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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

04 MAR 2014

FACT-FINDING HEARING: Re Y (Private Law: Fact Finding) [2014] EWHC 486 (Fam)

(Family Division, Pauffley J, 26 February 2014)

Private law children proceedings - Fact-finding hearing - Contact

The full judgment is available below.

The parents of the, now one-year-old, child separated when she was 4 months old following a tempestuous relationship. The mother took the child to Scotland but had to return after the child was made a ward of court.

The made a number of serious allegations against the father, including that he had sexually abused the child which she posted to 100 people on Facebook. At a fact-finding hearing the judge found that there was no evidence to support the mother's allegation and rather, the mother had invented the allegation to serve her own purposes. The mother's further allegation that the father had taken an inappropriate photograph on his mobile phone of a friend's daughter was also not made out. The father was fully exonerated.

In her evidence the mother accepted that she had been a heavy cannabis user but was ambiguous about her current usage. Hair strand testing demonstrated moderate usage but testing of the child's hair found stronger traces of cannabis with no apparent explanation. The day after the mother was informed of the hair strand test results she shaved the child's head.

Findings could not be made on three injuries sustained by the child during an 18-day period which were largely unexplained and the explanations that were provided amounted to speculation.

It was of concern that the mother's older child, this child's half-sibling, had also been denied a relationship with the father following heavily contested litigation. In relation to the one-year-old child there was no reason for contact with the father to be supervised and no reason that overnight contact could not be commenced immediately.

The fully-referenced, judicially approved judgment and headnote will appear in a forthcoming issue of Family Law Reports. A detailed summary and analysis of the case will appear in Family Law.

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This judgment was delivered in private.   The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved.   All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with.   Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.

 

Case No: FD13P01160

Neutral Citation Number: [2014] EWHC 486 (Fam)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

 

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

 

Date: 26/02/2014

 

Before :

 

MRS JUSTICE PAUFFLEY

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Re Y (A Child: Private Law: Fact Finding)

 

Caroline Hartley for the applicant father

Maggie Jones for the respondent mother

Peter Horrocks for the local authority

Samantha Little for the children's guardian, Jackie Nicholls

 

Hearing dates: 17th - 19th February 2014

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Judgment

Mrs Justice Pauffley:

Introduction

[1] Fact finding hearings in private law proceedings are sometimes required as the first step in enabling expert or Cafcass assessment prior to the welfare or final part of the process. This has been such an instance; and although it may be unusual it is altogether necessary in the quite extraordinary circumstances of this case. It is a measure of the alarm which recent events, in particular, have caused that the local authority's allocated social worker, together with Counsel, have been present throughout the hearing. Though there are no current plans to start public law proceedings, the local authority makes clear it is keeping that option under review. It has a keen interest in knowing my findings as the result of this hearing.

[2] In short summary, it has been my task to read a very large volume of documents and hear oral evidence over three days so as to resolve a number of largely disputed matters. Some focus on the parents' behaviour which may have or have had an impact upon the child's welfare. Others relate to the child herself and the extent to which, if at all, she has been significantly harmed by one or other or both of her parents.

Brief background

[3] The child herself is Y born in May 2012, now 1 year and 8 months old. Her mother and father are both in their mid thirties. They met in about 2009, spent very little time living together and finally separated in October 2012 when Y was only four months old.

[4] The father has no other children. The mother has a son, L, who is 13 years old. His father is Mr E. There were private law proceedings between the mother and Mr E which began when L was only 2 ½ years old. More than 10 years of litigation have produced no solution to the continuing dispute between them as to the role which Mr E should play in their son's life. Contact was never satisfactorily established. L was represented in those proceedings by a r.9.5 guardian; Ms Little has been his Solicitor. There was expert intervention by a clinical psychologist, a consultant psychiatrist and a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist.

[5] The governing order in relation to L is that he should have indirect contact with his father monthly. There is also an order, pursuant to s.91(14) of the 1989 Act preventing Mr E from making any applications for residence or contact. Most recently, as the result of an order made by Moylan J, the mother's application to remove L out of the jurisdiction to Scotland has been adjourned generally. If that application is eventually pursued - as seems likely - then Mr E will be a participant in Y's ‘welfare' hearing in May.

