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Home > Judgments > 2007 archive

K v K [2007] EWHC 2289 (Fam)

Judgment following a fact finding hearing in a residence and contact case.

The case was complex, involving 82 allegations or incidents, and was not helped by the involvement of two families diametrically opposed to each other: the mother's family accused the father of various acts of violence and the father's family made allegations about the mother's lack of capacity to care for the children. In the light of the opposing claims, Black J could not make any definite findings on several of the alleged incidents but concluded overall that the "acrimony and aggression will be bound to have an impact on the welfare of the children if it continues"

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Neutral Citation Number: [2007] EWHC 2289 (Fam)

Case No: FD07P00684
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
FAMILY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 10/10/2007

Before:

THE HONOURABLE MRS JUSTICE BLACK
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Between :

K (Applicant)

- and -

K (Respondent)

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Mr Clive Newton QC and Mr Alan Cormack (instructed by Sweetman Burke & Sinker) for the Applicant
Mr Dennis Sharpe (instructed by Challinors) for the Respondent
Ms Frances Orchard for the Guardian

Hearing dates: 3rd – 7th September 2007
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Approved Judgment
I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

.............................

MRS JUSTICE BLACK

This judgment is being handed down in private on 10th October 2007. It consists of 35 pages and has been signed and dated by the judge. 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.


Black J :
1. This is a fact finding hearing in proceedings between J K (M) and R K (F) in relation to their two children, S (born 8 October 2005) and Su (born 6 December 2006).

2. F is nearly 27. M is 22. They contracted an arranged marriage at a Sikh ceremony on 22 August 2004 followed by a civil marriage ceremony on 23 October 2004. After the Sikh ceremony, M moved to live with F at the paternal family home in Surrey where other members of F's family, including his mother (PGM), his older brother G and his sister S lived. That remained the arrangement until, on 28 March 2007, M left. The children moved to live with her on 30 March 2007 as a result of a court order she obtained. Apart from a very short period in foster care which they found very distressing, they have remained with M, at the home of her relative BK, ever since.

3. I do not intend to rehearse the complicated sequence of the court applications that ensued concerning interim residence and contact immediately following M's departure because that is largely set out in the judgments of Munby J and it does not make happy reading.

4. The police have frequently been involved by one or the other side and there have been allegations and counter allegations that each side of the family has been causing trouble for the other in the aftermath of the parents' separation. I asked for a chronology of police involvement. Each side prepared their own. It is disturbing to see that the rather fuller version prepared on behalf of M runs to 21 separate paragraphs, each of them detailing an occasion between the end of March and the beginning of September this year when, in this country, in Canada and in India, the police have been involved in dealing with some issue to do with this family.

5. The local authority indicated in June that it had reached the point where, if there were any further violent incidents, they would issue care proceedings as they were anxious that the children were very young and very vulnerable and might be harmed in the middle of some violent altercation. In their s 37 report dated 31 August 2007, they reiterate their extreme concern about the continued animosity between the two sides of the family and the serious accusations that continue to be made on both sides. They have reached the view that they should apply for a supervision order and intend to do so forthwith. The children are already registered on the Child Protection Register under the category of emotional abuse and the local authority are presently keeping a very close eye on the family.

6. There is a hearing scheduled before Munby J in October 2007 at which it is intended decisions should be taken in relation to the future care of the children. The hearing before me was listed so that I could make findings of fact in relation to the background which would then form the basis of the decisions Munby J takes in October. Each side has filed a schedule of allegations in relation to the conduct of the other spouse or that spouse's family which they submit I should find proved. There are 43 matters listed on F's schedule and 39 on M's. There are statements in the bundle from over 20 witnesses and I have heard oral evidence from 7 witnesses in support of M's case, 9 witnesses in support of F's case, Dr Briscoe (a consultant psychiatrist who was asked to assess M's mental health) and Miss Bartleman, the social worker who prepared a s 37 report for the court. The whole hearing has had to be fitted into 5 days during the vacation which was presumably all that was available. I want to express my gratitude to counsel who have kept their examination of the witnesses focussed on the real issues, thus allowing us to conclude the oral hearing within the time scheduled for it. I imposed on them further in the light of time constraints by requiring written submissions rather than hearing counsel orally. I am very conscious of the extra burden this imposes on advocates and I am grateful to them for dealing with things in this way. I should perhaps reassure the parties that I have not felt that the absence of oral submissions has in any way hampered my consideration of the matter. This judgment was prepared over the course of the last official day of the hearing and three further full days of the weekend and vacation following in order that it could be circulated to the parties, to Dr Briscoe and to social services as soon as possible in order not to interfere with the timetable for the next hearing.

7. For the most part, the two sides present cases which are diametrically opposed. Generally speaking, this is not a case in which each party remembers that there was an event but they differ as to the details. Very often, one side alleges reprehensible conduct on the part of the other and the response is just complete denial and an assertion that the allegation is total fabrication. In these circumstances, a court is in particular need of whatever material exists independently of the parties and their factions to indicate where the truth lies. At the last minute, hospital records were produced for both parties and the children for 2007 although I do not think they can have been comprehensive because, on Day 4 of the hearing, F's counsel produced a report from Dr O'Neill of the Accident and Emergency Department which was not included in the original bundle. Apart from those records, there was an almost complete absence of anything that might shed light on the credibility of the witnesses or where the truth lay. So, for instance, M's side alleged that F's family had said that the civil ceremony of marriage was postponed because F decided he did not wish to marry M and had to be persuaded to do so whereas F said the reason was that he was ill with food poisoning and had to be admitted to hospital; the hospital records for 2004 were not available for this to be checked. No GP records were available during the hearing although it seems that Dr Briscoe may have had access to them when he did his report. Nothing had been obtained from the police. Munby J had ordered in May that the police produce material. I was told that there had been correspondence with them in an attempt to get them to comply with this but they had refused. Nobody had thought fit to bring the matter back to court before this hearing to get that resolved so at the outset of the hearing there was quite simply nothing at all from the police even though they have investigated many allegations, some of them very serious, and it would be very surprising if they had acquired in the course of that nothing at all that shed any light on what had really been happening in the K family. Having enquired about the police material, I made a new order for the police to produce what they had. All that resulted was a "Chronology of Incidents involving the K Family" compiled on 10 May 2007 by a Domestic Violence Officer and covering the period from 14 December 2006 until 6 May 2007. Police records are often immensely valuable in a fact finding exercise and it was remiss of the parties not to have pursued them. I have already given some views on the subject of proper preparation for fact finding hearings in cases where there are allegations of domestic violence (Re A (Contact: Risk of Violence) [2005] EWHC 851 (Fam)) and I do not intend to repeat them here. Another line of enquiry that might have yielded material of great assistance would have been in relation to telephone records for mobile phones and landlines. Apparently the records of A's mobile phone were produced to counsel on Day 4 of the hearing but by then most of the witnesses had already given evidence, including A, and I heard no more of what they revealed. The upshot was that I was left with virtually nothing that shed any independent light on the history about which I was supposed to make findings. Witnesses came and went from the witness box, several of them crying as they told their tales, all of them adhering to their accounts. They could not all be telling the truth all of the time and there was very little of the evidence that could, if not accepted, be dismissed as just mistaken but honest recollection. Many times, one was forced to the conclusion that the witness was either telling the truth or telling a deliberate lie with no middle ground. It follows that it has been quite exceptionally difficult to make findings of fact and there remain some matters in relation to which I have been unable to reach a conclusion.

