 (on the basis that she had beaten each on one occasion only). The boys made good progress in foster care. The mother wished to continue to care for her younger daughter but the daughter's father sought a residence order in his favour.
The boys sought an interview with the judge, who took view that if they were to communicate, they should do so by way of giving evidence. One of the teenage boys wanted to give evidence of mother's seriously abusive behaviour towards himself and his brother in care proceedings (the other was content for the guardian to relay his views). The age of boys was uncertain - mother claimed they were 13 years old, but the boys and the authority believed were they were about 17 years old. The mother denied anything beyond what she had pleaded guilty to.
There was no presumption in relation to a child giving evidence. Not just weighing the advantages to the determination of truth versus damage to any child, but also weighing the welfare advantages to any child of the boy giving evidence, taking into account that the boy wished to do so, and would feel profound sense of injustice if he was not permitted.
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