[6] The only accurate description of the relationship between the mother and Y's father is that it was tempestuous; and there was occasional physical violence for which the mother accepts responsibility as a reaction to the father's psychological abuse and aggressive temper. As Miss Little on behalf of the guardian suggests, there was a considerable ‘mismatch of expectations.'

[7] The mother left her home in December and moved with Y to a Women's Refuge in Scotland. L remained at the family home with the maternal grandfather. Whilst living in Scotland, the mother undertook person-centred counselling and intensive work in understanding abusive relationships.

[8] Although the local authority was aware of her intended move north of the border, the mother did not tell Y's father. From October 2012, when they separated, he tried unsuccessfully to have contact with Y.

[9] The father's application for contact and for a non molestation injunction was issued in mid January 2013. Preliminary hearings in early March and mid June 2013 were not attended by the mother. Shortly before the June hearing, the father discovered that she and Y were in Scotland.

[10] On 24th June 2013, Bodey J made Y a ward and ordered the mother to return her to England and Wales forthwith.

[11] On the same day, the local authority received notification from the police that they were investigating the mother's allegations against the father of having sexually abused Y. At about that time, the mother sent Facebook messages to about 100 individuals in which she made the same accusation.

[12] On 7th July, the mother and Y returned to their home in England; contact between Y and her father was refused.

[13] A series of orders made by several judges were disobeyed. A large number of contact visits, 10 or so during October and November 2013, planned to take place at a local authority contact centre, supervised by a family support worker, were missed.

[14] The father made an application to commit the mother to prison for breaches of contact provisions. That application came before me on 27th November 2013. I heard evidence from the then allocated social worker and made orders which increased Y's contact with her father to three occasions each week. I decided that maternal family members should not accompany Y on the way to the contact centre. She would be transported by family support workers. I adjourned the application to commit and directed that if any scheduled contact visit did not take place then the parties and the allocated social worker were to appear in my court on the next working day so as to explain the reasons for non compliance.

[15] So far as I am aware, the mother has obeyed the contact order on every occasion since 27th November.

Recent events and injuries

[16] On 10th December 2013, a very small section of Y's hair (equating to the diameter of a pen or pencil) was cut from her head for analysis.

[17] On about 5th January 2014, the test results were revealed to the mother. They indicated that Y's hair had tested positive for cannabis at medium concentrations. On the following day, 6th January, in the morning and before Y went to see her father at the contact centre, the mother shaved or trimmed Y's hair close to her scalp.

[18] Also on 6th January, Y had a red and swollen eye, clearly visible on a photograph taken by the father at contact that day.

[19] On 13th January, whilst she was at contact, burns were found on Y's hand.

[20] On 24th January, Y had either two or three bruises on her face.

Burden and standard of proof: credibility and lies

[21] The parent against whom allegations are made does not have to prove anything. As the result of the Supreme Court's decision in Re B [2008] UKHL 35 the standard of proof in finding the facts necessary to establish any factual issue in the case is the simple balance of probabilities, nothing more and nothing less. Neither the seriousness of the allegation nor the seriousness of the consequences should make any difference to the standard of proof in determining the facts. Generally speaking a judge is able to make up his mind where the truth lies without needing to rely upon the burden of proof.

[22] When considering issues of credibility, I remind myself that there may be many possible explanations as to why a person in proceedings such as these might lie. The mere fact that an individual lies is not in itself evidence of guilt.

Accepted behaviour on the part of each parent

[23] As I indicated on the first day of the hearing, several of the matters pleaded in the Scott Schedule did not seem to me to merit detailed investigation particularly given that, in a number of instances, admissions either with or without mitigation had been made. I mention therefore, briefly, that on several occasions - she accepted thrice in evidence - the mother has assaulted the father by punching him, she maintains in response to his aggressive behaviour.

[24] There were, without doubt, extremely unpleasant incidents in February 2012 and again in October 2012. The mother assaulted the father by punching him three times in February that year when she was about 6 months pregnant. He says he had a split lip; she suggests he had been psychologically abusive. In October, having forced her way in to the father's home, the mother suggests she discovered another woman upstairs in the bedroom. The mother set about kicking his television, tore the blinds from two windows and tipped beer over the father and on to his sofa.

