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CtL, CmL, TLP, ARP, MM and JB (Children) (Fact Finding: Protection From Sexual Harm), Re [2013] EWHC 2133 (Fam)

Finding of fact hearing in care proceedings concerning six children of three different mothers; complex web of familial abuse; enmeshed and dependent family members lacking ability to protect the children from predatory members of the family.

This complex finding of fact hearing concerned six children, involving three different mothers, two fathers and the maternal grandmother. The allegations were of a web of abuse within the family. The catalyst for the proceedings had been the arrest and subsequent conviction of the maternal step-grandfather of possession of indecent images of children. In addition, the mother of one of the children had given an account to the police that she had been forced to sexually abuse her son aged 5 years. In total there were five inter-related care cases with links between them that meant it was appropriate to hear them all together.

The issues were the extent of any inappropriate sexual behaviour as between the family members and outsiders, the scale of domestic violence between some of the parents, and the proper inferences to be drawn about the future risk to the children.

The court examined the history of the family and the various factual issues and found that the step grandfather represented an unquantifiable sexual risk to any child, not only as a result of his conviction, but also because of allegations of actual abuse made against him, which demonstrated the culture within the home. The grandmother was either blind to or accepting of her husband's sexual deviance and had known about it for a very long time. The court was convinced that she was wholly incapable of maintaining appropriate sexual boundaries or of ensuring the safety of any child against the risk of sexual exploitation. Moreover, she had failed to put any real or emotional distance between herself and her husband in the two years since his arrest. She continued to act as his carer and shared a house with him.

The other family members continued to be strongly attached to the grandmother, and were enmeshed. That led to the conclusion that the mothers of the children could not be relied upon to protect the children.

In relation to one of the grandmother's sons, he represented a clear risk of physical danger as a result of his temper, which had been shown during the hearing when he had verbally abused the judge. Others within the family did not seem to accept the risks he posed.

Findings were also made in respect of individuals connected to the family, who were vulnerable to mistreatment by predatory individuals.

The court went onto consider welfare issues, and refused applications for further assessments on the basis that there were already extremely thorough assessments. The case was adjourned in relation to some of the children in order for the assessments which were necessary in relation to the children's placement needs to be completed.

Summary by Jacqui Thomas, barrister, 37 Park Square Chambers
___________________________

Neutral Citation Number: [2013] EWHC 2133 (Fam)
Case No: FC11C00122; FC11C00123; FC12C00009

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
FAMILY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Date: 01/03/2013

Before :

MRS JUSTICE PAUFFLEY
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Re CtL, CmL, TLP, ARP, MM and JB (Children)(Fact finding: Protection from Sexual Harm)
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Alistair Perkins for the local authority, the London Borough of Sutton
Pauline Troy
for AP, the mother of CtL and CmL
Maria-Amalia Walker for GL, the father of CtL and CmL
Kay Halkyard for CH, the mother of TLP and ARP
Alison Moore for RP, the father of TLP and ARP
Roisin Magee for RC, the maternal grandmother of CtL, CmL, TLP and ARP
Sylvester McIlwain for KK, the mother of MM and JB
Kazi Ali for the Children's Guardian, Karen Gorbutt

Hearing dates: 11th – 27th February 2013
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Judgment 
This judgment is consists of 178 paragraphs.  The judge hereby gives leave for it to be reported.

The judgment is being distributed on the strict understanding that in any report no person other than the advocates or the solicitors instructing them (and other persons identified by name in the judgment itself) may be identified by name or location and that in particular the anonymity of the children and the adult members of their family must be strictly preserved.

Mrs Justice Pauffley :
Introduction

1. The purpose of this three week hearing has been to consider whether and if so how the threshold criteria have been established in relation to the six subject children and also, insofar as possible, to make final welfare decisions.

2. All the children are currently in the interim care of the local authority because of fears that within their families of origin they were not being and would not be protected from the risk of sexual or emotional harm.

3. The November 2011 catalyst for the launch of proceedings in relation to three of the children was information provided to the local authority by the Metropolitan Police relating to the discovery of indecent images of children stored / retained upon a computer seized from the home of the maternal grandmother RC and her husband SC. He was subsequently charged with and pleaded guilty to possession of 152 such images (between Levels I and V) and sentenced to 8 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

4. The reason why applications for a care order was begun in relation to another of the children is that in February 2012, their mother gave an account to the police of amongst other things having been abducted, blackmailed and forced to commit an act of sexual abuse upon her son, then aged almost five. In November 2012, arising out of what she had told the police, she accepted a caution for non penetrative sexual activity upon a child.

5. Early last year, there were three extant sets of proceedings involving four children. Since then, two further children have been born. Now there are five inter-related care cases, listed and tried together because of the irrefutable links between them.

6. The primary emphasis has been to consider the substantial histories and prevailing cultures within the C / P family, the extent to which there has been inappropriate sexual behaviour as between family members and outsiders, the scale of domestic violence between some of the parents and the proper inferences to be drawn about future risk to children given what is established about events in the past.

7. Some elements of the history are plain and well demonstrated. Other parts are less easy to pin point. The interconnections between family members and others, the times when they have lived in the home of RC and her husband as well as the extent of sexual activity between RC's sons and others are all key elements in the fact finding process.

8. Some of the individuals against whom the local authority seeks serious findings, notably JP (one of RC's sons and the brother of RP), LM (the father of MM and former partner of KK), as well as BB, (the father of JB and current partner of KK) have played no part in the court process. That is not to say they are unaware of the proceedings or of the local authority's intentions. At the beginning of the hearing, I expressed satisfaction as to service, that they know of this fixture and by their inaction clearly demonstrate they have no wish to participate.

CtL and CmL – brief history

9. I turn then to the brief histories of the six children and take first, CtL and CmL. The older, a girl, was born in May 2006 so she is 6 years old. Her younger brother is 3; he was born in June 2009. Their mother is AP (formerly known as AC) who is 24 years old, born in August 1988, the only daughter of RC. She was 17 when CtL was born.

10. AP lived in the C household from 1998 when her mother began a relationship with SC. He moved into their home in Surrey. AP has two brothers, one older the other younger than her: JP born in July 1987 and RP born in October 1989. They also spent appreciable parts of their childhoods living in the C household.

11. CtL's and CmL's father is GL, aged 25; he was born in February 1998. He met AP in January 2005 and began to live with her in August that year when he moved into the C family home. AP was just 17 years old. In September 2006, AP and GL moved into their own flat but separated in about October 2007 when GL moved to live in Cambridge. AP then returned with CtL to the C family home. The relationship between AP and GL was rekindled when he returned to the London area in May 2008; he moved back to live with AP and CtL at the C family home in August that year. AP and GL separated for the final time in August 2009.

12. AP continued to live in the C family home with CtL and CmL until care proceedings were begun in November 2011.

13. In November 2010, GL began a relationship with his current partner, SB. They have lived together in Northamptonshire since December that year.

14. AP has also had another relationship, with AB, since about April 2011. AB is an old friend (maybe a cousin) of CH, AP's brother's partner. Most recently, AP and AB have been living together in the Midlands but have decided they do not have a future together not least because of the stress of these proceedings and AP's wish to prioritise her attempt to be reunified with the children.

15. Initially after proceedings were begun, interim supervision orders were made in relation to CtL and CmL on the basis of a written agreement. The essence of it was that AP and the children would live away from and have no contact with RC, SC, JP and RP. AP was not to tell her family members where she and the children would be living. Her then partner, AB, was to be assessed and the children would continue to have weekend staying contact with their father GL and his partner SB.

16. In February 2012, as the result of information received from CtL's school teachers, the local authority applied successfully to Parker J for interim care orders because of alleged serious breaches of the written agreement. Parker J pronounced herself satisfied, arising out of what CtL had told staff at the school and her then social worker, that the children had been taken to the C home and also into unauthorised contact with AB. The children went to live with foster parents on 2nd March 2012.

17. In early June last year, AP moved to Birmingham with AB. She did so on the basis that travelling to the South London area to see the children would present her with little difficulty. She told Mr Dawkins, the then allocated social worker, that "it would be fine; the coach journey between Birmingham and Victoria was affordable." The arrangement is and has been that AP will arrive from Birmingham on a Monday, stay overnight at the C family home until Thursday morning and return to Birmingham after contact with the children.

TLP and ALP – brief history
18. TLP and ARP are the children of CH and RP. TLP is 19 months old. He was born in July 2011. His brother, ARP, is a six month old baby born in August last year. RC, of course, is the maternal grandmother of both children. CH who was born in August 1989 began her relationship with RP in October 2010. They met on Facebook, a social networking site. They were living together initially in Margate and then at addresses in South London. They were at the C family home from 10th February until 10th March 2011 when CH was able to secure Bed and Breakfast accommodation. From there they went to a rented home where, in June 2011, they were joined by AB, CH's old friend.

