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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

20 JUL 2007


(Family Division; Her Honour Judge Cahill QC sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court; 20 July 2007)

As a result of the care the children received when living with their mother the threshold criteria in public law proceedings were found proved and residence was granted to the father. The mother sought contact. The local authority and the children's guardian were opposed to any contact before full and robust assessments of the mother were made by a consultant adult psychiatrist and a psychologist. Reports were ordered by the court.

The consultant forensic psychologist referred throughout her report to abuse the mother suffered at the hands of the father, to the father raping the mother, and that one of the children had been conceived as a result of the rape. These were allegations that mother had made against the father which at an earlier fact-finding hearing the court had found to be untrue. The psychologist appeared to ignore both the fact-finding judgment and the children's guardian's report, which had been sent to her. All her views appeared to be led by her belief that the mother's problems stemmed from abusive treatment by the father, and the mother's own assertions that she had successfully completed treatment in the form of medication and counselling. She had accepted the mother's refusal to disclose her GP records as reasonable. In cross examination she failed to accept that the whole historical evidence upon which she relied had been rejected at a hearing where both the mother and father had given evidence.

When an expert fails to mention and accept a series of findings made at a court hearing it not only makes her evidence unreliable but also raises the question of her status as an expert witness. Findings of fact made by a High Court judge after a full hearing are facts upon which an expert can rely completely. It is not within the role of an expert to decide whether the findings of a judge on the assertions of a parent are to be preferred. A fresh psychologist would be instructed to produce another report. It was not acceptable for the mother to refuse access to her GP records. Any permission could be limited to the experts alone seeing the records. There would be no contact to the mother save indirect contact by way of cards and gifts every three months. If the mother failed to file the fresh psychologist's report before the contact hearing in six months' time, the application for direct contact would be dismissed.

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