The recent case of H. v City of Swansea and Others heard in the Court of Appeal on 2nd March 2011 illustrates the importance of narrowing the list of abusers where physical abuse is alleged by a local authority proposing to take child protection measures under the Children Act 1989.
In this case, bruises had been discovered on a one-year-old child and the list of persons who could have caused them were the mother, her partner and another individual. The local authority applied for disclosure of mobile phone text messages passing between the mother and her partner. In these messages, the mother expressed surprise and anger that her child had been bruised. The judge reduced the list of persons who could have abused the child to three, the mother, the boyfriend and the other individual, in the course of a fact-finding hearing.
The mother appealed the judge’s decision to include her in the list of perpetrators. The Court of Appeal decided that the judge was wrong to do so.
Given that the text messages were unlikely to be a false trail of evidence planted by the mother ( she had no idea the local authority would ask for them) and that the boyfriend admitted she had become angry when she discovered her child had been hurt and later moved out of the house she shared with the boyfriend, even though she had lied briefly about whether her relationship with the boyfriend was continuing (before she decided to move out) these untruths did not justify her inclusion in the list of persons who could have harmed her child and so the appeal succeeded.