[25] The mother acknowledges that historically she has been an excessive cannabis user. In evidence she said she'd used it "on and off since (she) was 15" so for more than 20 years. She told Dr Ratnam, consultant forensic psychiatrist, that she had smoked cannabis as a way of forgetting her abusive experiences and that her most excessive use had been during the court proceedings involving Mr E. On 23rd January, when interviewed by Dr Ratnam, the mother said she had used the drug when pregnant with and breastfeeding Y but "not loads." She also said she had stopped using it "months ago." She had only used it occasionally in Scotland, went from using every four days to gradually stopping altogether.

[26] In evidence the mother described her use of the drug to have increased after her return from Scotland in July 2013 so that she was using "quite a bit." She maintains there was then a drastic reduction so that currently she has not used it at all for some time. The mother said she "does not even think about it now, it's been so long." But later, during cross examination, the mother described how a friend had visited two or three weeks ago and she had "used a bit." She said she "couldn't taste it; it hadn't done anything for (her) and, therefore, it does not count." As she agreed when cross examined by Mr Horrocks on behalf of the local authority, the mother has regarded cannabis as a natural substance which could be beneficial. She had become, she accepted, too reliant upon it and was determined that it would not become "a prop" again.

[27] The father now accepts he has drunk more alcohol than was wise from a health perspective. He does not agree that he is an alcoholic. The forensic hair analysis of December 2013 showed biomarkers which indicated he had "most likely" abused alcohol between early September and early December 2013. On 16th January, Miss Hartley told me the father had been shocked by the outcome of scientific testing and had stopped drinking altogether.

[28] In his evidence, the father explained that whereas habitually he had drunk 4 cans of beer an evening and every evening, since Boxing Day he has stopped and now only drinks alcohol when out socially.

[29] His blood test results as reported on 8th January 2014 indicated "no excessive alcohol consumption in the last two to four week period though there could have been alcohol misuse sometime in the past." The local authority social workers have had no anxieties that he had been drinking or was affected by alcohol at times when he has had contact with Y.

[30] The other substance misuse issue is as to whether, as the mother alleges, the father supplied her with cannabis. She suggests particularly in the early part of their relationship that she would pay for it and also have sex with the father in return for the drug. The father strongly denies that he "supplied" the mother with cannabis though agrees they would smoke it together. He denied a reputation for selling or supplying cannabis and maintains he "never took a penny" from the mother and nor did he have sex with her in return for the drug.

[31] So what's to be made of the above? As a group of allegations about parental behaviour none would have justified a separate fact finding hearing. Alcohol and drug abuse should be capable of being established, fairly definitively as to the recent past, by scientific analysis. Save in relation to the mother's cannabis use, the effect upon Y of the behaviour complained about has been of no or very little consequence.

[32] She has been largely shielded, thus far, from the intense hostility between her parents - and from the mother's volatility in relation to the father - by the local authority's involvement in the contact arrangements.

Matters of real significance

[33] There are other matters though of very considerable importance when considering ‘welfare' issues and it is to those I now turn. Some have been investigated in detail during the oral evidence; others arise for comment as the local authority identifies within its most recent s.37 report.

The allegations of sexual wrongdoing and unhealthy sexual interest

[34] The most important matter of all is as to whether the mother is correct in her assertion that the father has sexually interfered with Y. The associated allegations are that the father is interested in ‘incest porn' and behaved in a worrying fashion when the mother found a photograph of a young child wearing a dress on his mobile phone.

[35] The incident of actual abuse, according to the mother, happened in October 2012. She said in evidence that she and the father had gone out to her hut in the garden, where they used to "hang out quite a lot," after settling Y for bed. They heard Y wake up over the baby monitor and the father had said he would go. The mother said she "just had this bad feeling" which had "just started rising." She had told herself, "No there's nothing wrong." But she could not get rid of the "bad feeling;" it was as if she had been "arguing with (her)self." When she arrived at the top of the stairs, their "eyes locked." She had stared at him. He was holding Y and he fell sideways on the bed. The mother had gone to get Y. In the father's direction, she said, "I hope you're disgusted with yourself. I'll talk to you in the morning." He did not, said the mother, say anything but looked "really, really guilty ... it was, like, sunken guilt ... he'd been caught in the act and trying to hide what he had been doing." The mother "vaguely remembered" the father "creeping around (her) in the room." She had noticed that Y's "nappy was not on properly."