8. I had expected from what I had read that M may have been rather quiet and retiring in the witness box. For instance, the social worker who prepared the LA's s 37 report said that M presented to her as "childlike and narrow in her thinking" and that it was difficult to assess exactly what her level of comprehension was. To begin with in the witness box, M was indeed a compliant witness, simply answering the questions put to her. As her evidence progressed, however, she became distressed and vociferous, pouring out her feelings about the way in which she said she had been treated during the marriage by F's family. Although she was giving evidence through an interpreter, her emotion was plain to see. I also noted that after she had given her own evidence, she continued to respond with feeling to the evidence of F and his witnesses by comments to the interpreter who was sitting beside her and facial expressions.

9. F questioned in his evidence how she could be "confident enough to lose her rag in the witness box" but not to do anything about it when according to her she was under house arrest. The contrast has to be borne in mind, of course, because one must always ask oneself "Would the person I have seen in the witness box be likely to have reacted in the way they say they did to the events that they describe?". However, it is entirely plausible that a woman living in her husband's household could be cowed by their treatment of her but recover her confidence on returning to her own family. Dr Briscoe said (D40):

"It is possible, if her account of the conditions under which she lived in Mr R K's household is accepted by the Court, that she may have felt oppressed, lonely and depressed, by the unfamiliar surroundings in a large new family, and in a new country with no family member at hand to support her."

and, dealing with the alternative possibility that F's account of M's behaviour in his household is true (D41):

"….a possible explanation is that of an unsophisticated, poorly educated, only child from a rural background, perhaps grieving for her father, entered into unfamiliar structured Western surroundings, with little access to her family: under those circumstances she may have become disorientated, becoming frightened, and irrational."

10. The fact that M came to this country as a young girl of 19 from a village in India where life was lived relatively simply to contract a marriage arranged for her with a man whom she had met for only a short time and that, since then, she has existed within the confines of, initially, F's family and now, her own family is a very relevant feature of the case. It is certainly relevant to my assessment of how she would have reacted in the K household. It may also prove to be relevant to the assessment of her developing parenting capacity but that will be a matter for Munby J.

11. I do not think I would have described M as "childlike and narrow in her thinking" from what I saw of her during the hearing but I bear in mind that that was the social worker's assessment of her. The s 37 report also comments that she demonstrates a level of immaturity towards parenting and relationships which I take into account. I also bear in mind Dr Briscoe's view that she is probably of low average intelligence at most. The trend of the evidence, including F's, seems to be against M having the capacity, on her own, to invent and maintain an elaborate fictional account of her treatment in the K household. This does not mean that what she says about it is necessarily the truth or wholly the truth. The paternal family suggest that it is M's relatives who are behind the allegations or alternatively that M, who I accept likes Bollywood films, has lifted her dialogue from the cinema. Despite quite a lot of denial all round, I am sure that the issues upon which this hearing has focussed have been the subject of very considerable heated discussion in both households. The explanation for why M did not come across to me in the witness box as childlike and narrow in her thinking may well be, therefore, that her participation in her own family discussions has added a level of sophistication to the manner of her presentation on these topics whereas the social worker was almost certainly covering rather more diverse, less discussed, areas with her.

12. F was a complete contrast to M. He has been brought up in this country. He works in the IT business. He has friends of long standing in his local area, including female friends, and he is plainly accustomed to being able to go about his daily life as he pleases with an income from his employment, the use of a car and the support of living in his comfortable family home with his mother and siblings. He was voluble in evidence. He was like this when he gave evidence to Munby J so it was not a surprise. He treated the questions he was asked in the witness box as an invitation to argue his case and to point out what he saw to be the deficiencies in M's, not least what he saw as the inconsistencies in her evidence. He said that he and his family were just not the sort of people to behave in the way alleged and that their problem was that they had been too nice.

13. By virtue of the findings Munby J made on 11 June 2007, it is clear that F has both the capacity and the willingness to lie in diverse contexts, including, through his counsel, to the court. He was intent upon obtaining passports for his children. He was found to have applied by the fast track to the Passport Agency for them. He lied to the Passport Agency saying that the older child's existing passport was lost when in fact it was being held by his solicitors because of these proceedings. He lied to the police, telling them that he had not made any passport applications. He lied to his solicitors about what he had done with regard to the application. He explained all of this by saying that he was in fear for his life, having been stabbed because of these proceedings, and he urgently wanted to open building society accounts for his children to make some financial provision for them in case he was murdered. To do that, on his account, he needed an original birth certificate or a passport. He did not have the former so he attempted, dishonestly, to get the latter. Having got the passports, it was still a matter of days before he opened the accounts and when he did open them, his deposit (from his take home pay of £1,145 per month) was to be approximately £20 or £40 a month. It is unsurprising that Munby J found F's account of why he was obtaining the passports "lacking in conviction". Although cautious about making findings at an interim stage, the judge went on to indicate that he had concluded that the probability was that one of F's purposes in obtaining the passports was to facilitate, if not immediately then on some suitable occasion, some plan, even if at that stage "half-baked", to remove the children from M's care and from the jurisdiction.

14. It is important not to fall into the error of assuming that because a man has lied on one or more than one previous occasion, he is lying about anything (or everything) else. In his opening skeleton argument, Mr Sharpe for F submitted that despite Munby J's adverse findings about F's credibility, this court "must look at what he [F] alleges against Mrs K with fresh eyes". Of course, I do that. I have attempted to look critically and neutrally at the whole of the evidence. I have made my own assessment of F's credibility and that of the other witnesses. I have certainly not assumed that F is to be disbelieved simply because of his previous lying. Equally I have not disregarded that feature in my own assessment.

15. I gained the impression from F that he, supported by his mother, sister and brother, was very certain of the rightness of his position. I note that he has become increasingly hostile to the LA and their views and that this has culminated in a refusal to speak to the social worker other than through solicitors. F has been compiling a complaint about the way in which he has been treated by social services so far but he says the problem is related to the particular social worker and his position would not be the same with a different person. The LA believe that his position is a result of their refusal simply to see things F's way or to take his side against M.

