Broxtowe child sexual abuse re “F” (A Minor) and Others, Supreme Court 18th July 1988

This was an appeal on behalf of the abused children that Nottinghamshire County Council should not give a copy of the transcript to the Police. The appeal was dismissed.

Trigger Warning

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.  National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups. Other useful sites are One in Four [C]  and Havoca [D]. Useful post on Triggers [E]  from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog. Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G]  and Meditation [H] may be useful. Also see Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma*  [J]

Redaction

Some reports have had victims names redacted and some assault details redacted.

This is a difficult balance-  normally I would think that  I should not “censor” details but on consultation with various people I have taken the decision to redact. This is mainly to protect victims, their friends and relatives from unnecessary detail and to stop the gratification of those who seek salacious details.

In addition to the obvious “victims redaction” I have thus “assault redacted” across most of the spectrum of abuse. This may obscure sometimes the legal reason for the appeal, but should make no large difference to the vital information for researchers that these documents contain. That information is mainly names of the perpetrators, past addresses, the actual charges the perpetrators faced – on which newspapers are pathetically inaccurate and this information enables the links between people and places and abuse at various times to be ascertained.

If you think that the balance is not correct or that a particular redaction needs reconsideration, please say.

This particular appeal is not redacted  by this blog.

Cathy Fox Blog Index and Timeline of Court Appeals and Documentation [2]

[1988] EWCA Civ J0718-3

88/0623

QB/862/88

No. 1987 (WG) 2162

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE

(COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

(MRS JUSTICE BOOTH)

Royal Courts of Justice

Monday, 18th July , 1988 .
Before:

The President

(Sir Stephen Brown)

Lord Justice Neill

and

Lord Justice Taylor

In re “F” (A Minor) and Others

(Transcript of the Shorthand Notes of the Association of Official
Shorthandwriters Ltd., Room 392, Royal Courts of Justice, and 2 New Square,
Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3RU.)

MR. C. GIBBONS (instructed by Messrs. Campion Worsley, Nottingham) appeared
on behalf of the Appellants (Fifth and Sixth Defendants).

MR. P. GALLAGHER (instructed by Messrs. Robert & Sale, Ilkeston) appeared
on behalf of the Appellant (Second Defendant).

MISS J. HALL (instructed by Messrs. Lloyd Tucker, Nottingham) appeared on
behalf of the Appellant (Tenth Defendant).

MR. C. BUTLER (instructed by the Chief Executive and County Solicitor,
Nottingham) appeared on behalf of the Respondent (Plaintiff).

MR. P. JOYCE (instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service, Nottingham)
appeared on behalf of the Intervening Party.

MR. A. LEVY (instructed by the Official Solicitor) appeared as Amicus
Curiae.

JUDGMENT

(As approved by the Judge )

THE PRESIDENT : On 5th July 1988, Mrs Justice Booth gave judgment in
wardship proceedings at Nottingham. The proceedings had been commenced and
pursued by the Nottinghamshire County Council in relation to 17 children
who were alleged to be at risk having regard to alleged abuse of a grave
character perpetrated upon them by no less than 15 adults.

The adults and the children were all members of what may be described as an
extended family and its associates. The nature of the treatment of these
children as alleged by the plaintiff authority was horrifying in the
extreme. It was alleged that over a considerable period of time these
children of varying ages had been subjected to gross sexual abuse at the
hands of adults, sometimes at parties where they were subjected to full
intercourse in the presence of a number of adults and other children.

There were instances, which the judge heard of and accepted, where
practices, which can only be described as satanic, to use her words, had
been indulged in. A sheep was killed and its blood was drunk by those
present. Children were made to drink it. On one occasion the allegation at
such a party, if that be the right term for it, involved one young child’s
wrist being cut with a Stanley knife, some of the blood from his wrist
being put into a silver cup and then the children made to drink it.

I cite those facts to indicate the extreme gravity of the nature of abuse
alleged in these wardship proceedings.

Not surprisingly, the county council sought care orders under section 7 of
the Family Law Reform Act 1969 in relation to all the children with the
ultimate objective that they should all be adopted into new permanent
families.

The learned judge heard oral evidence adduced by the county council over a
period of six working days. Evidence both oral together with a very large
volume of documentary evidence was adduced before her. At the end of the
case presented by the local authority, when in fact all but one of its
witnesses had been called with two exceptions, the parents of the various
children declined to give evidence themselves. Then all the defendants, of
whom there were 15, submitted to the application being granted, that is to
say, to the making of care orders in favour of the local authority with a
view to the adoption by other families of every one of these 17 children.

The learned judge gave a full judgment of which this court now has a
transcript. It extends to some 33 pages. At the end of the hearing the
county council indicated that it desired to be in a position to place
before the chief constable and the Crown Prosecution Service the matters
which had been raised before the wardship court, including, in particular,
a transcript of her Ladyship’s judgment.

