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Monday, 03 September 2018

Judge raises concerns of social workers' 'direct questioning' of children in sex abuse case

Written by Brian Farmer

A family court judge has raised concerns over the way two children who complained of being sexually abused were questioned by a social worker.

Judge Kambiz Moradifar said the social worker had questioned the youngsters, who are aged seven and six, despite having almost no experience in sex abuse cases and no training in "appropriate means" of questioning children.

Council social services bosses with responsibility for the children had asked Judge Moradifar, who hears cases in Reading, Berkshire, to analyse allegations the children had made about being sexually abused.

But the judge said the evidence was "not sufficiently reliable" to enable him to make findings.

Judge Moradifar has raised concern about the social worker's approach in a ruling published after a private hearing.

He has not identified the council, the social worker or the family involved.

"Whilst I found the social worker to be a reliable witness, I was very concerned about her approach to questioning the children," the judge said.

"Despite having almost no experience in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse, no training in the ... guidelines or otherwise the appropriate means of questioning children, she undertook direct questioning."

The judge added: "This was three days after the first allegation was made. It would be impossible to know how far this may have impacted on the allegations that were made subsequently."

He said "direct questioning" of children by professionals who did not have "appropriate training" could be "catastrophic" to the reliability of evidence and a "highly damaging experience" for the youngsters involved.

Lawyers representing social services bosses asked the judge to make a number of findings about the way the children had been treated by their parents.

They outlined allegations of sexual abuse by one or both parents and allegations about the parents allowing the children to be sexually abused by "unknown males".

The parents denied the sex abuse allegations.

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