16. Some cases resolve themselves straightforwardly in the mind of the judge when the oral evidence, particularly in cross examination, taken with the rest of the available material reveals quite plainly that one side is telling the whole truth and the other side is telling a pack of lies. Nothing is so clear-cut in this case. At the conclusion of the oral hearing, it seemed to me that the probability was that each side was only partially truthful. Finding the facts therefore became a process of sifting laboriously through the pieces of evidence to see if it was possible to identify in relation to individual allegations where the truth lay. Mr Newton QC submits, and I accept, that the party who makes an allegation in these circumstances must prove it. The standard of proof is the balance of probabilities as set out in Re H and R. I bear in mind that the more serious the conduct alleged, the more cogent the evidence will have to be to tip that balance.

17. Before I turn to the individual allegations made by both sides, it may be helpful to look at the wider context of the case. On the account given by F's side, on 28 March 2007, M suddenly left her good marriage and the loving home she had happily shared with her husband and his family, leaving her children behind initially and only having them transferred into her care by the subsequent intervention of the courts. The paternal family say that until she went, they loved her and thought she loved them. The only explanation they can give for why she left (and this was not explored with M in cross examination) is that she had been using them all along to obtain material benefits, the categories of these including residency in this country for herself/her mother, a council house and state benefits. If this was her plan, the timing of her departure was disastrous. When I enquired about her visa, the situation seemed to be that F dealt with the necessary applications. She originally entered on a fiancée visa then that was renewed for 2 years. A further extension (which would, it seems, have been the permanent one) was to have been sought by 9 March 2007. By the time M left, F had not applied for it. She says her passport remains in his possession. This was not an issue that was explored in evidence but I got the impression that F did not accept this. As M's previous visa has expired and no application for renewal has been made, she is therefore now here as an overstayer. Instead of obtaining permission almost as a matter of course as a spouse, she will be applying for permission to stay with the complication that she is now separated permanently from her husband. M's cousin, A, is a trainee solicitor. The impression she gave in the witness box was of forceful competence. I doubt very much that had M's design been to use marriage to obtain the right to reside here, A would have permitted her to leave that marriage without permanent or indefinite leave to remain here first having been obtained. This is particularly so given that she had already remained in the marriage for 2 ½ years and would surely only have had to wait a very short time more in circumstances which were, on F's case, very congenial before securing long term renewal of her leave. One possibility is that M and her family mistakenly assumed that permanent leave had been obtained and inadvertently went ahead with their master plan prematurely. In my judgment, however, it is infinitely more likely that the purpose of M's marriage was not to obtain residency here or any other material benefits and that she entered into the arrangement principally with a view to family life as many women in her culture do. That is what I find to have been the case on the balance of probabilities. It follows that there must have been some other explanation for her precipitate departure from the marriage and I evaluate the parties' respective cases with this in mind.

18. It is an intrinsic part of F's case that M demonstrated mental instability whilst living with him. On 12 February 2007, F went to see their general practitioner "worried about the mental health of his wife" (C33). It is pointed out on his behalf that this was before he knew anything about his wife's intention to depart and the court case that would follow and it is submitted that there was no incentive at the time to fabricate such an anxiety which must therefore have been genuine. At first blush this is an attractive argument. However, I do not think that it is possible to put a natural straightforward construction on anything that was going on in this family. It is a great pity that no questions were asked during the oral evidence about why F had not sought an extension of M's permission to stay here by the requisite deadline, for example. Did he not want her to be granted permission to stay? The whole visa issue only came up towards the end of the hearing when I raised it myself and it was dealt with by information being provided through counsel so I will never know what F's answers would have been to questioning about this. I am conscious that, as the evidence of his witnesses made clear, it was not only to the GP that F had been expressing concern about M's mental health. It is part of M's case, denied by F, that he told her that if she left, she would never see the children again as the family would prove that she was mentally unstable and that they had already "certified me as 'mental' so that if I ever left or told anybody about the situation I would never see the children again." I now have the benefit of Dr Briscoe's professional assessment of M's mental state. He does not consider that she suffers from any recognisable mental illness or personality disorder. He can see that if her account of the conditions in F's family is true, her thoughts might have turned transiently to suicide and desperation if she saw no escape but nothing of that was in evidence when Dr Briscoe saw her, which he did 4 times individually within a very few months of her leaving the K household. Dr Briscoe says in his report:

"If the Court were to prefer the account given by Mr K and his family of J K's inexplicable withdrawn and neglectful behaviour, then some intrinsic disorder or innate disorder would have to be suspected of which there are not signs."

Dr Briscoe told me that he did not elicit any description from M which suggested post-natal depression and that mental disorders such as autism which might be an explanation for the sort of behaviour described by F's side would not just disappear on M leaving their house. It seems to me extremely unlikely that M had an intrinsic or innate disorder that disappeared, leaving no traces, after she left her marriage. Albeit that she has had the support of her family, she has continued to be under considerable (if different) stress since then because of the issues over the children and these ongoing proceedings and yet there is not even a vestige of evidence of mental instability. I find that whatever her behaviour in the K household, and I will come to that later, it did not have its source in a mental illness or personality disorder.

19. It is noteworthy that following F's consultation with the GP in which the GP "strongly suggested" that F encourage M to come and see a doctor, M was not brought to the surgery. F said he did not go to the GP until February 2007 because he loved M and did not want her to feel embarrassed and eventually went on his own because he thought it better to talk to the doctor alone. He says he told her she had to go to the doctor "as she had all these problems" but she said there was nothing wrong with her and he could not force her to go. Given what he described as the type of problems they were experiencing with M and given that he had, on his account, been sufficiently worried to consult the GP about the situation, it would be extremely surprising if he gave up the idea of getting medical help for M this easily. It seemed to me entirely possible that it would not have suited his purpose for M to visit the GP herself as the picture she presented might not have accorded with the history he had given or she may have given a different account.

