PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.
When a mother was informed that an allegation of serious sexual abuse had been made regarding her former husband, she went to court to have his rights to contact with their children restricted.
The complaint against the man was made to the local authority by an adult woman who alleged that he had abused her over a period of years when she was a child. She provided the information anonymously and it was accepted that there were valid medical reasons why she should not have to give open evidence against the man. The local authority therefore refused to disclose details of the allegations or to identify its informant.
The father of the children went to court seeking disclosure of the information, but this was refused. He appealed, arguing that details of the allegations made against him could be disclosed without the woman who made them having to appear in person.
The legal arguments centred on whether it was proportionate (in terms of the relative impact on their respective human rights) for the identity and evidence of the complainant not to be disclosed given the enormity of the consequences of the allegations for the father.
The Court of Appeal decided that it would take truly exceptional circumstances to warrant a refusal to disclose the relevant evidence to the father and the court-appointed guardian of the children.
The court will always act in what it perceives to be the best interests of children in such cases. However, there is a presumption that a person faced with accusations does have the right to know what they are and to see the evidence.
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