19. All three moved into the C family home in August 2011 when TLP was only a few weeks old. When the care proceedings were begun in November 2011, the agreement, pursuant to court order, was that CH and TLP would live independently of RP, SC and RC. She would be responsible for supervising RP's contact with TLP.

20. On 18th January 2012, TLP was made the subject of an interim care order and placed with foster parents following upon a serious assault by RP upon CH. She was ambivalent at best as to whether she could remain separate from RP, reluctant to cooperate with the police in pursuing the assault charge against him and resistant to signing a written agreement with the local authority so as to protect and prevent contact between TLP, RP and members of the C household.

21. Whatever the state of the relationship between CH and RP in the immediate aftermath of TLP's reception into care, they were reconciled by March 2012. In April last year they were living together in Ramsgate, near CH's family. There was then a substantial period when neither parent had contact with TLP, as the mother explained at the time because of medical reasons surrounding her pregnancy.

22. Four days after ARP's birth, CH and he went to live with foster parents and remained there pursuant to orders made by Parker J on 14th September 2012. The foundation upon which the judge was prepared to leave CH and ARP together was the evidence given as to a combined resolve on the part of CH and RP to separate permanently; and also that the links between CH and the C family would be severed. It should also be noted that it was the guardian's recommendation, notwithstanding the exceptionally worrying history, that CH ought to be given the chance to remain with ARP in the foster home.

23. During late September and throughout October last year it became apparent that CH was in contact with both RP and RC. There were strong suspicions that when she absented herself from the foster home CH was visiting the C's home and in late October she admitted having developed a strong relationship with RC whom she had met after contact with TLP.

24. On 7th November 2012, following a hearing in the Luton County Court, ARP was separated from his mother pursuant to Parker J's order. ARP has remained in the foster home where he has lived since he was born. CH has returned to live in the C household. She and RP, supported by RC, say their relationship is a Platonic one and that the only reason they are occupying the same home is because the local authority has failed to provide CH with her own independent accommodation.

Short history – MM and JB
25. The short history for the remaining two children, MM and JB is this. Their mother is KK who is 24 years old. MM's father is LM. KK and AP were friends who met at school. KK had a relationship with RP which lasted either for about three weeks or six months in 2009 / 2010. The essential nature and duration of her more recent relationship with JP, his brother, has been an issue of considerable controversy at this hearing.

26. MM has been in care since 1st February 2012, when his mother was arrested for committing a sexual act upon him. He has not had contact with her because it is the social worker's view arising not just from what he has said but also from his potent body language that MM does not want to see her.

27. As the result of decisions taken by Parker J on 10th and 18th April as well as 23rd May 2012, the local authority has permission to withhold contact between MM and his mother. On 20th July 2012, Parker J resolved that any application by KK for a parenting assessment should await the outcome of this hearing.

28. Currently KK is in a relationship with BB. Their son, JB was born in September 2012 so that he is just five months old. He was made the subject of an interim care order and placed with foster parents on 2nd October last year.

29. Both LM and BB, according to the local authority, have inflicted very serious physical violence upon KK and others. They represent, so it is said, a significant risk of physical harm to any adult with whom they live. BB has a long history of violence including 9 separate incidents involving family members since 2007 as well as criminal convictions for assault and battery.

The essential background of the P / C families
30. The chronology as it applies to the P / C families provides a framework for wider consideration. From an early age, RP was exposed to considerable physical violence between his mother and biological father, CP, who separated when he was four years old. Throughout his childhood, RP spent time between his mother, father, foster placements and residential units.

31. In 1994, when she was six years old, AP was sexually assaulted by IF, who had a brief liaison with RC her mother. In evidence, RC said he had not "exactly been a partner but (they) had spent a lot of time together" and there had been a caravan holiday together with all of their children in Somerset. His youngest child had been the same age as AP.

32. Subsequently AP was sexually abused on three further occasions by adult men, unbeknown at the time to her mother, and when she was 14 years old she was raped. Again, RC was not told.

33. In 1998 RC and SC began to live together.

34. Even as a young boy, RP demonstrated overtly aggressive and sexualised behaviour. When he was six years old he was sexually abused by someone who had been his mother's partner. In evidence, he initially said the initials of that person were "IW". Later he agreed they were "AW". RC said in evidence that person was 28 – 30 years old, the brother of one of the mothers she knew from the children's school. He had rewired a socket for her, had "popped in for a coffee and a chat". RC had "no idea" as to how it was that RP came to be sexually abused by him. 

35. RP was placed on the Child Protection Register in October 2002 (aged 13) following upon an allegation that in February that year he had engaged in oral sex with an 11 year old girl and urinated in her mouth. The alleged victim made a similar claim a year or so later. On that occasion although RP was charged, the allegation was withdrawn and there was no prosecution.

36. Also in 2002 / thereabouts, a young friend of AP's, BJB who was born in November 1987, had a brief sexual relationship first with JP and then with RP. She was 15, just a few months older than JP. By the time she started a sexual relationship with RP, he was 14 years old.

37. In 2003, when she was 13 years old, HC who is SC's daughter born in February 1990, approached RC saying her father had taken photographs of her. HC had felt uncomfortable, she suggested, because she'd only been wearing her nightclothes.

38. In 2004, HC moved into the C family home following allegations that a maternal cousin had taken indecent photographs of her. In that year, it was reported that HC and RP had consensual sex following an evening of heavy drinking. He was 15, she was 14 years old.

39. Also in 2004, HC alleged her father had taken indecent photographs of her. She later retracted the claim and declined any further police involvement.

40. That same year, BJB asked RC if she might move in to the C household because her uncle had repeatedly asked her to have sex with him.

41. BJB and RP had two daughters, SP and CP who were born in 2006 and 2008 respectively. In June 2007, SP was placed on the Child Protection Register under the category of sexual abuse. Serious sexual allegations had been made by BJB's siblings, S and F who were living in the same household. It was claimed that RP had asked S (then aged 13) if he could take photographs of her naked and had suggested oral sex and anal penetration to both children.

42. In April 2008, HC repeated her allegations of having had indecent photographs taken of her by her father to a Project Worker at a Family Centre. She said she believed JP had seen the photographs and that her father had sent her an indecent text message referring to her vagina as her "Beaver". At that stage, 'SC's computer' was handed to the police. A subsequent forensic investigation found no evidence of images on the computer.

43. In October 2009, in the Croydon County Court, care proceedings relating to both SP and CP resulted in care and placement orders. They have since been adopted. The threshold criteria were not in issue. RP played no part in the hearing. The local authority conceded it could not seek a finding that RP posed a risk of sexual harm. He did not accept he did but agreed he had previously displayed sexually inappropriate behaviour. The threshold was established on the basis of exposure to domestic violence, alcohol and drugs abuse as well as neglect.

CH's early history
44. CH grew up in Essex. She had an extremely sad and unhappy childhood. Her mother who was central to the life of the family, died when CH was 11 years old. After her death, the structure of the family collapsed. CH and her siblings were later to say their father had sexually abused them. When she was 16, CH went to live with her sister in Manchester. Later she moved to live with another sister in Margate which is where she met RP.

KK's background
45. KK likewise did not experience a childhood in which her emotional needs were met. She told the police that her mother was an alcoholic, that she turned to prostitution when only 14 in order to find the money to provide things for her sister and that she would "drink and drink" to get through the ordeal of what she was doing. From about 2009, KK and AP became good friends who saw one another regularly. KK would go round to the C household a couple of times a week and occasionally at weekends when CtL and MM would play together.

46. When AP was living with her children in a B&B at the end of 2011 / beginning of 2012, KK would allow her to use the facilities in her home to cook and feed the children. Since January 2012, KK has not been in touch with AP or the P/C family because of her own involvement with the police and the information provided to her, she said, about the risks presented by that family.

Burden and standard of proof
47. It is for the local authority to prove its case. None of the individuals against whom findings are sought has to prove anything. The test to be applied to the very many factual issues here is the balance of probabilities, nothing more and nothing less.

48. When considering issues of credibility, I remind myself that there are many reasons why a person in proceedings such as these might lie. They may do so for a whole host of motives. Not necessarily because they are culpable but, for example, to protect someone else; or in an attempt to bolster up a just cause, or out of shame or from a wish to conceal disgraceful behaviour from their family. The mere fact that an individual lies is not in itself evidence of guilt. It would almost never in this situation be sufficient evidence of culpability to establish that someone had lied. It is an altogether more subtle and delicate process than that.

The Schedule of Findings
49. Turning then from the law, I pass to the specifics of the local authority's amended, perfected Schedule of Findings. Some are less controversial than others.