20. It is also a fundamental part of F's case about what happened during the marriage that M took no interest in the children at any stage and was unwilling to look after them, preferring to sleep late then please herself with activities such as watching repeats of soap operas. The paternal family considered her unable to love the children and took the view that if anyone now gained the impression that she did, it was because she was a good actress. M agrees that she did not look after the children during the marriage but says this was because she was prevented from doing so by a concerted campaign by the paternal family to distance her from them and exclude her from their care. Since M has had the children living with her following the separation, the paternal family continue to make assertions that she is failing to care for them herself or to do so properly. However, M has been seen by professionals who have offered a rather different independent view. Dr Briscoe first saw M with the children on 20 July 2007. On that day the impression he gained was that neither child was then particularly close or responsive to M but thought they may have been uneasy at his presence. This contrasted with how the children were that day with F in the presence of his family members. They appeared close to their father and it was a much more relaxed, friendly, natural contact than the one with M. Dr Briscoe thought that F was perhaps trying too hard to demonstrate his affection and his mother gave the impression of being more natural and more experienced with the children. However, when Dr Briscoe saw M with the children on subsequent occasions, the picture was different and led Dr Briscoe to the opinion that M's attachment to both children is "close and natural". In the last contact on 20 August 2007, both children seemed bonded and secure with M. Dr Briscoe considered that M was "able to look after, care for, and meet the needs of these children". He told me in oral evidence that he thought she showed genuine love for them. As for the experience of social services, they have found that she is able to provide basic care for both children, albeit that they have only seen her operating with the support of her extended family so far. They have concerns about the children's attachments as their reactions to people (and to separation from their parents) vary. Miss Bartleman thinks that they may not have a secure attachment to one adult and may have been passed from pillar to post in terms of the adults caring for them. This is a suspicion which is reflected in the descriptions that at least some of the paternal family give of arrangements for caring for the children during the marriage and it must be remembered that it is common ground that M was not looking after them whilst she was living in that household and did not (whether for lack of opportunity, inclination or ability) form a proper maternal relationship with them then. However, the social work observations have not suggested a complete inability on the part of M to form a bond with the children or to deliver proper care. As she told Dr Briscoe, Miss Bartleman observed a positive interaction between M and children. M has shown an ability to play with them and an awareness of safety considerations albeit that, perhaps not surprisingly, she has been seen to have difficulty at times meeting the competing needs of both small children. Observations of Mr K led social services to describe his emotional bond with the children as "fragile" and to conclude that it is not likely that he provided the basic care for them during the marriage.

21. A number of questions flow from these observations of M with the children after the separation. One is of particular importance in the fact finding exercise. Given that she has the capacity to relate to the children and attend to aspects of their care now and given that there is evidence from a consultant psychiatrist that she genuinely loves them, why did M not behave as a mother to them during the marriage? Two possible explanations particularly present themselves. There is no evidence of mental illness or personality disorder but perhaps M was overborne, as Dr Briscoe postulates, by her circumstances. Alternatively, there is her explanation that she was prevented from caring for the children.

22. A closely allied question is why, if the paternal family are right in saying that M did not have the least interest in the children, she bothered to go to the lengths that she did to obtain care of them when she left? Miss LG, one of F's witnesses, said she was very surprised that M wanted the children given that she never seemed to love them. It might have been said that the explanation could lie in it being dishonourable in her culture to be a mother who is not caring for her own children and furthermore that her family have been behind the push to have the children living with them. However, this possibility has not been advanced by the paternal family. In any event, it is not an explanation that fits the facts. In the light of the evidence, which I accept, that M genuinely loves the children now, it would have to be argued that the spur of culture/family pressure to seek care of the children also miraculously precipitated feelings for them which she had totally failed to develop in the previous 2 ½ years whilst she was with them day in and day out. That, to my mind, is simply an incredible scenario.

23. I now turn to look at some of the particular allegations about what occurred during the marriage. It is easier to form a view about some of these than others and I will commence with a collection of allegations of this type concerning M's alleged suicidal tendencies and her activities with the gas. To give this judgment any sensible linear form, I have to focus, when dealing with specific allegations, on the points which are particularly relevant to those individual matters. However, the fact is that in reaching each of my conclusions, I have at all times borne in mind the strengths and weaknesses of the entirety of the evidence so that, for example, in reaching adverse conclusions about the paternal family, I have not ignored the deficiencies that there are in the approach of the maternal family (whether in evidence giving or in their more general conduct) and vice versa.

24. M's father committed suicide. It seems this happened when she was quite a small child. F says her uncle (who he says had become her step-father) also committed suicide but M does not accept either that her uncle became her step-father or that he committed suicide. F says that about two weeks after he started to live with M, whilst they were walking over Staines Bridge, M made a comment about committing suicide, subsequently saying that she was only joking. Thereafter, she would say something about committing suicide about two or three times a month. She told F, on his case, about the family suicides and said she "would have the guts to do the same". She would say she was joking but it scared him. His brother and sister had Slar experiences with her. When she was pregnant with S, she again said she would be able to commit suicide if she wanted. F responded, "OK, then do it" and says that she went and opened the window and put two feet out to sit on the window ledge saying she would do it. He pulled her back in and she said it was just a joke. He says that when a Sikh woman committed suicide in 2006 with her children under a train at Southall, M talked about it incessantly. S K, in a statement filed very late, well after the deadlines imposed by the court for evidence, also describes an incident on Staines Bridge saying that M asked how deep the water was and whether she would drown if she jumped over the parapet. She says M continued over the months and years to refer constantly to suicide. If they were watching TV and someone shot himself, she would say she would be able to do that. After the suicide at Southall which she had constantly talked about, she would ask where the train station was and how long it would take to walk and how frequently the trains ran. She says M once said that if she was going to commit suicide, she would burn herself because you are burned after you are dead and she would like to see what it felt like whilst she was still alive. Whilst they were on a dinner cruise on holiday in Dubai as a family, she says M said that she really felt like jumping into the river and S felt in danger. NM, originally a friend of F's from college, speaks of M saying to her that if she committed suicide, she would kill the children first and then kill herself. She also says that M asked a couple of times about the lady in Southall and at what intervals trains run in Egham. NM says she asked M why she was asking such questions and she said it was because she wanted to jump in front of a train, then said she was just joking. She told me in oral evidence that M's talk of suicide started in 2005 after S had been born. PGM's oral evidence had a slightly different slant and was to the effect that M got very upset when she remembered her father and step-father committing suicide.

25. Despite the fact that, according to the paternal family, these frequent references to suicide made them anxious and apparently included what they thought to be threats to the lives of the children, with the possible exception of the consultation with the GP in February 2007, no professional was told about them and no help was sought for M.

26. At the same time, there were, on the paternal family's account, a number of disturbing incidences of M leaving the gas tap on on the hob. F says in his first statement that on numerous occasions M left the gas on unlit. He spoke to her a number of times about it. She would sometimes say she had forgotten but on a number of occasions, she simply stood there and did nothing or walked away without a word. He became very concerned because she started to ask questions about how long it would take for gas to spread through the house. G K says that one day not long after S was born, he went into the kitchen after M had been making tea on the hob, saw her looking at the gas rings and smelt gas. The gas was on. He asked her what she thought she was doing and told her it was dangerous. She said she wanted to see how the gas came out of the little holes. He was scared and started to open all the windows in case there was an explosion. A colleague of F's, LG, describes how she and F were having a chat in the back room at the house. M had made them a cup of tea. They smelt gas and when F rushed into the kitchen, he found M had left the gas tap on. He called M from upstairs and said that it was dangerous but she did not seem interested.