The learned judge indicated to counsel for the plaintiff authority that in
her view such an application should properly be made on behalf of the chief
constable, and thus it came
about that counsel was instructed on behalf of the chief constable to
intervene and to make an application that the transcript of her Ladyship’s
judgment, together with all the documents and other information presented
to the court in the case including the documents and other relevant
information in the possession of the local authority, should be made
available to the chief constable, the appropriate officers under his
command, and to the Crown Prosecution Service.

That application was resisted by a number of the defendants. The submission
was made that because wardship proceedings were held in private and that it
was an important feature of such proceedings that there should be
conditions in which complete frankness could be encouraged on the part of
witnesses it would be inappropriate and indeed wrong for the learned judge
to grant the application.

The learned judge heard argument about it. This court has a transcript of
the submissions made by counsel and the short extempore judgment which was
delivered by the learned judge. She said: “This is a wholly exceptional
case. In the normal course of events, the wardship court guards, and guards
jealously, the information that is placed before it. It is wholly
confidential, and that I made clear at the beginning of this hearing when I
refused a suggestion that a Police Officer should attend to hear the
evidence.”

I pause there to interpolate that at the outset of the proceedings a
suggestion had been made that a police officer
should be allowed to sit in on the hearing and to hear the evidence given
in the wardship proceedings. The learned judge declined on the grounds that
it would be inappropriate and would conflict with the interests of all
concerned in the proceedings that frankness should be encouraged.

The learned judge continued: “This is, as I have already said, an extremely
serious case. It involves the gravest possible abuse not only of the
children who are wards of this court, but in all probability other children
who are outside the protection of this court. I have to weigh the
preservation of confidentiality and the interests of the wards with whom I
am dealing, against the public interest that other children too are
entitled to as much protection as these wards receive, and that it is in
the public interest that those who are found guilty of abuse should be
brought to book, and that nothing should be put in the way of the course of
justice in that respect.

“In the circumstances of this case only two of the parents have elected to
give evidence, making any admissions at all.”She then named them. “They
have given evidence to the police already. All the other parents have
denied their involvement in abusing the children, and I have made findings
in which I have rejected the assertions made by the parents. They have in
their affidavits said nothing which seems to me to prejudice their position
if the Police are allowed access to those affidavits.

“On the wider view of things, I take the view that the greater public
interest in the circumstances of this case is that now the Police should
have at their disposal all the documents and all the information that has
been before this court in order that it may take such steps as may be
necessary to protect other children outside this wardship court.

“In the circumstances of this case—it is not a general rule for all time—I
propose to give leave to the Local Authority to disclose to the Criminal
Prosecution Service not only a transcript of my judgment but also all the
documents and information in their possession relating to the wards of
court and these wardship proceedings.”She then made the order.

Counsel on behalf of two of the defendants immediately applied for a stay
of execution and for leave to appeal to this court. Her Ladyship granted
leave to appeal and granted a stay of execution for seven days in order
that the appeal could be pursued.

Mr. Gibbons has appeared on behalf of two of the defendants and today other
counsel have appeared on behalf of two other defendants to whom the court
has today granted leave to appeal. All have taken the same line and have
made similar submissions upon this appeal. This court has also been
assisted at the hearing of this appeal by Mr. Levy who appears as Amicus
Curiae instructed by the Official Solicitor. The court is grateful to him
for his assistance.

The submission made by Mr. Gibbons and the other counsel for the appellants
who adopted his arguments is that it is against the public interest and
therefore against public policy for material heard in the privacy of a
court hearing wardship proceedings in private to be disclosed to the police
or to the Crown Prosecution Service. It would inhibit, he submits,
frankness on the part of those concerned in such wardship proceedings, not
only on this occasion but in the future and on the grounds of public policy
therefore it is wrong. He went so far as to submit that the learned judge
erred in the exercise of her discretion in entertaining and granting the
application made by the chief constable.

Mr. Levy, on behalf of the Official Solicitor, has submitted to the court
that the authorities show that the court in wardship proceedings has an
unfettered discretion to allow the publication of material before it to
other relevant and interested parties. It is a discretion which should be
exercised by carrying out a balancing exercise, and that in carrying out
that exercise the interests of the wards are one of the important interests
to be taken into consideration. But it is also important that considerable
weight should be given to the public policy of encouraging frankness.

However, he said the “wall of silence” is not impenetrable; there is a
public interest in ensuring that relevant evidence is not withheld by one
branch of the judicature from another branch of the judicature. There is of
course a public interest in seeing that those apparently guilty of criminal
behaviour should be brought to justice. There is also, of course, a public
interest in ensuring that others who might be exposed to risk should be
protected. This might be achieved by instituting criminal proceedings
against those who might be in a position to perpetrate yet further abuse of
the kind before the court.