[36] Although the mother "would like to remember what happened the next day - what (she) said and what he said" - she cannot. In January 2013, she reported the father to police in Scotland. She "cannot think there is anything else (other than sexual abuse) that could fit with the way he acted; it all fits in (her) mind." A little later, having said she was "open to alternative suggestions" the mother said, "nothing else makes sense" to her.

[37] During the course of cross examination, the mother added that she "did catch (the father) doing something very wrong. What (she) saw was him getting up, looking extremely guilty." But she also said, she "didn't become fully conscious of (what had happened) until (she) was in Scotland. In hindsight (she does) believe (she) was conscious of it on some level."

[38] A support worker from [named] Women's Aid confirms, having consulted her notes, that the mother started to talk about the occasion when she believes Y was sexually abused in January 2013. The worker explained that the mother had "constantly analysed" the father's behaviour on that night. She had discussed different possibilities but "became surer of inappropriate behaviour following intensive support sessions."

[39] On about 22nd June 2013, the mother sent Facebook messages to 100 or so people saying she had "caught (the father) fiddling with (her) baby". In addition, she said she had found "incest porn on his phone more than once." She continued, "He is also an alcoholic. & he got violent with me wen (sic) i was pregnant.. &so much more & he continued to lie and cheat also. he is a very talented liar. Very...." 

[40] In evidence, the mother said she had intended "to do (that is send to) 200 friends." She said, "at the time it wasn't stupid. I thought people should know the truth. My safety was being threatened."

[41] On 23rd January this year, during the course of Dr Ratnam's interview with her, the mother said she could not recall exactly what had happened during the October 2012 incident but whilst in Scotland had "wanted to have regression therapy to try and remember ..."

[42] The father's response to the mother's allegation of sexual wrongdoing is that it is "totally false. It is not true. It's disgusting;" and he does not recall any occasion when he fell on the bed. He said he would often change Y's nappy and would also go to check on her during the months following her birth. In cross examination, the father was asked if he remembered an occasion when he'd looked worried or guilty. He replied that he had no reason to remember any such occasion; the incident as related by the mother "did not happen."

[43] In her final submissions, Miss Jones on behalf of the mother, invited me to find that the mother has been utterly consistent in saying, "This is what I saw and this is what I'm sure had been happening." The mother would wish me to make a finding that the father has sexually abused Y and even although she does not say she actually saw anything happen.

Discussion and conclusion in relation to sexual abuse

[44] My conclusion is this - that there is no evidence whatever upon which I could properly base a finding that the father has sexually abused Y. But of more importance still in the current context, I am convinced that the father has done nothing of a sexual kind and he must be exonerated. The mother, seemingly, has invented the allegation for her own malicious purposes. Whether she has done so intentionally or because her background renders her susceptible to seeing sexual danger where none exists is difficult to determine. There may be elements of both, I know not.

[45] These are my reasons for that key decision. First, that the timing of and the manner in which the mother made her allegation cause me to be immensely sceptical. If, in truth, there had been an event in October 2012 which caused the mother to be fearful that sexual wrongdoing had occurred she would have been expected to contact the child protection authorities immediately and to have given a detailed account. As it is, there was a delay of about three months before she said anything to anyone.

[46] The discussions with the support worker at the refuge in Scotland in which the mother "constantly analysed" the father's actions, becoming "surer as the result of intensive support sessions" bear all the hallmarks of a process of wish fulfilment. By then, the mother could not have been more hostile to the father having caught him in what she believed were compromising circumstances, having separated from him and having fled to Scotland because as she said in evidence, she was "heading for a breakdown." 

[47] Moreover, the allegation itself amounts to half of nothing at all. To have a bad feeling that something was wrong and then to ascribe guilt because of the look on a person's face is ludicrous. To go on, as the mother does, to believe that everything fits with sexual abuse is absurd.