50. First, it is a matter of record that SC caused a substantial quantity of indecent images of children to be stored and or retained upon a computer at the C family home. As a matter of proper inference therefore – and absent an assessment demonstrating that he ceases to pose a threat – he has to be seen as presenting a significant risk of sexual harm to any child. 

The extent to which others had actual knowledge of indecent images
51. The extent to which any family member, RC, RP, JP, AP or indeed GL knew or ought to have known about SC's predilection for child pornography has been one of the most hotly contested issues of all.

52. RC has said she knew "absolutely nothing". In her second statement she said SC has no fine motor skills, inferring that he would not have been able to operate a computer mouse. According to her, the first she knew of anything was at the time when SC was charged in April 2012. At the time, and even after she and others were arrested in April 2011, RC was – she says – "completely unaware of what he was doing."

53. RP likewise protests he had no knowledge. He said that no one other than SC used his computer and that the desk was specially built so that he could sit at it in his wheelchair.

54. AP had her own laptop when she lived in the C household but would use SC's desktop when her own computer was not working. She maintains she never saw anything indecent or any "random pictures of children" or indeed any "dodgy websites" either. But she also said, in her February 2012 statement, that in April 2011 at the time of the arrests, "JP had asked our stepfather, SC, to store some pictures for him which relate to his girlfriend who looks like she is 13 but is actually in her twenties. The pictures were indecent." When cross-examined by Mr McIlwain, AP added this – "My Mum mentioned – JP had asked SC to store pictures."

55. KK's evidence was that SC's computer was in the living room. As you walked in through the doorway it was on the right hand side. The living room was also SC's and RC's bedroom. There was a double bed, a computer chair and SC would use his wheelchair. A lot of the time, there would be people in the living room. CmL would play there. People would either be there or in the kitchen for tea and coffee. SC, according to KK, would be on the computer "quite a lot."

56. GL gave very similar evidence. SC was, he said, "on the computer a lot". It was in full view. GL would watch him edit videos. SC would "put bras" and "drawers" on otherwise naked women. It was "an interest;" but said GL, he had never seen indecent images of children on the computer.

57. As the chronology for the P/C family reveals, HC made a series of allegations involving herself, her father and indecent images from 2003 onwards. According to HC, in late 2007 or early 2008 when BJB was living in a block of flats where AP also resided, there was an occasion when GL pulled HC and BJB aside on a stairwell. He told them he had seen indecent images of children on SC's computer. HC said in evidence she had "pleaded with him to come with (her) to the police and verify what he had said to (her)." According to HC, the discussion had lasted for about half an hour.

58. In May and September 2012, according to HC, GL contacted her by telephone and asked her to lie for him. He wanted her to deny he had any knowledge of indecent photographs on SC's computer. Thereafter, there was a series of messages from SB, GL's current partner, on Facebook suggesting that HC was "playing with the future lives" of the children. HC's Facebook responses were to the effect that she would not lie and was going to tell the truth.

59. In November 2012, BJB and HC had a meeting with Miss Chesworth the allocated social worker for the L children and a Project Worker from a Family Centre, Ms Hoyle. BJB (and HC) are recorded as having said that GL had spoken of seeing what BJB described as "naked kids" on SC's computer.

60. In his written evidence, GL's response to those claims was that (a) he had never had a discussion with BJB about images on SC's computer, (b) he had told HC he'd seen images of adult sex scenes which SC would edit so that RC could watch them and (c) he found the allegation of a discussion in a stairwell very strange and "not the kind of conversation you would have standing in a stairwell."

61. In his oral evidence, GL did accept though that there had been such a conversation. He mentioned that at the time he had "some issues, mainly with RC" because he felt he was being undermined in his relationship with CtL. GL continued to deny that the focus of the conversation had been anything to do with indecent images of children. He protested that his 'phone calls to HC in May and September last year were simply because he "wanted answers." It was the first time in the proceedings that his "name had been mentioned; he "didn't understand" and wanted "to know the reasons why."

62. I am in no doubt as to where the truth lies in relation to this interesting facet of the case. I find that GL did indeed have the discussion in the stairwell of the block of flats with HC and BJB in about the autumn of 2007; and he did say he knew about the indecent images involving naked children on SC's computer. Whether the actual words were "indecent images of children" as HC said or "naked kids" as BJB asserts makes no difference at all – they are, as HC said in evidence, "the same thing."

63. I considered HC was entirely credible and extremely clear in describing the conversation. It happened, as she said, at a time when she was trying to confide in others and she did "plead with him" (that is GL) to go to the police to verify what he'd said.

64. Moreover, HC has absolutely no reason to lie, to exaggerate or embellish her version of events. It was suggested to her that she is angry with GL for failing to "stick up" for her. HC denied that was the case, saying she wants the truth to be known. And it was of considerable interest that her evidence more generally attracted a good deal of audible hostility at the back of the court from family members who, from time to time, made clear their view that HC is a "liar."

65. BJB although not a witness whose account has been challenged by cross examination because she has declined to become further involved with the C family, gave an account to social workers last November which corroborates HC's account of the 'stairwell' conversation with GL. In addition, it is surely relevant that by a series of 'phone calls and Facebook messages, GL and his partner SB have tried to make HC retract her version of events as they implicate him. I did not believe GL's assertion of calling to understand HC's reasons for saying what she did. The records of the Facebook messages take the matter beyond argument. His suggestion that the focus of the discussion in the stairwell was all about adult sex scenes was nothing more than a lame attempt to explain away the truth which was, as he knows, far more sinister.

66. Accordingly – and without hesitation – I find that GL who lived in the C family home for two significant periods (13 months between August 2005 and September 2006; and then 12 months between August 2008 and August 2009) had actual knowledge of the indecent images on SC's computer. The overwhelming likelihood, therefore, is that other family members who were living in the home at around those times would also have had actual knowledge. GL was, after all, on the fringes of the family, out for the greater part of the time either at work or volunteering for the Prince's Trust.

67. Others, notably RC and AP were there more or less all the time. JP was out at work during the day according to his police interview but he, too, must have known what SC was up to on his computer particularly given AP's description of how indecent images of KK came to be stored there at JP's request. Moreover, AP must surely have known what her husband and the father of her children knew.

68. In that regard, I found her evidence on the issue of how she lived her life in the family home profoundly unconvincing. Her suggestion was that she would either be out with the children or upstairs in her room. She said, "We didn't really spend any time downstairs …. Cm would only be in the living room if (she) was making a drink in the kitchen and …. (they) were mainly out." RC challenged by Mr Perkins to confirm or deny AP's version of events said she "pretty much recognised that description" adding that AP would be out with the children at Tumbletots for "most of the morning" and then upstairs in her "very large room."

69. More incredibly still, when GL was asked if AP and the children would visit the C/P family home in the period when they were living away in their own flat, he said he couldn't really say. They didn't have conversations when he got home from work in which he'd be told where AP and the children had been during the day. "It would have been quite boring" he said and "it wouldn't have been fair" or "a good relationship" if he had been "checking up on them."

70. For me, those pieces of evidence provide a prime example of the way in which those three individuals chose to present a version of events in a combined desire to distance AP and the children from the P/C household. They gave what they believed would be viewed as the least damaging account. I gained a strong sense that, in advance, those three people had agreed the 'party line.' It was the same phenomenon described by Ms Gillard arising out of her interviews. They all three gave an identical account about baby sitting routines for Ct and Cm, namely that RC would never do more than "listen out for the children" whilst AP had a bath.

71. RC had more reason that almost anyone else to know what her husband's computer use comprised. She claims to have been "horrified" when she came to know there were indecent images. According to her oral evidence, she only acquired that knowledge in February / March 2012 when she and RP were "NFAd" at the police station but SC was charged. RC maintains that until then, there had been no mention of images. Confronted with what JP had said in a police interview under caution – "he (SC) admitted he was sorry and everything like that" – strongly suggestive of SC's much earlier (c.April 2011) admissions to the family, RC indignantly even angrily said, "There was no conversation. That conversation took place in March 2012. It was the night I was NFAd at the police station".

72. AP's evidence resonated strongly with that of her mother. According to her, RC had told her what the charges faced by SC were. He had made the admission in about February or May 2012. She had been told by her Mum and AP assumed it was as soon as she had found out. All AP remembers is her Mum telling her.

73. As I listened to the evidence of RC and AP on this topic, I was struck by the inherent improbability of what they were suggesting. Measured against the standards of ordinary family interaction, it was weird in the extreme. Momentous events had befallen the family in April 2011 when RC, SC and JP had been arrested for suspected internet activity involving children and sex.

