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Family Law

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15 JAN 2008

CARE PROCEEDINGS/SEXUAL ABUSE: Re M (Sexual Abuse) [2008] EWCA Civ 3

(Court of Appeal; 15 January 2008; Thorpe and Wall LJJ)

When reviewing findings of fact made by a judge in a sexual abuse context, the appeal court must give great weight to those aspects of the case exclusively within the domain of the trial judge, in particular the judicial assessment of witness credibility, but also findings of fact. Although less confident than the judge about the propriety of some of the questions asked in the interview with a child who had made allegations of sexual abuse, in particular about: two leading questions; the use of a strongly directive technique; and the invitation to the child to repeat what had been said to a third person, the court was not prepared to say that the judge had been plainly wrong in accepting the interview as a skilful one. The judge had been entitled to select those aspects of the child's sexual abuse allegations that met the standard set out in Re H (Sexual Abuse: Standard of Proof) [1996] AC 563, and to reject those that did not. It would have been better if the judge had dealt in terms with her assessment of the potential abuser's credibility on the sexual abuse issue, but her failure to do so was not fatal to her conclusion.

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