Mr. Levy referred in particular to the case of * In re R. (M.J.) (A Minor)
(Publication of Transcript * ) (1975) Fam. 89 . In that case the learned
judge considered an application by a trustee in bankruptcy to obtain a
transcript of evidence given in wardship and adoption proceedings. The
facts were very different from the facts of the case now before this court,
but Mr. Justice Rees considered the principles which should guide a court
when considering an application to disclose material heard in the wardship
proceedings to third parties.

At page 96 the learned judge said: “A further question was raised in the
argument before me, namely, as to whether a court had the power to give
leave for the publication of information relating to wardship or adoption
cases heard in private having regard to the provisions of section 12 of the
Administration of Justice Act 1960. It was suggested that the effect of the
section was that the publication of information in those cases (as well as
the others specified in the section) was itself a contempt of court and
that the statute contains no provision enabling a judge to permit
publication.

The contrary argument was that under the old law it was well established
that a publication authorised by order of the court did not constitute a
contempt and that section 12 could not have intended such a result without
express words. It is clear in my view that the old law did provide that a
publication of information about cases lawfully heard in camera did not
amount to contempt if done by leave of the court. It will be sufficient to
cite the words of Wynn-Parry J. in * De Beaujeu’s Application * [1949] Ch.
230, 235 as a modern statement of the law as it stood up to 1960.
Wynn-Parry J. said: ‘In my judgment, in proceedings involving wards of
court, the judge has a complete discretion to allow or forbid publication
of the proceedings or any order made therein. In the absence of any special
direction, I am of opinion that, prima facie, it would be a contempt of
court to publish an account of proceedings relating to an infant conducted
in chambers without the express permission of the judge who heard the case.’

“No case has been cited to me which decides that a judge has no power to
give leave to publish information in cases held in private. The practice of
judges in wardship cases has frequently been to authorise publications of
details to the press and in public when to do so has been to the interest
of the ward, e.g., to enable a missing ward to be traced. In these
circumstances I find it impossible to regard section 12 of the
Administration of Justice Act 1960 as making such a
radical change in the law and practice relating to contempt as to impose an
irremovable ban upon publication of information in all circumstances
without using express words to do so.”

I end the quotation at that point, and I add that this statement of the
position has since been endorsed by this court in the case of * In re F.
(orse. A.) (A Minor) (Publication of Information * ) (1977) Fam. 58 .

At page 97 of * In re R. (M.J.) (A Minor * ) Mr. Justice Rees analysed the
arguments in favour of ordering disclosure of information adduced in the
course of the wardship proceedings to the trustee in bankruptcy in that
case. At letter G he said: “The law envisages that the confidentiality of
such proceedings in private may be breached by according to a judge the
power to permit disclosure. This power must plainly be exercisable in cases
for example where evidence of a criminal offence comes to light or where
perjury occurs at the hearing. Therefore the discretion must be exercised
by balancing in the scales all relevant factors and in the present case the
scales should come down in favour of disclosure.”

He then cited the considerations weighing against granting the application
in that case. At page 98D he said: “My conclusions are these. A judge
dealing with such an application has an unfettered discretion to grant or
to refuse it. He will place the interest of the minor in the forefront of
his considerations. He will also give considerable weight to the public
interest in ensuring that frankness shall
prevail in such proceedings by preserving confidentiality. The public
interest in upholding the law of the land by providing relevant evidence
for use in other legitimate proceedings must also be considered together
with all the circumstances of the case. I do not believe that it would be
either possible or profitable to attempt to lay down any general principles
governing the exercise of this discretion beyond what I have attempted to
state above. This approach to the problem may well justify the view stated
in * Practice Note (Infants: Transcript * ) [1972] 1 W.L.R. 443 that
persons who are not parties to the proceedings are not likely to obtain a
transcript ‘save in special circumstances’ and, of course, only by leave of
the judge concerned.”

In the particular case before him he said: “I am driven to the conclusion
that in all the circumstances of the present case this application should
be granted.”

Following that decision Mrs Justice Booth herself considered such an
application in the wardship case of * In re S. (Minors) ( Wardship: Police
Investigation * ) [1987] Fam. 199 . That was a case in which allegations
of sexual abuse had been made and the Commissioner of Police applied for
leave to permit disclosure to the police of the records and video
recordings made by the clinic which had examined and treated the children
in question, and for leave to interview the wards and, if necessary, to
subject them to further medical investigation. He also applied for leave to
inspect the case records of the local authority.