74. On the day of the arrest, according to both RC and AP, there was a worried call from KK who'd turned up at the C family home anxious about what may have been found on JP's computer. RC said she took the call at the police station – "KK had been a bit concerned because there may have been indecent pictures JP's computer. She (KK) only looked about 12 years old in those photos and was concerned about the police finding them." Twice in evidence, RC was asked about her reaction to that call. First she said she had handed the phone to DC Lehar, saying KK wished to give him information. Then she said that was the first time she had been aware of indecent images on JP's computer.

75. Neither RC nor AP seemed in the least bit surprised or shocked as they recounted what to most people would have been the tawdry, even disgusting, information about the contents of JP's computer files. It was as if it was no more remarkable or unusual than an account of what they'd had for supper yesterday. It seemed to have no significance for them at all which of itself is (a) noteworthy and (b) a subtle but important indicator as to how indecent images, in truth, would be viewed in the C household.

76. The events of that day, within any ordinary family, would surely have prompted full and repeated discussions amongst every adult member present within the home.  They would have talked about what had been happening, who could have been responsible, what the police questions had amounted to, what the repercussions for all of them might be. If I am to believe RC and AP, no such conversations took place. There was what might be termed a 'news / information blackout;' and yet, the repercussions of the arrests for family life have been monumental. The L children and TLP were briefly removed into care by the police in November 2011, care proceedings were begun, court hearings were convened, three adult members of the family were on bail whilst police investigations continued.

77. The version of events offered by RC and AP are utterly incredible, inconsistent with JP's account of what occurred in the aftermath of the April 2011 arrests and a marker of how RC and AP will lie in order to explain away their continuing support for SC, at least until the time he was charged some 10 / 11 months after the initial arrest.

Overall findings in relation to SC and RC
78. My overall findings in relation to the C/P family home and the key individuals within it are these. I find that SC represents an unquantifiable sexual risk to any child not only on the basis of his conviction but also because of HC's graphic allegations of sexual interference by him during her childhood. Whilst I cannot and do not determine the truth of those allegations, their significance is obvious when considering the culture within the C/P home.

79. SC's letter dated 9th February 2013, brought to court on Monday 25th February by CH, is illuminating as to his attitudes to his conviction. SC contends he is "no risk to children." His probation officer, he says, considers him to be a 'low risk in terms of re-offending' and is willing to provide reports if required. SC also says he was suffering from depression, even suicidal, at the time indecent images of children were downloaded; and he had convinced himself that if he could find a way of "stopping people from putting these images on the internet, at least (he) would have ended his life and done something positive." SC wished "to confirm that no one had any knowledge of what (he) was doing."

80. His purported excuse for his sex offences, strikes me as pathetic, ludicrous and strongly suggestive that he is in denial notwithstanding his conviction; and it is interesting to note that the letter was brought to court by CH on behalf of maybe even as messenger for SC. It should also be noted that when interviewed by Amanda Gillard last summer, RP ventured the same reason for SC's crimes – namely that he was trying to help children.

81. RC said in evidence she has spoken with SC's probation officer who "considers him at low risk of re-offending". RC says he has completed a victim awareness course but she "wouldn't want any children near him."

82. RC will say whatever it is that she believes she needs to say in order to try to convince me she presents no kind of risk; but at the end of it all I am sure as I can be that she is either blind to or accepting of her husband's sexual deviance and has known about it for a very long time. She is combative, oppositional and feisty. Others have described her as a matriarchal figure and 'a mother hen.' RC strongly resents the implication that in anything she's done in relation to any aspect of the family's functioning she could have been expected to respond differently. As Mr Perkins suggested, her 'default position' to the discovery of any sexual wrongdoing has been to involve the police or 'the authorities' and demand a full inquiry.

83. It is as if RC has no judgment, no personal ability to determine right from wrong and no power to take preventative action of any kind. Maybe her aptitude for discerning sexually inappropriate behaviour has been compromised by her own childhood experience; maybe she has been unduly influenced by SC. Whichever it is, whatever the cause, the impact is the same. I am convinced that RC is wholly incapable of maintaining appropriate sexual boundaries or of ensuring the safety of any child against the risk of sexual exploitation.

84. It is unnecessary to go further than the most cursory exploration of the chronology relating to the childhood experiences of AP and RP in order to substantiate the findings just made. Within their mother's household, AP and RP were both undoubtedly sexually abused whilst very young children. RP did not tell his mother though in evidence she said she'd had suspicions since 1994. AP did report what had happened to her on the first occasion though not subsequently – and there were three or four later events culminating in a rape when AP was 14. Moreover, the apparent reason for her childhood silence was that she'd been so traumatised by the investigation into events when only 6, that she elected to keep secret what later befell her.

85. Moreover, HC was indecently photographed by her father and later, apparently, she was sexually interfered with by him. RP said in evidence she "was not disputing" HC's allegations. She's accepting them as "more likely to be true than false." RC said, she'd "had very little discussion with SC since these proceedings started." She has "not challenged him" and added, "What makes you think I'd get the truth out of him?" When confronted with her "vehement" denial that HC's allegations could have been true, as reported in 2005, RC said, "It was after she'd retracted everything that I disbelieved her."

86. There was also, as the chronology reveals, completely unacceptable sexual intercourse between RC's two sons and very young girls – significantly below the age of consent – and even as between RP and HC, step brother and step sister. In 2008, BJB is reported as saying that RC had pushed her and RP together. That is strongly denied by RC who said she did not "permit them to have a sexual relationship." She also says, in her written evidence, that "teenagers experiment and they will not be the first or the last of their age group to start this kind of behaviour…. As any parent of a teenager will say, you cannot control their actions."

87. Amanda Gillard's written report suggested RC has failed to learn from previous incidents of abuse. There has been an apparent lack of awareness and alertness to potential risks when caring for her own children. RC's levels of awareness appear to have been stuck spanning many years and she has not grown more discerning over time. In Ms Gillard's view, RC as the result of her own vulnerability and experiences has come to accept certain traits and behaviour as the norm and / or found it impossible to ignore the abusive nature of that behaviour. I agree with those insightful suggestions which, for me, were amply borne out by the evidence. I note, in particular, the indignation with which RC sought to suggest that all or most of the problems she'd faced over the years were in some way the fault of social services.

Attitudes to SC on the part of RC, RP and CH
88. The last matter for mention in relation to RC is that she has not put any real and / or emotional distance between herself and SC in the almost two years since the arrests. RC and SC have been re-housed together in an adjacent London borough. It is said they occupy separate bedrooms but RC is still SC's carer, providing him with the personal help he requires arising out of his disability. In a written statement, RC said she'd instructed her solicitors last May to institute divorce proceedings against him but when asked about progress, said the papers had only been served from the court last week. As for her feelings towards him, she said there was no emotional connection but she "didn't wish him any harm necessarily." Later when confirming she was still his carer, RC said, "he does have human rights, I'll still provide his care" – a theme which resonated strongly with RP's and CH's attitudes to SC.

89. CH's view is that although she knows he's done wrong, she cannot condemn SC when he needs her most. Why, she asked, should she "let him suffer because of what he's done?" She, too, provides elements of SC's personal care, helping him into his wheelchair, tucking in his T shirt, making him 'a roll up'. RP said he would not "spit on him because of what he's done". SC had helped him a lot during his childhood and "no one will be able to take away the respect" he has for SC.

90. All in all, the position seems to me to be clear. RC, RP and CH together continue to represent with SC a cohesive, enmeshed and well-defended unit. The explanations offered for why it is that they all continue to live under the same roof with SC provide just a snapshot of just how powerless those three individuals are to change anything. But in truth, it cannot be their wish that anything should be different. They are, as I find, quite content to continue to share their lives with SC on a day to day basis irrespective of the risk he presents to any child with whom he might come into contact.

91. I should not be in the least bit surprised to learn, a year down the line, that there was still a functional relationship between RC and SC supported by other family members who continue, like RP and CH, to have respect and affection for him.

The distance between AP and the rest of the family
92. I turn then to consider the extent to which AP has distanced herself emotionally from the C/P family and, in particular, the ties which have bound her to RC. Ct and Cm were removed from AP's care on 2nd March 2012 by order of Parker J. As I've said already, AP went to live in Birmingham with her then partner AB on 3rd June last year.

93. AP maintains it is only because of the local authority's decision not to reimburse her for travelling down to the London area three times a week for contact with the children that she has had to return within the family home. When she does so, she shares a double bed with her mother. AP sought to persuade me she refused to stay in the P/C household for the first few months, that she has tried to stay with friends but those friends have partners or parents so she's not been able to be with them as often as she'd like. Later on in her evidence, AP that it had only been the odd occasion when she'd been over night with "a mate" though she does have friends with whom she can meet up. She mentioned the names of two and a third with whom she'd spoken about staying. AP explained it was "not exactly easy" when she could not give them money. She said she had not got the 'phone number for Uncle K and Auntie B even although it was her case that they assisted her with the move from Bed and Breakfast accommodation last year.