[48] In response to the question as to whether there was an incident of the kind described by the mother, having heard both parents' evidence, I have no hesitation in concluding that nothing of the sort occurred. And the reason I can be so definite arises from the thoroughly dubious way in which the assertion came to be made as well as the mother's complete inability to describe anything of what happened afterwards or indeed the next day.

[49] It is also a factor in my decision on this issue that the mother is very capable of exaggerating, distorting the facts and even fabricating events to suit her own purposes. A prime example arises from what she has said to various agencies about the father's violence. During the local authority's initial assessment of October 2012, the mother is reported as alleging "previous physical violence" from the father (which she is now reciprocating).  In June 2013 she is recorded as telling a solicitor in Scotland that she had fled from Surrey as "she was the victim of regular violent assaults at the hands of (the father)."  A police log entry made at about the same time records the mother as having said the father "was violent to her on several occasions including when she was pregnant."

[50] The mother's evidence was that she "had never said (the father) had physically assaulted" her. Clearly she did. Three separate reports tell their own story. 

[51] In addition, as her June 2013 Facebook message demonstrates, the mother is capable of making extraordinarily damaging and wildly exaggerated allegations on the basis of next to nothing. She seems incapable of regulating her thoughts, her assessments and her emotions. To say she had caught the father "fiddling with (her) baby" is a gross distortion of what she suggests happened. Likewise to assert she had "found incest porn" on his phone does not come close to the way in which she deals with the issue in evidence. To maintain he is "an alcoholic" is again a distortion of the father's association with alcohol.

[52] Overall, having listened to the mother's evidence and having watched her reactions throughout the hearing it seems to me that she encounters real difficulty in governing her emotional responses to a number of significant issues which is a further relevant factor in the sexual abuse question. Before she began her evidence, I did my best to ensure she felt at ease in the witness box. I said I understood how difficult this process is for her, given the decade or so of litigation in another court about L. I also made clear that it was critically important for Y that I should be able to make findings about the sexual abuse allegation. At that point, the mother seemed to me to be struggling both emotionally and physically. She took some very deep breaths, seemed to be sobbing and covered part of her face with her hand - a phenomenon which recurred several times during the course of her evidence as well as when she was in the well of the court.

[53] Lastly in connection with the sexual abuse allegation, it is relevant to consider the mother's distorted and ridiculous reaction to finding a photograph on the father's phone of a child wearing a long dress. She is the daughter of one of the father's old friends. The mother's evidence was that the father had told her he "liked little girls in nice dresses," it was "his tone or something"; there was "something wrong" about his reaction and he "went bright red."

[54] The mother of the child concerned was interviewed by the police and is reported as having been "furious" about being drawn in to the mother's allegations. She told the police the photographs sent by her to the father were innocent and that everything the mother had said was a fabrication. And whilst of course that is not evidence which has been tested by cross examination it is nonetheless a small part of the wide canvas of written material.

The "incest porn" allegation

[55] The last matter for decision in relation to sexual matters is as to whether the father poses a risk to Y because of the mother's allegation that he has accessed "incest porn" on the internet. On 10th November 2012, the mother rang the police and said she had suspicions that the father had a sexual interest in children and was selling drugs. On 12th November, the mother supplied further information to the police including an assertion that the father had incest pornography on his mobile phone. The mother's evidence, at its highest, is that she discovered on one of the father's old mobile ‘phones a browsing history which included the words "incest porn" as well as "something else porn." She had clicked, she said, on one of the items and saw an "image of a girl smiling, just her face."

[56] The father's evidence was that whilst they were together the mother had been obsessed with pornography and had brought the subject up "all the time." The father agreed he had watched pornography, but not incest porn, "during those weeks when they were not together." He denied he had a browsing history on his phone including references to porn, saying that he would watch it on a computer not a mobile phone.

[57] The overwhelming likelihood, it seems to me, is that in the aftermath of their relationship breakdown and, in particular, after the incident in October 2012 when the mother had trashed the father's home, she was intent upon making as much trouble for him as she could. Given what I have already concluded as to her ability to exaggerate and fabricate, I have no difficulty in exonerating the father of any interest in "incest porn." It is not just that the mother has failed to satisfy me that there is evidence from which I could properly draw a conclusion adverse to the father. She has conclusively demonstrated that the potential for her to try to cause him harm is very extensive indeed.

