MRS JUSTICE PAUFFLEY
|Re P and Q (Children: Care Proceedings: Fact Finding)|
Hannah Markham for the London Borough of Barnet
Ella Draper, the mother, did not appear and was not represented
June Venters QC for the father, Ricky Dearman
Justin Ageros for the children by their guardian
Hearing dates: 17 – 20 February, 3 – 6 and 10 – 12 March 2015
HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT ____________________
Crown Copyright ©
Summary of the significant points made;
16. I am able to state with complete conviction that none of the allegations are true. I am entirely certain that everything Ms Draper, her partner Abraham Christie and the children said about those matters was fabricated.
64. The law in this area is well-known. There is only one standard of proof, namely the simple balance of probabilities. The burden of proof is on the party who makes the allegations: Re B  UKHL 35.
65. In our legal system if a judge finds it more likely than not that something did take place, then it is treated as having taken place. If he finds it more likely than not that it did not take place, then it is treated as not having taken place. He has to find for one side or the other. He is not allowed to sit on the fence.
66. As the then President, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, said in Re T  2FLR 838, "Evidence cannot be evaluated and assessed in separate compartments. A judge in these difficult cases must have regard to the relevance of each piece of evidence to other evidence and to exercise an overview of the totality of the evidence in order to come to the conclusion whether the case put forward by the local authority has been made out to the required standard of proof."
100. To believe that children who demonstrate curiosity about and touch their own, the dog's and their sibling's genital areas must have, or probably have, been sexually abused is plainly ridiculous. It either shows alarming ignorance about normal childish behaviour or, as is much more likely here, wilful determination to distort innocent activities into something sinister and depraved.
105. Even in the presence of Jean Clement Yaohirou, Mr Christie's relationship with the children, at times, was harsh and coercive. He had known their mother by then for about four months, had assumed a quasi parent role and taken it upon himself to enforce discipline.
117. There did not appear to be any emotional connection with what they were saying except that they seemed energised.
118. The other significant deduction is that material supplied by P relating to the physical abuse of both children by Mr Christie in order to get them to talk should alert any sensible observer to the potential for false reporting.
121. In relation to both children, Dr Hodes concluded there were physical signs which supported the children's allegations of physical and sexual abuse.
124. In relation to Q, Dr Hodes "confirms the physical findings of a scar in the anus from a healed fissure, consistent with inflicted injury from a blunt penetrating force that he has alleged."
126. In her concluding "Summary", Dr Hodes states that both children have physical signs of sexual abuse that support their allegations; they have symptoms of post traumatic stress; and it is her opinion "the extensive and detailed accounts given by both children, repeated to different professionals, contain details of sexual acts that such young children would need to have had some sort of direct experience (sic)."
130. Dr Hodes' very last report – of 5 February 2015 – was written in response to written questions. She states that "the overall situation is such that it is my view that the allegations / accounts need to be taken very seriously despite the confusing picture." Dr Hodes' view is that whilst it is a matter for the court to decide, she recommends "a series of more detailed observations and assessments over a longer period of time by a psychiatrist or psychotherapist with a particular interest and expertise in child maltreatment including sexual abuse."
137. I was perturbed that Dr Hodes was prepared to conclude and then confirm the presence of fissures when subsequent peer review resulted in them being described as a normal variant. Similarly, I found it curious that even although the physical signs had reduced in number to a single finding of RAD in P, nonetheless Dr Hodes adhered to her view saying that lubrication was used which "added to the probability of abuse."
138. When confronted, in cross examination, with the evidence about Ms Draper's treatment of the children with enemas, Dr Hodes did not pause before saying, "No, it does not affect my conclusions. It's another possible cause of trauma."
139. I was bemused by Dr Hodes' suggestion of further psychiatric or psychotherapeutic intervention when she knew that Dr Clare Sturge – one of the leading and most experienced child and adolescent psychiatrists in the country – had already supplied two reports, the first arising out of her assessment of the children after interview.
146. Q responded immediately to Dr Sturge's question as to whether he knew why she was seeing him. He said, "cos Abraham said something I never did and he forced me to say it, he was really mean to us." Abraham had accused him of touching his sister in the private parts which he "never, ever did." And he forced them to say their Dad touches them. Abraham had also forced them to say they kill babies. Q said he had wanted Abraham to stop hitting him, "I was scared for him to hit me." At that Q's face creased up and he began to cry quietly. "He kept asking us questions again, and again and again." His mother had started to believe him. Q said, "It upsetted me" and he became even more distressed.
149. Q was distressed again when talking about having to stand when cold water was poured on him – "(dressed) just in our pants – he thought we was lying – when I cried and said my Mum never touched us, he said, 'If you're crying you're lying.'" By then, according to Dr Sturge, Q was crying in a very distressed way.
151. It seemed to me that on 17 September P in particular was relieved to be unburdening herself and revealing the truth. Some of the ongoing and quite complex processes in Q's mind were manifest. At the outset, it seemed as though he was still confused but gradually he, too, became clear in saying he had been forced to make untrue claims. There was none of the frantic scramble to provide answers to questions as in the earlier interviews. Both children were a great deal calmer.
156. I have no doubt but that the physical injuries described by the children as having been inflicted by Abraham Christie were, indeed, caused by him. I reject as baseless Ms Draper's suggestion that instead Mr Dearman was responsible. A straightforward conclusion given that neither child had seen him for about three months at the time of Dr Hodes' examination and subsequent police photography. Those photographs clearly show recent rather than healed injuries.
158. It is hard to imagine how any parent could deliberately expose a child to an illegal drug. But it may have been part of Mr Christie's and Ms Draper's plan so as to gain the children's compliance. I need hardly say now profoundly damaging it was to administer illegal drugs to a child.
159. The posting of film clips featuring the children speaking about sexual matters has exposed P and Q to the potential for very serious embarrassment and humiliation in the years ahead maybe, even, throughout the whole of the rest of their lives. Doubtless they will grow and develop so that their visual appearances will alter. But it may be difficult to shield them from unwelcome interest and reputational damage unless radical steps to divert attention are taken.
161. The individuals who have watched online film clips, read online articles and believed in the allegations would do well to reflect that 'things may not be what they seem' and that it is all too easy to be duped on the basis of partial information. There are many campaigning people, sadly, who derive satisfaction from spreading their own poisonous version of history irrespective of whether it is true or not.
• The children's false stories came about as the result of relentless emotional and psychological pressure as well as significant physical abuse. Torture is the most accurate way to describe what was done by Mr Christie in collaboration with Ms Draper.
(That is the children’s Russian mother & her Irish boyfriend!)