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(Family Division; Holman J; 14 March 2008)
Exonerating both parents from the charge of sexual abuse of the child, because there was insufficient evidence that any sexual abuse had occurred at any time, the judge suggested that the new guidance from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which was more cautious and conservative as to the reliability of physical signs as evidence of abuse, was valuable. The judge stressed, as did the guidance, the very great importance of including every aspect of a case in any assessment. Very important indeed was the account of the child, considered, of course, in an age appropriate way; an express denial was no less an account than was a positive account of abuse. It was also very important to take fully into account the account and demeanour of the parents and an assessment of the family circumstances and general quality of the parenting. The medical assessment of physical signs of sexual abuse had a considerably subjective element, and unless there was clearly diagnostic evidence of abuse, such as semen, purely medical assessments and opinions should not be allowed to predominate.
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