27. M denies that she ever left the gas on.

28. LG's sympathies are undoubtedly with F. She told me F rang her late on the night that the children were taken away from him and she volunteered to write a letter to court to explain her view that the children should not be with M who she felt showed no motherly love and was incapable of caring for them. She accompanied F to social services' offices on 23 April 2007 but did not feel they were really interested in her point of view. Her letter reflects her sympathies in that, whilst I have no reason to question its basic honesty, its slant is against M. She says in it that she "visited the family home on many occasions"; in evidence she said she went approximately 5 or 6 times which I would not describe as "many occasions". In the statement, she described an incident when S put bleach spray in her mouth, saying "Jassi saw her and didn't even stop her.". When that was explored in evidence, the actual position was that she considered that M must have seen S put the spray in her mouth because of where she was but there was nothing that actually confirmed that she had. I have no reason to doubt, however, that her account of being present when the gas was left on was basically correct. It seemed to me that at times M would deny absolutely that things happened when I thought they might well have done, but in a different form from that described by F and his family or where they were open to a benign interpretation rather than the sinister one that F and his family put on them. The idea of M looking to see how the gas came out of the holes, for example, was persuasive, given that this was probably a luxury to which she was unaccustomed. Slarly, if she asked questions about how long the gas would take to fill the house, this was not necessarily an indication of suicidal intent.

29. Accordingly, I find that there were occasions when the gas was left on in the household and M was probably responsible. I do not consider that it was likely to have been with anything like the regularity that F described. F told me that the constant need to check the gas was off whilst M was there has led to an ingrained habit so that they still check now. G K, however, only described one occasion when he either saw or heard of M leaving the gas on which is not consistent with a household on constant alert. F told me that he thought that when M left the gas on it was an attempt to commit suicide. This would have killed the children and members of the family. Despite the fact that he found the gas left on more than 10 times and sometimes 5 or 6 times a month, he told no one outside the family about this problem of his wife's which threatened all their lives so regularly. It is inconceivable that he could have allowed a position such as he describes to continue without seeking help for M. NM's view of the occasions when she found the gas left on was that this was an accident. That, it seems to me, is the overwhelming probability and I dismiss the suggestion that it was ever done by M in an attempt to commit suicide.

30. In summary, it seems to me more probable than not that there was from time to time discussion of suicide in the household. No doubt things were discussed when the woman committed suicide at Southall for instance; that would be quite normal in response to such an item of news and perhaps particularly where a member of the family has a close relative who committed suicide. However I do not believe that the paternal family ever thought M intended suicide. In my view, they have probably seized on snippets of conversation and incidents that at the time had no significance and blown them up into a picture of an actively suicidal woman whose death wish risked causing death or serious harm to her children and others in the same house. I find that the reality was that in so far as M spoke of suicide, it was far less frequently than F suggested and not with any intention of engaging in it herself. Furthermore, there is no evidence of her ever making a serious suicide attempt.

31. Another incident about which I formed a clear view was the alleged occasion of the magic spell in the garden. On 24 March 2007, whilst MGM was on a visit from India, the evidence of F and NM is that they saw M and MGM in the garden holding S over a small fire. MGM was cutting a piece of S's hair off so that it fell into the fire. S was coughing in the smoke. M was holding a small piece of paper with Punjabi writing on it which F believed she had obtained from a Baba, who practises magic rituals. MGM said they were doing this for luck but F thought it was more sinister. NM's statement described witnessing M and MGM "performing black magic" on S. Her statement contains virtually no details. M said nothing of the sort happened.

32. F told me considerably more detail about this event in the witness box. There was a difference between that account, in which he was outside in the garden himself when he saw what happened, and the account Dr Briscoe thought he had given which was that he was watching from a window. Although Dr Briscoe maintained the accuracy of his note he was prepared to accept that F, who was at the time standing speaking to Dr Briscoe inside the house by a back window, may have meant by their exchange that the incident happened in the garden rather than that he saw it through the window. I do not set particular store by this apparent divergence. What was very striking was the Slarity between the detailed account F gave and that NM gave in her oral evidence when I asked her. It involved all sorts of specific aspects such as the timing and purpose of the trip to Tesco to which NM gave F a lift, how precisely they came to discover what was going on, and so on. I cannot, in this case, ever disregard the possibility that a witness has been primed to give particular evidence and I considered whether this might have happened with NM, particularly as I had reservations about her evidence generally as I will explain later. However there was so much detail that I did not think it likely that she would have reproduced it so perfectly unless it was in fact an account of what really happened. I was originally sceptical about this incident for a number of reasons. Why, for example, should M and MGM choose this moment when F and NM were obviously only going to be gone for a short while and PGM was still in the house to engage in this activity which would involve some quite time conSung preparation? However ultimately I was persuaded on the balance of probability that what F and NM described did occur. What it meant is another question. It may well have been a ritual for luck, for instance, and simply a feature of a different culture. It is an example of a situation in which M's approach of total denial deprives me of the chance of evaluating an issue properly.

33. Taking stock, in two areas where the evidence is in my view relatively clear, I have found that F's account of M's behaviour in relation to the gas/suicide is untruthful and that M's denial of the magic incident is also untruthful. That exemplifies the difficulty of the case and underlines that neither side can be relied upon in their accounts.

34. I turn now to a number of the other matters that F alleges against M which form a category in which it seemed to me that something may have happened but that it was unlikely to be of a problematic nature. I bear in mind that in each case M's response was a total denial but I have already said that I do not consider that her bald denials can be taken at face value. F alleges he once saw M banging her head on the wall (Dr Briscoe thought that he said to him that it was against the edge of a door but F denied that); he thought she had a headache. G K says that he too saw her banging her head against the wall in September 2005 and it concerned him. SK says she saw M doing this on at least two occasions. The first time was a few months after the wedding and M said she had a headache. The second time was last summer and she said it was to see if the bricks would fall; this seems to have been said with some humour. If these occasions or any of them occurred, I do not consider that there was any significance to the gesture. If the paternal family had really been worried about it, no doubt it would have lent weight to the need to obtain professional help for/with M which, as we know, they did not do. Slarly, this sort of activity, if really thought by the family to be indicative of mental instability or relevant to issues of child care would have added to a worrying picture which would surely have led them to ensure that M was never in charge of the children. It is, of course, their case that they never did prevent M from caring for the children. Indeed, they describe times when she was alone with them which, on their account, have provided a rich seam of disasters or potential disasters upon which to draw for their evidence to the court.