Cannabis detected in the child's hair

[58] The next matter for comment is as to the cannabis levels detected in Y's hair as the result of scientific analysis. No expert was called to elucidate the apparent anomaly between the tests involving the mother's hair and those for Y herself. Stripped to its bare essentials, the test of Y's hair revealed concentrations of cannabis suggestive that she had been ingesting the drug at similar levels to those of a moderate user. The mother's hair, by contrast, revealed her to have been either using cannabis at a low level or infrequently; or passively from being in the presence of someone who was taking cannabis; or historically.

[59] During the course of the hearing - and very helpfully - Miss Little attempted to secure definitive advice from a Principal Forensic Toxicologist, Marcus Donahue. Miss Little's note of their telephone conversation includes this -

"most likely Y has ingested cannabis - i.e. taken in to the body from either the passive inhalation of cannabis smoke or the unintentional / deliberate inhalation or by eating... Studies have shown that children of a similar age to Y can provide a positive result for both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and THC-COOH (carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol) from the passive inhalation of cannabis smoke... THC concentrations in the hair of children (who are passive inhalers) can be in the same range in hair, or even higher, than adults who are using cannabis. This could be due to the children having a lower volume of distribution (from a lower body weight) compared to adults. THC-COOH concentrations in children's hair, however, would be expected to be lower than adult smokers (my emphasis)."

[60] Thus significant questions remain as to how and to what level Y has been exposed to and by some means would appear to have ingested cannabis. There is no satisfactory explanation. I would hope that in time for the hearing in mid May there will have been further testing of both the mother's and Y's hair samples and elucidation of the anomalous existing test results.

[61] For now it is sufficient to record that the mother's history of drug taking stretches back some twenty years and at times she has been a heavy user. She was still taking a quantity of the drug whilst pregnant with Y and after she returned from Scotland last summer. During the course of her evidence, she was at pains to minimise, so far as possible, her usage. I was not convinced when the mother told me, for example, that the recent occasion when she had smoked cannabis "didn't count" and had not "done anything" for her.

Y's shaved head

[62] On the day after the mother learned of Y's hair having tested positive for cannabis, she sat her on her lap and used electric hair clippers to shave her hair to about an eighth of an inch. The contrast between the ‘before' and ‘after' photographs is very marked indeed.

[63] The mother's claim is that when she found out there would be an analysis of Y's hair, she "knew (she) would have to cut it." She believed that as Y's hair grew back after the sample was taken, it would "tangle with the rest of her hair." She had, she said, "found the strength" and had "said it out loud that (she) was going to shave Y's head." L had said, according to the mother, "You can't do that Mum." She'd told him it would only be a "grade seven" and he'd said, "Well that's all right."

[64] The mother started with a strip behind Y's ear and realised straightway, so she says, that the clippers were set lower than she had intended. She "quickly positively assessed that it would be OK" and proceeded to cut all of Y's hair from her head. The mother accepts that she was "annoyed" at the test results. A few days later when asked about her motivation by Ms I, the allocated social worker, the mother said part of her had thought, "Fuck you all, I'm sick of this." Asked about what the father would think about the shaving of Y's hair, the mother said she was not thinking about him or what his view would be.

[65] I am at a loss to understand why the mother shaved Y's head unless it was in a moment of blind fury and / or distress resulting from the information revealed by Y's hair analysis. The timing strongly supports a nexus between the two. I simply cannot accept the mother's nonsensical evidence that it was somehow necessary to cut the hair to remedy the perceived problem of tangling hair from the minute amount of re-growth where the sample was taken. The area affected was so small that the father had cause to wonder whether the hair had been taken at all.

[66] Though I quite accept that Y herself, by reason of her age, was unlikely to have been adversely affected by the appearance of her shaven head, the impact upon all those who knew and loved her must have been significant. The mother said she "was shocked because (she) didn't want it to be that short." The maternal grandmother said she thought it "maybe a bit too short." Clearly the father was distressed. As he said, "the Friday before she'd had beautiful long hair; it was shocking." He had felt very unhappy.

[67] The mother's actions in shaving Y's head defy understanding. She acted totally irrationally and without any thought for the impact of her actions upon others.