94. Challenged about Amanda Gillard's view of the family which is that it is profoundly enmeshed, AP said she is "sorry but Ms Gillard is wrong." AP maintains she has and would be able to cope on her own with the children as she did before they were removed.

95. According to RC and indeed AP, their relationship was a strong one. Initially RC said she "is", then quickly corrected herself to say she "was" close to her daughter. She went on to explain that now she has "hardly any relationship left with (her) daughter, thanks to 'you lot'" – a reference to social services. The reality is, as Amanda Gillard, suggests that AP does remain very dependent upon and loyal towards her mother. There is also a strong attachment between them to the extent that at one time AP had suggested they might both live together in Birmingham.

96. Ms Gillard considered AP to present overall as confused, anxious, vulnerable, keen to please and say the right thing. Ms Gillard also found some of her statements whilst emphatically expressed to lack any depth and sincerity.

97. I altogether concur with that assessment which accords entirely with my own. When she gave her evidence and particularly when cross examined by Mr Perkins AP seemed to be under very considerable stress. She sought to persuade me that a very large part of her difficulty in these proceedings is that "no one has sat (her) down and explained the risks," a theme to which she returned on many occasions. She had been trying to work it all out for herself which is hard, she said, when she's not had a professional to talk it through. AP said she had come to the view, when "going through stuff with (her) barrister" that SC is a sexual risk to children because he had downloaded pictures. She is not sure if he's a "sexual risk in terms of doing anything" though later AP said she thought that was a "possibility" now she'd heard HC's evidence.

98. Although AP denied she was focussed on giving the right answers, I am convinced she did exactly that; and the best demonstration was when Mr Perkins' cross examination ended and Ms Magee began to ask AP questions on behalf of her mother. AP visibly relaxed, she said "Hiya" to Ms Magee and proceeded to agree with a series of questions in which she was essentially invited to confirm her mother's account.

99. Also relevant to the issue as to whether AP can in truth pull away emotionally from the C/P family is the evidence about the state of her relationship with AB, CH's long time friend. Within AP's most recent statement, dated 13th February 2013, she said she had decided to terminate her relationship with AB. She also said AB no longer went near the P/C family home when he came to London for contact.

100. When CH gave evidence on 22nd February, she let slip that AB had been in the P/C family home on Tuesday 19th February when she, too, had been there with SC whilst at court Ms Gillard was giving her evidence. The question put to CH was whether, on Tuesday, she had been on her own at home with SC to which her answer was that RP had been "in and out; and AB had been down from Birmingham." CH said AB was, in her understanding, now back with his family and "floating around the area."

101. When, later, AP gave evidence she said she'd split up with AB after the first week of the hearing which would have been the weekend of 16th / 17th February. She had ended the relationship because of the court proceedings. He had stayed with friends in Birmingham and then she'd seen him at the family home last Tuesday evening. AB, said AP, was "sort of floating around between relatives and friends."

102. As for friends in the Birmingham area, AP explained Ms Gillard had it wrong when she related there is only one. AP said she has three and named them. They live in a particular area of Birmingham but she's not been to their homes since she moved to the city last June though they have met up for a chat.

103. The reality surely is that AP continues to be strongly attached to her mother. The evidence they gave, the cohesion between their accounts about several notable issues, the support which RC overtly gives her daughter within the court room, the history of their lives together thus far, the extent to which GL maintains RC would interfere in the way that Ct and Cm were being looked after and AP's sleeping arrangements on three nights a week reveal the reality. There is not the emotional distance between AP and her mother which each would have me believe. They remain enmeshed with one another notwithstanding the distance between London and Birmingham where AP is extremely isolated and even more so now that her relationship with AB may have come to an end. The inescapable consequence of my conclusions in relation to AP is that in common with her mother she cannot be relied upon to protect the children from the risk of physical or sexual harm.

The sexual allegations against RP
104. The more serious of the allegations of sexual misconduct against RP are not susceptible to proof as the local authority freely concedes. The two children, BJB's siblings, complained of what they said he had done in 2007, when RP was 17 years old. The allegations are graphic, detailed and contain idiosyncratic (i.e. personal and distinctive) material. The assertion made by the local authority is that quite apart from the truth of the allegations, the fact they were made raises concerns as to the dynamics and functioning between RP and those children. That must be right.

105. In addition, there is a claim that in 2007, RP tried to persuade one of those children, then aged 13, to allow him to photograph her naked. According to written records, including a letter from the child concerned, RP had talked to her about a website, shown her pictures of naked couples and was suggesting she should pose naked for him in return for money.

106. RP was asked in evidence about those allegations and the potential for him to have made a recording of her. He said that he had "never had a phone… At the age of 16 with no income, how would (he) have had a phone". RP denied he had shown the child pictures or tried to encourage her to pose for him.

107. I'm acutely aware that there's been no opportunity for any detailed scrutiny of the allegation. There was no ABE interview, there is no statement from the complainant and there were pre-existing claims about the child's mother being neglectful. It's also correct to say that no pictures were recovered and no suggestion that photos, in fact, were taken. Thus, on any view, the alleged incident cannot be viewed as being at the more serious end of the spectrum.

108. RP was, as I find, far from convincing when he suggested he did not even have a phone at the time. RC, after all, did say at one stage in her evidence that her son "has had a lot of phones over the years … they are the first thing to go when he (explodes in anger)." I consider that along with everything else known about the taking and storing of photographic images upon computers in the C/P family home it may properly be inferred that the child's claim was true. Who it was for, what the essential purpose of such an image might have been had it been captured can only remain matters of pure speculation. More than that I cannot say.

109. I agree with Miss Moore that the evidence about whatever it was that occurred between MM and RP in about 2009 does not at its highest bear an interpretation which is unquestionably sexual. The most I could conclude was that some event, described as wrestling by MM, occurred when RP was in a relationship with KK. MM was troubled by that interaction; it was rough and inappropriate.

110. More generally, arising out of the long history as it has affected RP it seems to me inescapable that he has been affected in his attitudes to appropriate sexual behaviour by his experience of growing up in the P/C household albeit that he wasn't there continuously. If a florid example is needed of the way in which RP will include sexual references in his angry outbursts it is to be found in the text message he sent to his mother in February last. It was in these terms – "Do it pussy and ull have to get Mr (me) gone coz ill bite ur fucking face off." Asked about that in evidence, he said that was one of his "better" texts.

111. When asked about the way in which he and his brother have had sequential relationships with young girls or young women, RP said he would "rub it into his (brother's) face that he has my sloppy seconds." I find myself impelled to the conclusion that there is very little which could be regarded as healthy or wholesome in RP's attitudes to sexual relationships.

Risk of physical violence on the part of RP
112. I turn then to the danger of physical harm. There is no dispute about the extent to which RP has to be seen as dangerous in terms of his propensity for violence – at least by his legal team and Dr Tom McClintock, consultant forensic psychiatrist at the John Howard Centre in East London. RP has a dissocial personality disorder which would be extremely difficult to treat in an outpatient setting. The options are, according to Dr McClintock, very limited for him.

113. In relation to the 17th January 2012 assault by RP upon CH in which he head-butted and spat at her and the 21st February 2012 assault upon his mother, RC, Dr McClintock said the "take home message is that if one waits long enough, there will be further aggression" – there had been an interval of about two years before the eruption of violence in early 2012. Dr McClintock would look again in 10 years time and would anticipate difficulties for at least that period. He was prepared to accept though that the magnitude of the risk has lessened since RP was a teenager when his behaviour was chaotic and out of control.

114. On Tuesday of this week, at about 10.30 am just as the court day was about to begin, RP lost his temper in a way which caused alarm, I imagine, to everyone in the immediate vicinity. He was shouting loudly and menacingly at his sister (and others) in the court corridor. I heard him loudly shout, "Fuck the judge!" as I was walking towards the court room. Members of the security staff were summoned. When he came into court, I was told something of what had occurred outside and that AP was too upset to come in because, at least in part, she had been the target of her brother's aggression. I indicated that I would not tolerate any repetition of his noisy, aggressive outburst and that part of my role is to ensure that no one felt intimidated by his behaviour. At that point, RP raised his head from the bench where it had been resting and angrily told me he was not staying. He said that I could "go fuck myself" and he called me a "cunt." RP left me with no real option other than to require his departure so that the hearing could proceed without any repetition of the menacing atmosphere he sought to instil. He was escorted away by the security staff.

115. The next day, to give him credit, RP came back to court – which could not have been altogether easy – and wrote a letter of apology which he presented to me during the course of the morning. He is not without charm when he's calm. He can appear extremely menacing when challenged in a way which he finds discomfiting, for example during Mr Perkins' cross examination. When RP's ability to contain his anger is exhausted he flares into extraordinarily aggressive behaviour. All of those aspects of his behaviour were in evidence at this hearing.