35. I would put the incident involving the vacuum cleaner nozzle which G K describes into the same category as the head banging. In his statement, he describes the Dyson vacuum cleaner with particularly strong suction and how M was picking up cornflakes with the nozzle and then put the nozzle onto S's stomach and hand. M denies this completely. In telling me about this in oral evidence, G did not miss the opportunity to point up M's deficiencies by informing me that M had just spilled the cornflakes and he knew she would not pick them up so he recommended the use of the vacuum cleaner. However, he then said that M "zapped the nozzle against S's stomach kind of in a playful way". He did not think that was the way to play with a child and he may well be right but that would be a matter for education. I could detect nothing in his account, if it is to be accepted, that would suggest that M was intent on maliciously hurting S.

36. A further allegation in this category concerns a pillow. In F's schedule of allegations this appears as "Applicant places pillow over S's head and does not notice". The source of the information is G K. What his statement actually says is, "About 2 weeks ago Su [sic] was in the middle of the bed. Jassi threw a pillow onto the bed and it landed on Su's face. Jassi laid back to watch television and did not appear to notice that the pillow was actually covering Su's face." This implies a wholly accidental event concerning the pillow, quite different from placing a pillow over the child's head and failing to notice. If it happened, it is unlikely to have had any significance at all.

37. I turn to the cross allegations that there are about burns from the iron. M undoubtedly has several scars on her arm which may be from iron burns. I think I saw 4 linear marks. F says she burned herself. He says he saw marks on her arms on many occasions which appeared to be burn marks and were shaped like the tip of an iron. He says M said that when she ironed she liked to test how much pain she could tolerate. G describes an occasion in late 2004 when M was ironing and he walked past and saw her hold the edge of the iron against her inner forearm. He snatched the iron from her and asked what she was doing. After a long pause she said there was hair growing on the side of her arm so she thought she would burn it. G told his mother. G was prepared to accept it might be a beauty treatment in India. He saw M burning her arm with the iron again towards the end of 2006, however, and this time she did not respond when asked why. He told his brother that time. PGM recalled being called by G and told that M had burned her arm. She, PGM, asked M why and M said in India they used to use wax to remove hair and she was trying to see if she could do that with the iron. Another time, PGM said that M was taking a roasting tin from the oven and got burned. M makes no allegation about this and it is, of course, a type of injury with which housewives are all too familiar.

38. M alleges that PGM has been responsible for two of her burns. She says that in March or April 2006, when S was 5 or 6 months old, PGM accused her of not ironing properly. She took the iron from M and burnt her with it. She says PGM was holding S at the time and S's fingers brushed the iron but S was not injured. Given the date of this and the fact that there was no injury to S, I do not think this can have been the occasion on 17 June 2006 to which I shall refer shortly although the evidence about the two events seemed to get elided at times. M seemed to be saying that there was a time when she was pregnant with Su when S was injured which I think must have been a different occasion from the one in March/April 2006 and may have been 17 June 2006.

39. S undoubtedly had a burn on her finger on 17 June 2006. F alleges that M deliberately did this with an iron, possibly to see whether S could feel anything. He says he was downstairs and M was ironing in a spare room. S, aged 8 months, was lying on the bed in the same room. He heard her screaming and he and S went running. S was lying on the bed screaming and M was sitting on the bed with the iron in her hand. S was waving one hand that was red and burned. SK gives a Slar account, saying that she cannot see how the burn can have been accidental. F and SK took S to hospital. What F did not say in his statement, which I think was made at a time when he had applied for S's medical records but they were not yet available, is that he told the hospital that S was being held by him when the incident happened. The health visiting record for that day reads "A and E attendance at St Peter's Hospital, Chertsey. Burn to left hand. S was reported by father to have passed the iron and touched it whilst held by Mr K. Treated by father with Vaseline instead of cold water….". Asked why F and SK took S to hospital and M did not go, F said that they had guests coming and M was getting ready. SK said M did not want to go to hospital with S. As to why he gave the account that he had been holding S at the time, F said he lied because he loved M and was protecting her. Despite what he says was his conclusion that the burn was deliberate abuse by M of S and his worry about that, F says he allowed M to look after S on her own after that day on quite a lot of occasions.

40. I do not believe any of this story of M being responsible for the burn to S, whether accidentally or deliberately. F's suggestion that he said he was holding the child to protect M is incredible. I do not think he would have told the hospital that he was holding S when the burn occurred unless he was. It is simply not in his character to accept responsibility in this way. If M really had been in charge of S at the time and he genuinely wanted to tell a story to cover up for her, I think it highly likely that he would have invented some accident whilst S was in her care rather than writing her out of the picture completely.

41. It is interesting that M did not go to the hospital that day and that the hospital took SK to be the child's mother. I note that neither did M go to health appointments (see s 37 report at page 23). Mr K's absence from the health appointments is understandable as he was working. M's is not. Why should PGM and G deal with these appointments without her? They would no doubt say that it was because of her disinterest and I will consider that possibility in due course. Another explanation is that she was marginalised and was not invited to come along.

42. To return to the scars on M's arm and the allegation that PGM burned her deliberately. Accidental iron burns are another common adjunct of household chores and they can leave scars. It is suggested on M's behalf that M was not allowed to go to hospital on 17 June 2006 because she would have shown her own burn to the doctors and given an account of how PGM was responsible for causing it deliberately and for accidentally causing S's burn, which is her case to this court. It was at the point where PGM was being questioned about this aspect that she had a sudden attack of being unable to breathe and, after the first aider was called, had to go home. Her evidence was not resumed because it may well have involved significant delay and she had, in fact, already undergone considerable questioning. Accordingly, I know that her answer to the suggestion that she burned M was that it was lies: "Why would I do that? I loved her more than my own daughters" but I was not able to hear what she would have said about S being caught up in the incident. I am entirely sure that PGM loves her granddaughters very much and that she would not have wanted either of them to come to any harm. Just as I think that F's side have taken innocuous events/comments and built them into a case, so I think M and her relatives also have the capacity to elaborate upon ordinary incidents to build a case. I must bear that, and what I have concluded to be their extreme hostility towards F and his family, in mind when I evaluate the evidence on serious allegations such as this one about deliberate burning of M's arm. I do not consider that the evidence reaches the cogency required to establish that what M alleges took place. I do not believe that M was burning her own arms deliberately either, whether as a misguided beauty treatment or otherwise.

43. To summarise the position with regard to burns therefore, I do not find evidence to establish that any burns, whether to S or to M, were anything other than ordinary accidents.

44. I intend to turn now to the issues appearing in sections D and E of M's schedule of allegations under the headings "Deprivation of child care" and "Other emotional abuse".

45. I have concluded from the evidence that M was a disappointment to F's family. I am not entirely sure whether I know all the reasons for this but I consider, on the balance of probabilities, that the fact that she had a physical abnormality in that one breast was smaller than the other contributed to this. F discovered this on the night of the Indian wedding ceremony. He suggests that he said nothing about it and it only came to his family's notice later in other circumstances. The paternal family all say to me that it did not matter and could have happened to anyone. M says that F referred to it repeatedly and saw it as a physical disability. She says that amongst the insulting language the family used towards her, she was told she was deformed and also that she was half man, half woman. She says F told her family she could not breast feed because she had a disability. She describes an incident shortly after the wedding which was organised by PGM. F washed his feet in a bowl of water and M was told to drink the water "because my son has kept you". She was forced to drink the water to disgrace her. She was given the impression she could be sent back to India just like G had done with his wife. The paternal family denied this event.