Other recent injuries

[68] There have been other incidents recently which have resulted in injuries to Y - a red and slightly swollen eye which developed apparently into conjunctivitis; partial thickness burns to the fingers of one hand; and finally bruises on her cheek bone, temple and possibly on the bridge of her nose.

[69] Various explanations have been advanced by the mother for each set of injuries though it is her case that she was not present on any occasion when the harm was sustained. She is only able, therefore, to offer suggestions as to what in all probability happened.

[70] The mother maintains Y's eye problem resulted from her somehow getting L's hair wax in it. The burns were sustained, she can only believe, from Y's hand somehow coming into contact with a very hot radiator pipe. The facial bruising happened, so it is said, in the presence of the maternal grandmother when Y fell on to a plastic toy belonging to L.

[71] It is remarkable that within such a short time period, between 6th and 24th January - some 18 days - there were three separate injuries and that on no occasion did the mother witness what happened. I cannot say I was completely convinced by the grandmother's account of Y falling on the ‘Bob the Builder' toy which both she and the mother described as belonging to 13 year old L. It also struck me as odd that the grandmother initially maintained the bruise was on the left cheek bone when it was actually on the right, and also that she said there was only one bruise - to her cheekbone - when Ms I saw two and possibly three.

[72] The recent injuries are very largely unexplained; such accounts as have been given result in large measure from speculation rather than witnessed incidents. Beyond that it is not possible to venture. If they were accidents - and I cannot conclude to a sufficient degree that they were - then the obvious point is that Y was quite extraordinarily unlucky to suffer three within so short a timeframe.

Immunisations

[73] On 16th January I made an order, by consent, providing for Y to receive the first set of childhood immunisations by 24th January. The mother's evidence, notwithstanding the consensus in mid January is that she "is not comfortable and is worried about" the injections. She maintains she is committed to ensuring that Y has the vaccinations on 25th February which was yesterday, an entire month later than ordered.

[74] I will hear in a few moments now about what happened. If Y had the injections nothing further will be required. If she did not, I will make orders for the implementation of alternative strategies.

Contact

[75] The very last matter for comment is contact as between Y and her father. The current regular and positive arrangements have been achieved only as the result of an almost unprecedented resource commitment on the part of the local authority as well as a stringent framework imposed by me. I have no doubt at all that, left to her own devices, the mother would be preventing Y from having a relationship of any kind with her father. Her feelings of hostility towards him and what she believes he has done are extraordinarily intense. There is nothing seemingly about which she feels more passionately.

[76] Seldom do I see such strength of feeling even in the most bitter of private law disputes. Moreover, the maternal grandmother espouses the mother's cause with vigour. She told me the father had shown, "a total lack of respect for (her daughter) from the beginning of the relationship." She sees him as having done wrong because of his drinking, his viewing of porn, his "use of her (daughter) sexually" and the allegations involving Y which the maternal grandmother believes are a reality.

[77] The maternal grandmother said she would be willing to assist in contact handovers if that "would lessen the risk of Y being lost to the care system."

[78] The unfortunate but very relevant background factor is that L has been denied a relationship of any kind with his father because of the mother's unshakeable belief that she was right and everyone else was wrong about Mr E. In 2004, the judge in the County Court ruled that L should have unsupervised contact with Mr E. At this hearing the mother said she had "never accepted that: (she) knew different.... L's life was being threatened. Mr E was very violent ... he would certainly have hurt L."

[79] Asked whether she would accept my findings if they were contrary to her beliefs, the mother said she was sure she could "handle it" and she is "open to suggestions". She then said, "Nothing else (as an explanation for what she says she saw in October 2012) makes sense in (her) mind."

[80] Only time will tell as to whether the mother is able to Re evaluate her position, adjust her thinking and respond positively to the father. As an outsider, I would only comment that she has much to be apologetic for given the seriousness of her allegations and the wide audience to which they were broadcast. The indications, currently, do not suggest she is truly amenable to such alterations. All the signs are that the mother profoundly believes in her version of history, she derives support from her close relatives and nothing I say is likely to make any difference.

[81] Finally, I should make clear that there is no reason whatever for contact to remain supervised and nothing to prevent overnight staying contact in the interval between this hearing and the next.

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