116. There is no alternative to finding that RP does indeed present a significant risk of physical harm to any adult or child with whom he resides. Others within the family, particularly CH, do not appear to accept the situation but the psychiatric evidence together with very recent events takes the issue beyond argument. RP is a dangerous, menacing, aggressive young man who derives personal fulfilment from putting other people in fear. I'm bemused that he has not already attracted a custodial sentence.

Can CH separate herself from the influences of RP and RC
117. Next I consider whether CH is capable of separating herself, for the future, both from RP and also RC. CH underwent what must have been one of the most worrying experiences of her life when she participated at the hearing before Parker J in September 2012, only a few weeks after ARP's birth. It was made clear beyond peradventure to her by Parker J that the decision to leave CH and ARP together was founded upon the parents' decision to separate. It was a separation which was, as Parker J found, at it highest an ambivalent one on CH's side and a reluctant one for RP. But nonetheless Parker J considered she could not at that stage require a placement for ARP away from CH.

118. In the days that followed it became abundantly clear that there was no emotional separation between CH, RP or indeed RC. There were literally hundreds of text messages sent by CH to RC, 264 on a single day, as the records revealed and then admissions of 'phone calls and texts between CH and RP. On 7th November, ARP was taken into care, pursuant to Parker J's order.

119. Since then, CH has returned to live in the P/C household because, she says, the London Borough of Sutton has failed in its duty to provide her with alternative housing. However, in her most recent statement, CH also says she is "extremely close to RC". They have a very good relationship and friendship. RC has been extremely supportive at an extremely difficult and lonely time in CH's life when she has had no one else to turn to. RC has given her love and reassurance and has supported her financially. She has given her a place to live and for all of those things, CH is extremely appreciative.

120. As for her relationship with RP, CH maintains it is Platonic. They need to get on. They are polite and civil to one another. Later, when it was pointed out that to all outward appearances, CH and RP are a couple, she said they are supporting each other and she can understand how it looks. They do rely on one another to help each other out. They are fighting together. There is no sexual relationship but a very deep friendship. CH said she is "a bit more close to RP than with RC. He will sit there and let her rattle on about (her) Mum. (She) has told him the full extent of (her) abuse. They have built a bond and a relationship." Surely, CH remarked, that is the main basis of a family to build those connections and ties."

121. Currently, CH is sleeping she says on a camp bed in RC's room. Clearly, she and RP do almost everything together as a couple, coming and going to court almost always together, sharing notes, comments and facial expressions with one another. At one point, RP seemed to me to be fiddling with something in the general area of CH's waist band. They are as close emotionally as is possible which is broadly what RC was impelled to confirm although she initially said they were not in a relationship. She said there "is a genuine fondness and a genuine connection between them".

122. So there is really no escaping the conclusion that CH has been unable to make any kind of break from RP or indeed the P/C household notwithstanding that first TLP and then ARP have been removed from her as the result of the risk of harm arising there: very significant physical harm from RP and the risks made manifest by SC's conviction last April.

123. It is extremely sad to reflect upon CH's own childhood experiences which according to her were even worse than at first believed by the local authority. It is entirely unnecessary to set out the intensely embarrassing detail. My only purpose in mentioning them at all is that, almost certainly, they provide the essential cause of CH's difficulties in being unable to identify and then respond appropriately to the risk of harm.

The sexual findings sought against KK
124. I turn then next in this fact finding exercise to the assertions of the local authority that KK sexually abused MM in about February 2011, that she caused the event to be witnessed by others and filmed and that KK would be unable / unwilling to protect any child from the risk of sexual harm.

125. There are several difficulties in providing clear answers to the claims made about what happened between MM and his mother. KK's version of events as provided to the police and social services is, without question, one of the most extraordinary stories I have ever heard. Assessing the truth or otherwise of what KK asks me to believe was problematic anyway because her evidence was given over a video link. It became more difficult still because her distress developed to overwhelming levels during cross examination such that I could not permit Mr Perkins to continue.

126. There are many reasons to doubt KK's version of events is accurate. As Mr Perkins submits, the tale – of a late night abduction at gunpoint in a suburban street, the failure of KK to struggle, scream or raise the alarm, the claim that a video was made without her knowledge in near darkness, her failure to report such a terrifying ordeal and, I would add, the assertion that MM was asleep throughout an event in which he was being significantly interfered with – all sounds literally incredible.

127. Mr McIlwain rightly reminds me that although there is no corroboration of the claimed abduction itself there is forensic corroboration of the assertions KK was making, integral to her entire story, of having received emails from Robbie Williams and Mike Cole (his manager) in that her computer revealed such messages had been received. Moreover, in his second police interview, JP made clear he was involved in the emails to KK.

128. One thing became very evident during KK's evidence, namely that she feels "exploited and used by the P family." She strongly resents the fact that her proceedings have been linked together with and tried at the same time as the other applications. KK said she is "disgusted by the whole family."

129. Another confounding factor has been the absence of JP from the hearing. He has chosen not to participate at all, though RP, CH and SC went down to Cornwall to visit him on 17th January just a few weeks before the hearing began. The only material from him derives from his police interview, suggestive of a comparatively short term relationship with KK in which they 'went out' for a couple of weeks and then he lived in her flat for a couple of months. He had 'kipped on her sofa;' and he went on to say they had casual sex on some occasions.

130. KK's evidence about her relationship with JP was that at about the end of 2009, she would see him every couple of days for the first six months, then it would be every day and then he went home. That had gone on for two years or so. In October 2011, KK said he was sleeping on the sofa in her living room. She denied he had shared her bed and said they'd only had sex once. In cross examination, KK added that JP had eaten at her house because he liked her cooking and his Mum had provided the money for the food.

131. Then there is the evidence from CH suggestive of a much longer relationship from about April 2011 until December of that year. CH provided a detailed account of how KK had "sat in (her) house before she'd had TLP and told her she was in a relationship with JP. According to CH, KK had been "as nice as possible to her because she wanted to be as close as possible" to CH's expected child.

132. LK is KK's cousin. KK said she "is just a kid."  KK loves her "to pieces" and obviously feels extremely sad she's not seen her since March last year. LK described KK as "like a sister". LK had met JP on several occasions at KK's home. At first he was "just a bloke", described by KK as a new boyfriend. LK believed that was in 2010 before she'd had her operation, so "yes it was in 2010". In 2011, JP had been sleeping on the sofa at KK's home. KK had said they weren't in a relationship, they were just having sex.

133. LK, who is only 16 years old, gave clear, cogent and totally convincing evidence about the sexual activities she had been asked by KK to do with JP – to play a game of truth or dare, to kiss JP on the mouth and, on one occasion when she was drunk at KK's home, KK had suggested LK should have oral sex with JP. As LK described that event in evidence she was crying, flushed and very distressed. She had also been asked to put on sexy outfits by KK with a view to the taking of some pictures but LK refused to cooperate. In addition, KK had talked about her sexual relationship with JP and the things they would do together. LK was emphatic when cross examined that the "only time KK had talked about sex (in front of her) was when JP had been there". He would "constantly talk with KK about sex" and look at LK for an answer. LK "swore on (her) life that KK had been there" during those conversations. KK had also shown her a picture on her mobile phone of a penis. LK thought she was going to be shown a picture of Robbie Williams' face; instead there was an image of a penis which she did not want to see.

134. I am as sure as I can be of anything that LK, an expressive and articulate witness, was telling the truth about the essential nature of the activities she became involved in during the currency of KK's relationship with JP. In September last year, LK (then aged 15) wrote a letter to her GP in support of her request for counselling.  She set out in bullet point form most of what she said in her written statement and oral evidence. She has been consistent, clear, forthright and demonstrated considerable courage in agreeing to participate as she did.

135. There is an interesting question to which I cannot provide an answer, namely why it is that KK has not been able to admit to what her young cousin has said. She may be frightened of renewed police involvement in her life. She may fear the possibility of further charges; or some other sinister forces may be at work, determined to ensure that KK presents a case of simply denying most if not all that LK said. I simply do not know.

136. Some aspects of this are currently impenetrable. Why was RP so resistant to the notion that KK should give her evidence via the video link at an earlier case management hearing? What were the real reasons why he and CH did not come to court to listen to KK? CH said she didn't want to hear that evidence, RP likewise. Was there a really good reason, as there may well have been, for the division of the MM and JB proceedings from the other applications? At this stage and absent further information it's impossible to know.