46. As to the circumstances in which G's wife did undoubtedly leave him after living with him for only a few months, there has been considerable debate. He says that it was because she had always had another boyfriend and was not committed to marrying him. They are now divorced. MGM has obtained some sort of document from India which is said to relate to a claim that the wife's family have made in relation to the dowry. I have not seen an original of the document, only a translation. On the paternal family's account, there is no reason for proceedings by G's former wife. They deny that any dowry was paid and deny there are any proceedings in India relating to that or anything else, or at least any proceedings of which they are aware. G's reaction when the document was raised with him in the witness box provided valuable information as to his approach to evidence-giving. He gave conflicting accounts as to whether he had actually seen the document before it was produced when he was in the witness box and as to what he had been told about it before he came to give evidence. It seemed tolerably clear that he had not had an opportunity to study it properly but that did not hamper him from asserting forcefully that it was a forgery and that such documents could be bought easily in India. Beyond providing me with an insight into his attitude to assisting in the fact finding exercise, the document did not assist in my deliberations because it was never properly established what it was, whether it was something on which I could place any reliance at all and, if so, what it might tell me.

47. To return to the question of the paternal family's attitude to M, however, I thought that something F said to Dr Briscoe provided a particularly revealing indicator as to the attitude he took about M's physical shape. Dr Briscoe's report of his interview with F includes this passage:

"She [M] came to England and the couple married at the end of August 2004 in London. He was concerned to notice that there was a size difference in the breasts, and he said that she had not informed him about this."

It is noteworthy that this is one of the things F thought to mention to Dr Briscoe in the history of his marriage whereas the picture the paternal family were trying to portray in court was that it was something of total insignificance. Dr Briscoe told me that the impression he got was that F thought he ought to have been told about it and he thought M had not been frank. I find that that was indeed F's view. It is possible that he was indeed reluctant to go through a civil marriage ceremony after his discovery and that that, and not illness on his part, was the reason the civil ceremony was postponed and I heard evidence that that was what members of the paternal family said to other members of the community. Had I had sight of the medical records for that time, I might have been able to make a finding one way or another but on the evidence presented to me, that was not feasible. However, I am satisfied that F was aggrieved that he had not been told about what he considered to be a deformity in his wife when he thought he should have been and that his resentment about this entered into the way in which he treated her. I think it probable that he told other members of his family too and that they used epithets to M reflecting it. I think it more probable than not that she was called "half man, half woman" in the paternal household and that other derogatory terms such as the Punjabi for female monkey and the English and Punjabi terms for bitch were used. I think it probable also that the curious feet washing ceremony did take place. It is so curious that it would be difficult to invent, unless of course it derived from a Bollywood film but no one has identified a picture featuring it or put that specifically to M.

48. I am satisfied from the evidence that M was treated as an outsider in the paternal family which the evidence shows to have been a close knit family, convinced of its own worth in society and of what is owed to it in terms of respect and gratitude. It seems to me that they concluded that M was not good enough for them. I have no doubt that the non-disclosure of her differential breast size will have contributed to their view. It may well also have been that, finding herself in this country living separately from her own family in a new household in very different material circumstances from her own in India, M found some difficulty in adjusting and seemed to them simple and perhaps slow. Possibly the way in which she lived her life reflected her rather different cultural experiences and seemed to them odd and backward; the magic incident may be an example of this and her curiosity about the way the gas came through the little holes may be another. Anyone with any experience of bullying would recognise some of the features of the treatment that she said the family meted out to her. It struck a particularly true note when she said to me in oral evidence that she was not even allowed to touch the children because her hands were dirty. I was impressed by what I thought was her genuine and extreme distress in the witness box about some of what she said she suffered, not least being kept from her children and not allowed to cuddle and love them. She told me, convincingly I thought, that when they were nasty to her, she used to take everything and be quiet as she did not know the law of this country and they scared her into not talking to anyone about what was happening. A number of witnesses corroborate that M was passive although some ascribed it to her own inability or lack of motivation and used it to criticise her failure to care for her children. I think it more probable than not that M was subjected to criticism from a very early stage in her marriage. It may well have been that the effect of this was to undermine her self-esteem and to make her less able than she would have been otherwise in the household setting. I accept what she says about the concerted family effort to keep her from caring for her own children. I do not intend to descend to the detail that is included on M's schedule on this subject but I do find that the exclusion of M from the children's care began as soon as the children were born and continued consistently until M's departure. Why the paternal family did this, I am not sure, but I am quite satisfied they did. They may have wished for boys but I do not think, actually, the fact that they had two little girls ultimately made any difference to their love for the children and their determination to bring them up in their own way rather than letting M loose on them with her more primitive ideas, as they may have seen it. The LA say that if M was the victim of violence and rape, they would have serious concerns about her failure to protect the children from being exposed to such behaviour. I have not yet made my findings about these matters but I would invite the LA to think very carefully before condemning M for failing to protect herself and the children from any aspect of the K household, whether it be violence or something less. It is hard to imagine the impact of living as M did in a situation where one is an outsider in a cohesive and forceful family and a stranger to the continent, let alone the country. We are accustomed these days to the way in which domestic violence can sap an individual's free will and, in my judgment, we need to be alert to the possibility that other domestic situations might have a Slar effect.

49. M alleges that she was isolated, not allowed to go out of the house on her own and not allowed to have unsupervised contact with her relatives. She says she was threatened with various things if she told anyone how she was being treated in the household. The evidence does not establish total isolation. Undoubtedly M's family visited the paternal home. Her own mother mentions in her statement that she use to visit M there, including staying the night, and that a handful of times M visited her at her sister in law's house where she was staying whilst in this country. BK says he visited three or four times for particular occasions and he agreed he was made welcome. A and R went too. A put her visits at "less than twice a month". R went four or five times. They (or rather their mother) would ring PGM before they went because the doorbell did not work and they might not otherwise be able to get in. R said they were made to feel welcome. They say however, and I accept, that they never saw M alone. Whilst I found A a strident witness who had strong views about M's situation and who I thought may have been influential in the maternal household since the separation, R was a softer character, more measured, and I felt able largely to accept her account. She said to me that she was not really involved with family discussions about what had happened to M because she was busy with her work although she was upset and shocked about the situation. She gave me some small details which rang true. She said M would always sit next to PGM and SK when she, R, visited and on occasions when R went to hug her, she seemed apprehensive. R thought at the time that she was maybe not feeling well but in hindsight, she thought she might have been scared. She also told me that M lost a lot of weight. She noticed this the first time she went to the house after the marriage which could have been 6 months or a year later. She commented on this and someone answered for M that girls want to lose weight to be skinny. She told me about how she now takes S to the shops sometimes on her own but otherwise M and she go out together with the children, for instance to the park. I thought it was revealing that she said M does not feel safe going out on her own. This may be to do with the situation in relation to the breakdown of the marriage and the children but it seemed to me that it may well also be an indicator that M did not become acclimatised to going about in the community during the marriage.