The learned judge held: “That the court had an unfettered discretion to
grant leave for disclosure and in exercising that discretion the court had
to balance the interests of the wards against the public interest which
required that the police should not be obstructed in pursuing criminal
investigations; that in all but the most exceptional circumstances the
public interest in protecting not only the wards but other children from
the perpetrators of crime by providing evidence for use in criminal
proceedings would outweigh the interests of the individual ward; and that
in all the circumstances the court would grant leave for the disclosure to
the police of the medical records and video recordings made by the hospital
and would grant leave to the police to interview the wards and, if
necessary, subject the wards to a further medical examination.”

I should say that in the present case before the hearing took place before
Mrs Justice Booth, Mr. Justice Wood had granted leave for the children
involved to be interviewed by the police.

It seems to me in this case that the principles to be followed are those
stated by Mr. Justice Rees in the case of * In re R * . It is a matter for
the judge’s discretion and the learned judge hearing the wardship summons
has an unfettered discretion. In exercising that discretion the judge must
balance the various interests as stated by Mr. Justice Rees
and which were followed, I venture to suggest, * In re S * by Mrs Justice
Booth herself.

In this case the appellants are parents and others associated with the
families some of whom are in jeopardy of criminal proceedings. In certain
instances criminal proceedings have actually been commenced against them.
In the case of the first two appellants there are in existence as yet no
criminal proceedings, but plainly all are anxious, lest they should be
prejudiced by anything which has come to light in the course of the wardship
proceedings.

The learned judge in this instance clearly had in mind the importance of
ensuring so far as possible frankness on the part of all those concerned in
wardship proceedings, but she also had in mind the importance of making it
possible for those who had apparently committed criminal offences to be
investigated properly by the responsible authorities so that they might be
brought to justice and so that other children who she said were outside the
protection of the court might be protected.

She went on to say: “I have to weigh the preservation of confidentiality
and the interests of the wards with whom I am dealing, against the public
interest that other children too are entitled to as much protection as
these wards receive, and that it is in the public interest that those who
are found guilty of abuse should be brought to book, and that nothing
should be put in the way of the course of justice in that respect.”

In my judgment, the learned judge exercised her discretion upon proper
principles. In the light of the well-known leading case of * G -v- G * (1985)
1 W.L.R. 647 there is a limit to the way in which an attack can be made
upon the decision of a judge exercising his or her discretion. In my
judgment, it has not been shown that this judge exercised her discretion
upon this issue in any way which could be criticised as being wrong.

It is clearly a matter of public interest and importance that those who
were or may have been responsible for the abuses which are detailed in the
33-page judgment of the judge should be brought to justice and should be
prevented from behaving similarly with others who were not the subject of
these particular proceedings.

In my judgment, there is no basis for the criticisms which have been made
in relation to the exercise by this judge of her discretion in this matter
and I would, therefore, dismiss the appeal.

I should add that the Order which the learned judge made appears to have
been hurriedly drawn up. It has certain misprints in it, but for the
avoidance of doubt I would amend the draft as it at present appears to
read: “IT IS ORDERED THAT the Nottinghamshire County Council have leave to
disclose to the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire and such police officers
as may be authorised by him to act on his behalf and  to the Crown Prosecution Service of (a) a transcript of the judgment in this matter; and (b) all of the documents and information in their possession relating to the Wards of Court and these Wardship proceedings.”

LORD JUSTICE NEILL : I agree.

LORD JUSTICE TAYLOR : I agree.

(The appeal was dismissed. Nottinghamshire County Council’s costs was
ordered to be paid from the legal aid fund. )

Links

[2] 2015 Cathy Fox Blog Timeline of Court Appeals and Documentation https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/a-timeline-of-court-and-ewca-documentation-on-cathy-fox-blog/

[A] Sanctuary for the Abused http://abusesanctuary.blogspot.co.uk/2006/07/for-survivors-coping-with-triggers-if.html

[B] NAPAC http://www.napac.org.uk/

[C] One in Four http://www.oneinfour.org.uk/

[D] Havoca http://www.havoca.org/HAVOCA_home.htm

[E] SurvivorsJustice Triggers post http://survivorsjustice.com/2014/02/26/triggers-what-are-they-and-how-do-we-work-through-them/

[F] SurvivorsJustice Blog http://survivorsjustice.com/

[G] Jim Hopper Mindfulness http://www.jimhopper.com/mindfulness/

[H] Jim Hopper Meditation http://www.jimhopper.com/mindfulness/#cultivate

[J] 2016 Jan 5 Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma* https://hwaairfan.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/an-indigenous-australian-approach-to-healing-trauma/

This is all written in good faith but if there is anything that needs to be corrected please email cathyfox@bigfoot.com

cathyfox the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – Edmund Burke

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the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free...
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One Response to Broxtowe child sexual abuse re “F” (A Minor) and Others, Supreme Court 18th July 1988

  1. Pingback: An Index and Timeline of Court & Court of Appeal, EWCA and Scottish Documents on Cathy Fox Blog | cathy fox blog

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