137. All I can conclude in relation to KK is that by reason of her early emotional deprivation and sexual experiences which would seem to have been highly exploitative, she must be seen as vulnerable to further mistreatment on the part of predatory individuals. I conclude without hesitation that LK's claims of having been embarrassed, humiliated and worried by sexual talk and suggestion are true; and that KK was as much a part of what occurred as JP. Moreover, it is inescapable that events have happened in MM's life which cause him to have a profound and highly adverse reaction to mention of his mother's name. He has not been protected from sexual harm. Almost certainly, he was exposed to highly sexual activities when JP was looking after him as he has described to his foster mother – namely a wrestling 'game' where the loser has to kiss the winner all over their bum, willy and everywhere and on the knackers… the bit there under the willy."

The claims against those who have chosen not to participate
138. Finally as to findings, there are assertions which have not been litigated either at all / to any great extent at this hearing because of the non participation of the affected individuals.

139. In this category there are the local authority's claims against LM and BB, the former and current partners of KK. There is no challenge from anywhere as to the significant risk of physical violence which LM poses to any adult or child with whom he were to reside. The records speak for themselves.

140. As for the allegations of physical violence against BB, the evidence from KK was of interest. She claimed BB had not participated in the proceedings or come to court because he "has not done anything and therefore doesn't need a solicitor". When "he gets agitated, he does raise his voice", said KK. He "doesn't want to be seen as aggressive when that's not the person he is". Later, she said BB was not at court because there "would not be a way for him to leave" (the courtroom). KK maintains BB has "changed a lot… if an argument was to occur now, he would take the dog out for few hours and he would calm down." KK denies that the black eyes she had in May and June last year resulted from anything BB had done to her. She said she "bruises very easily and they take weeks to go down". It is "rubbish that BB is a danger". He had never harmed her physically or mentally, she said.

141. BB has a long history of violence going back to 2007 consisting of no fewer that nine incidents of aggression directed at family members including his grandmother. He has two criminal convictions for assault and battery. He, too, has to be seen as representing a significant risk of physical harm to any adult or child with whom he resides. I was left entirely unconvinced by KK's protestations as to how harmless BB now is. Anyone who has to leave the premises for a couple of hours to calm down very obviously has a distinct anger management problem.

Children's welfare needs
142. Now I turn to consider the children's welfare needs, the local authority care plans and the responses of their parents to those proposals. I take first CtL and CmL, the children of AP and GL.

CtL and CmL
143. The local authority's plan, shortly stated, is that they should remain in interim care whilst an assessment by a child and adolescent psychiatrist is commissioned to inform the type of placement suitable for the children (long term fostering / adoption), the children's attachment to one another as well as their attachments with each of their parents so as to guide any long term contact arrangements. There is no plan for rehabilitation or any support from the local authority for further assessment of AP.

144. AP invites me to sanction an expert evaluation of her response to any findings, her capacity to emotionally separate from her family in the light of the risks posed by SC, RP and JP and her ability to protect her children. It is suggested by Ms Troy who made what were exceptionally well articulated, focussed, moderate and persuasive submissions, that there is a gap in the evidence. Furthermore, it is said that any such assessment would be within the children's timescales because all of the professionals now agree there is a need for the other assessment of the children themselves, as already described.

145. GL withdrew his own application for the children to be reunified with him after the first week of the hearing. As he described in evidence, he believes that if AP could take herself away from the family, she could protect. Her link with the family draws her back in even when she's not there. The question therefore is, said GL, how much involvement would the family have with AP. He thought that with the right help it could work. He would support a short assessment of the mother.

146. Ms Gorbutt advocates a further piece of work with AP which would assess her familial history, her capacity to separate from the family and to sustain those changes. Mr Ali, on behalf of the guardian, makes the same point as does Ms Troy in relation to timescales. In evidence, Ms Gorbutt said it "was not reasonable to expect AP to have made significant changes; the children's timescales will allow a piece of work." It would be an "assessment of AP's ability to emotionally separate from her family as well as maintain that separation which Ms Gorbutt did not "think had been tested."

147. I remind myself that with effect from 31st January 2013, the Family Procedure Rules as amended by the Family Procedure (Amendment) (No 5) Rules 2012 provide that active case management includes "controlling the use of expert evidence." By rule 25.1, as amended, "Expert evidence will be restricted to that which in the opinion of the court is necessary to assist the court to resolve the proceedings. As the President recently observed in Re TG (A child) [2013] EWCA Civ 5 the new test is intended to be significantly more stringent that the old. The text of what is 'necessary' sets a hurdle which is on any view significantly higher than the old test of what is 'reasonably required'.

148. Of course I bear in mind the ages of these children and the fact that until March last year they had lived all of their lives with their mother. Whenever they have contact with her, they show her obvious affection and love as indeed they do when they see their father. It is also relevant that when their views about where they would like to be are canvassed, they respond "Mummy 100". There is mutual warmth and the mother, by all that she says, is committed to seeking rehabilitation by whatever means she can. She told me she loves Ct and Cm very much, they mean the world to her and she cannot see an enjoyable life ahead for herself if she's "not waking up to their smiles".

149. There are a number of reasons why, I regret to say, I cannot agree to any further assessment of AP. They are these – there has already been an extremely thorough, searching and intensive assessment into all of the proposed subject areas bar one, namely AP's responses to the findings made. That of course would have been impossible simply because of the timing of Amanda Gillard's work. Parker J described her in connection with the assessment she'd done in the ARP proceedings as "an exceptionally sophisticated and exceptionally impressive practitioner."

150. I wholeheartedly agree with those remarks and would add just this – that Ms Gillard's work in the case of CtL and CmL was wide-ranging and extremely thorough. She prepared reports in relation to RC, AP, AB, GL and SB, that is every important adult connected with CtL and CmL save SC. Accordingly, Ms Gillard had an unrivalled opportunity to advise on the basis of an overall opinion about family dynamics, functioning, dependencies and the capacity for change. I found her insights invaluable; her evidence was reflective as well as thoughtful. She was scrupulously fair, even-handed and fair-minded.

151. I do not believe it would be possible to improve upon the assessment work already done by Ms Gillard. Although Ms Gillard seemed to be initially drawn by Mr Ali to agree with the guardian's view that there was "some scope for further work with the mother so long as that does not impact upon the children's plans for permanency," when she was cross examined by Mr Perkins, she returned to the essential formulation of her written reports. Ms Gillard did not believe further inquiries looking at any reflection since her work with AP would necessarily "say anything different." She would not expect any such piece of work to reveal anything beyond her own assessment. In relation to protection, the children need better than average care. "Protection is key; and (Ms Gillard was not) certain that AP could make the types of decisions she would need to make because of the links with her family."

152. My view is the same. I have had the advantage of listening to and making deductions arising out of AP's evidence as well as that given by her mother. AP has not been able to acknowledge that she did indeed breach the written agreement of November 2011 by taking CtL and CmL to her mother's home as Parker J found last March. It seemed to me, on any fair reading of the judgment, that the foundation for the judge's findings was rock solid. Any conclusion which had exonerated AP, to my mind, would have been perverse. AP, nonetheless continues to protest she did nothing to breach the agreement. As she said in evidence, she will not take the blame for something she did not do – and the finding was wrong. She was at her least convincing as she tried to persuade me Parker J's finding was incorrect. She put her finger on her cheek as she denied having taken the children to her mother's even although KK's home which she did visit is only 15 minutes or so from the P/C household. It was an obvious lie put forward in a misguided attempt at improving her case.

153. A great deal has happened since November 2011 when proceedings were begun for CtL and CmL. There has been judicial involvement conveying clear messages about risk and expectations; AP has had the benefit of what appears to me to be an excellent legal team headed by Ms Troy. 16 months after proceedings were begun and almost 12 since the children were separated from their mother it is suggested there should be another assessment. I do not agree any such further assessment is necessary; nor even if I were to apply the old test could it sensibly be said it is reasonably required.

154. I disagree with Ms Gorbutt who, most unfortunately, was not present to hear Ms Gillard's evidence for reasons I have not been really been able to fathom.  There is no gap in the evidence. There is no mileage in the argument, as might be extrapolated from her testimony that assessment should be permitted because it can be fitted in around the children's timescales.

155. Without wishing to sound in any way arrogant, I have a task to perform. I am not a cipher who simply reads and absorbs the views and recommendations of others before arriving at a decision. I make my own appraisal. I sit and I watch as much as I conceivably can of what happens when evidence is given, the reactions of those sitting in the well of the court to what is said in the witness box. I arrive at my own conclusions in a case of this kind as to how a family functions.

156. My findings relate the ways in which I have concluded AP is still hopelessly entangled within her family. She was markedly defensive throughout her time in the witness box. She cut a sorry, very vulnerable figure in court, at times supported by her mother who would sit next to her. At other times she'd sit alongside GL. It was as if she didn't know where to position herself for the best. The notion that when AP has had an opportunity to absorb my findings she would suddenly be able to transform herself into a vigilant, protective parent is, I'm afraid, a non starter.  Her problems are of long standing. They track right back into early childhood. They may well be susceptible to therapeutic intervention but there could be no 'quick fix' and the children simply cannot be expected to wait.

157. With a heavy heart, because I fully accept how tough this is for AP in particular, I endorse the essential direction of travel comprised with the interim care plans. Important decisions about the nature of the long term placement for CtL and CmL as well as contact must await the advice of the expert who is now to be approached. It's a matter of considerable regret that the need for that advice was not identified sooner so that the proceedings might have been brought to an end at this hearing.

TLP and ARP
158. I turn now to consider TLP and ARP for whom the local authority plan is adoption in a placement together. Ms Gorbutt supports that plan without reservation. To that end, during the course of this hearing, a placement order application was issued. Understandably enough, CH and RP were very distressed when confronted with the voluminous papers in support of those proceedings on Tuesday morning. Attending at a hearing of this kind is stressful. Agency Decision Makers are sometimes slow to address the task required of them. I do not know why it was that only during the third week of the hearing was it possible for the local authority to properly organise the process. Quite obviously, there should have been better preparation so as to avoid late service.

159. All of that said, there has been no doubt about the way in which the local authority was inviting me to conclude the proceedings for TLP and ARP for many months now. In August last year, Amanda Gillard conducted a very important assessment of RP and CH in anticipation of ARP's birth. She could not recommend that the couple would be able to offer good enough parenting and she also said that, in her view, CH is a "vulnerable young woman who does not have the capacity to develop the autonomy and or level of individual parenting capacity within the timescales for the unborn child."

160. RP's position from about the time of Ms Gillard's August report has been one of accepting he is not in a position to look after the boys. He supports CH's wish to be given a chance but, as he said in his most recent statement, he does "very much appreciate the weight of the evidence against her." If CH is successful, RP would ultimately wish for contact. He has also said, to his considerable credit, that he is relieved the local authority's plan is for the boys to be placed for adoption together.

161. CH's position is very different and I completely understand why that is so. She yearns to be reunited with her boys. As she said in evidence, her hope is they will be returned to her and that she will be seen as good enough. CH said she "never did anything to do them harm; they met every milestone." She also feels that her children "were ripped away from her" for no good reason, that the assessment conducted by the allocated social worker, Yvonne Musa, is a "book of dirt" and that her "human rights were stripped away" when she was in a foster placement with ARP and denied the chance to contact RP / RC.

162. I am indebted to Miss Halkyard who has produced a useful summary of the legal principles surrounding an application of this kind together with an analysis of the relevant authorities. No one dissents with the essential messages to be taken from the case law which are that before a placement order is made, it has to be demonstrated that adoption rather than any less interventionist approach is required; and also that all avenues towards rehabilitation should reasonably be explored.

163. In this instance, I quite accept that CH has been through many traumatic times since TLP was born in July 2011. From November of that year, pursuant to written agreements, she was required to live separately from the P/C family and supervise RP's contact with TLP. I have no doubt she found that an isolating and difficult experience. In January last year TLP was taken into care after the assault upon CH by RP. By then, CH was already pregnant with ARP. She and RP lived together until his birth.

164. Clearly CH found it extremely difficult to be away from the P/C family whilst she and the baby were in the foster home. The wrench of separation from ARP was clearly made significantly easier for CH because it meant she could regain her association with RP and RC.

165. I have made findings about CH's inability to make the break from RP and indeed the P/C family. CH has undergone careful assessments of her abilities to protect her sons from harm. I don't agree with CH when she described Yvonne Musa's work as "a book of dirt." I considered her report to be measured, compassionate and insightful – qualities which were well reflected when Ms Musa came to give her oral evidence.

166. I have said enough already about Ms Gillard for it to be clear as to how I regard her work. Before ARP's birth, Ms Gillard was less than sanguine about the prospects for successfully keeping CH and her baby together. Events in the days and weeks that followed made it abundantly clear that CH could not maintain any sort of emotional separation from the P/C family.

167. Notwithstanding several valiant attempts on the part of Ms Gillard, CH has not made herself available for further appointments. When cross examined by Miss Halkyard, Amanda Gillard said she felt very sad for CH but she had to be realistic as to the children's timetables set against CH's vulnerability and isolation. Ms Gillard also said that for TLP and ARP, common sense should prevail now that it is clear CH has not separated herself from the C/P family.

168. Like Ms Gillard, I feel great sadness for CH who has lived through the most shockingly traumatic and damaging childhood. The legacy of those experiences has placed her at a huge disadvantage when she herself became a parent. Her emotional vulnerability and the impact upon her of what happened have resulted in CH being unable to detect and avoid risk particularly when choosing relationships and partners. She, like RP, has developed what I detected to be a real affection and respect for SC.

169. I am convinced that further assessment at the Jamma Umoja, as suggested, or indeed at any other resource is not only unnecessary, it would be quite futile. CH is desperately needy. She has forged an exceptionally close emotional attachment to RP and RC. Whatever further work was done, the overwhelming likelihood is that she would find it simply impossible to distance herself emotionally from the P/C household. And she would probably regard any such attempt as another infringement of her human rights anyway.

170. The sad reality is that on any consideration of the children's needs whether pursuant to s.1 of the 1989 Act or s.1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, I find myself driven to conclude that nothing short of adoption would be adequate in terms satisfying  TLP's  and ARP's welfare needs. They must be protected from harm. There is no basis for believing that now or within an appropriate timeframe from now, CH would be able to so protect them.

171. I have considered but ultimately rejected the suggestion that a further report from Ms Gorbutt should be prepared in response to the application for a placement order. It is accepted the court has discretion and that a guardian's report is not mandatory. I had the opportunity to consider the very full placement order application report filed by the local authority earlier this week. Given my extensive involvement in the proceedings it is difficult to imagine that Ms Gorbutt would be able to contribute anything new to the discussion. In any event, given that the decision is made in principle, it seems to me cruel to both CH and RP to delay the process for even a few more weeks. They deserve to understand that this painful exercise is complete.

172. Accordingly and because I have concluded that adoption is the only way of meeting the children's needs I declare that CH's and RP's consent should be dispensed with pursuant to s.52(1) of the 2002 Act. I do so on the basis of my conviction that the children's welfare makes that declaration necessary.

MM and JB
173. Lastly, I turn to KK's children, MM and JB for whom the local authority's plans thus far are inchoate. In relation to MM, there is an ongoing assessment of LK's mother, TK. Initial indications are said to be encouraging. Ms Gorbutt is opposed to any permanency plan for MM which would have the effect of taking him away from his current foster mother where he is making quite excellent progress. If he were to stay within her family, the current indications are that it would be on the basis of long term fostering under a care order. Understandably enough, given MM's age, the local authority is disinclined to pursue any such solution for MM for all of the usual reasons. If at all possible, as a matter of general principle, any young child who is not to return home should be provided with an alternative family which has sufficient permanence to endure for the remainder of his minority.

174. KK seeks some form of further assessment in relation to her aspiration of looking after both children long term; and on her behalf Mr McIlwain contends the court simply doesn't have enough material to make final decisions particularly in relation to JB. Mr McIlwain, realistic as ever, concedes that the children should be looked at as separate entities and that his client faces an almost insurmountable hurdle in relation to MM.

175. For him, I believe there to be no viable alternative to continued separation from his mother. All the signs are that when he was received into care, MM was traumatised. He cannot bear, even now, to see his mother's name on a piece of paper and becomes very upset when he does so. He has been completely opposed to any form of contact with her, direct or even indirect though he is pleased with her presents. He will not talk about his mother and when his kind social worker, Miss Chesworth, gently tries to engage him in conversation about her, his head will go down, his body language will change. Given a magic wand, MM makes very clear he does not want to see KK. Miss Chesworth's hope is that play therapy will be successful in gaining a better understanding of MM's feelings and emotions.

176. Thus, on the basis of what is currently known, there is no alternative to planning for MM on the basis that he cannot return to live with KK. The other three options will be considered in a few months from now by which time the full assessment of TK will be available to be considered alongside the evidence heard at this hearing from Miss Chesworth, Mr Forbes and Ms Gorbutt. It is too soon to make decisions on the basis of what I've already heard.

177. The situation is very different for JB who even now is only 5 months old. I am all too aware that KK has not been assessed by anyone at all in relation to her ability to look after and protect him from harm. When considering, as I will in a few weeks time, whether there should be any evaluation and if so by which individual or agency, KK's responses to my findings will be central. The local authority's plan for him is to continue to assess his paternal grandmother as a potential special guardian for JB. The tentative signs are said to be positive.

178. Final decision making for JB therefore must await the further hearing planned for MM. In the meantime, amongst other things, the special guardianship report relating to his paternal grandmother will have been finalised.