50. Despite the protests of the paternal family that M was allowed to associate freely with her friends and family without threat or supervision, I find that it is more probable than not that she was in the company of a member of the paternal family at most times, whether she was telephoning or receiving or making a visit, and that it was made clear to her that she should not complain to anyone about her treatment by them. I do not intend to make findings about the precise nature of the pressure that was put upon her. In a situation in which both sides have, in my judgment, the capacity to embroider and invent and there are few independent indicators of the truth, it is difficult to determine where the truth lies in matters of detail – whether, for instance, the paternal family threatened to send M back to India or to kill her or to throw acid over her. Certainly, there is no evidence that the paternal family would actually have killed M or thrown acid over her but that does not mean that such hyperbole might not have featured in exchanges in the household. What I am sure about is that as a result of her treatment in the paternal home, no doubt with cultural conditioning also playing its part, M was intimidated to the point that she was unable to speak up about the bullying that she experienced.

51. The picture M portrayed was of being confined to the house a lot of the time. She told Dr Briscoe apparently that the only time she left it was when she went out in the car with F's sister. I do not know whether that particular comment was garbled in the translation but it is perfectly plain that M did go out from the house albeit there was no evidence that she did so completely alone. It was a surprise to hear M concede at the start of her evidence that she had, in fact, travelled with F to Edinburgh and Glasgow after the marriage and that the whole family had gone on holiday to Dubai. NM said that M went to the pictures and out shopping with her. M denied this sort of thing happened but faced the problem of her own mother's statement which said (dealing with March 2007) "On Friday, I arrived at their house and soon after Sandeep [sic] took J out to watch a film so I barely saw her that day…..On Sunday, Sandeep took J shopping, so it seemed that the family were ensuring I did not get anytime alone with my daughter or hardly saw her." M's response when this was put to her was that the paternal family had lied to her mother in saying that SK had taken her to the pictures. In fact SK did take her out of the house but it was not to the pictures and it was in order to prevent her mother spending time with her. As for the shopping trip, that was only a further device to prevent her mother seeing her. I do not believe this explanation of M's. It seems to me that the overwhelming probability is that she did in fact go out from time to time, whether to the shops or to the cinema or to functions at other people's houses or elsewhere albeit that I accept that she is likely to have been accompanied on most if not all the occasions.

52. M makes a series of allegations about how she was treated during her pregnancy and, for his part, F makes allegations about her not wanting to have the children and wanting a termination. I am unable to reach a clear view about the detail of these allegations – whether M was made to drink 5 glasses of milk one after the other and whether she had to eat apples, pears and oranges rather than grapes and mangoes. Having assessed the whole of the evidence and the characters involved, it seems to me that it is not at all unlikely that M had moments of apprehension about her pregnancy and may have expressed herself unready to have a baby. I am prepared to accept that the whole family will have held a discussion, as they say, to persuade her that this apprehension was unnecessary and no doubt it was made clear that everyone would be involved in caring for the babies. Whether termination of pregnancy was mentioned or not, I do not think any significance attaches to anything M may have said about it and it would certainly tell me nothing about M's attachment to the children once they were born. I have also concluded that it is likely that there were disagreements about how M should be looking after her health during the pregnancy. I am sure that the paternal family would have been most anxious for each pregnancy to progress well and would have been forceful in their attempts to ensure that the regime that they thought was best was followed, even if this meant M had to take tablets and eat food she did not really want. I do not believe M's allegation that she was at times condemned to eat left over scraps.

53. The sleeping arrangements for the children whilst M was in the paternal home were unclear to me at the conclusion of the evidence. The thrust of what I was being told was that F, PGM, G and SK all took a hand in the night time care of the children but never M and that seemed to me to be the reality. I do not think it was from laziness, disinclination or inability on M's part but because it suited the paternal family to arrange it that way. The details of the sleeping arrangements varied according to which witness was giving evidence. M told me in oral evidence that the children slept with PGM. Her account was that they never slept in the bedroom she shared with F. F described an arrangement which involved him taking responsibility for the children in the bedroom he shared with M on 4 nights a week at least with, in due course, the children spending a night in PGM's room and his sister and brother also helping. He said he told M it would be good if she helped with their care but her response was that he should set an alarm for her. Gt said that he had S once a week and SK had her on 2 or 3 nights to relieve F. He described a regime operative at one point which involved S, then a baby, sleeping in his room and him feeding her but SK getting up to deal with the nappy if that needed changing. From the beginning of this year, his account was that S was in a cot in PGM's room. On his account, Su was in with M and F. PGM's evidence was confused about the sleeping arrangements. I think she ultimately accepted she had S in her room latterly but not before Su was born. The evidence generally suggested to me that she played an important part in caring for the children, at least during the day. She wanted me to accept that it was F who had the main responsibility but the reality was that he was at work during the day and I find that even when he was not out at work, the members of the household (with the exclusion of M) shared the care of the children between them rather than F being solely responsible. Subsequent observations by the local authority and Dr Briscoe of F with the children have suggested that he can have relaxed, close and appropriate contact with them but that the position is not absolutely secure as the curious events of 16 July show and F is not reliably able to negotiate the care of the children by himself. Dr Briscoe's comment that PGM gave the impression of being more natural and more experienced with the children and probably did most of their care when they lived there may have some truth in it.

54. I want to deal next with the evidence of M's treatment of the children. There is evidence from a number of witnesses that they saw her slap or shake the children. As well as the paternal family, there is NM, SKk, RH, BKn, ST, and RI.

55. I found NM's oral evidence extremely puzzling. She was in a state of very considerable agitation and seemed very uncomfortable giving evidence. People are often very nervous in that situation but her presentation was not quite like that. When she described the threatening phone calls she says she received from M and her family, she did seem upset. At other times, I was unsure what to make of her and I gave serious consideration to the possibility that, although I accepted she gave truthful evidence about the magic in the garden, there were other times in her evidence when she was aware that she was not telling the truth and was uncomfortable about this. She said that she became good friends with M. She said they used to go out together to shop and watch films. She said she had also given M a lift to and from her aunt's house. This was contrary to M's account of being kept in virtual isolation in the paternal home, about which I have made some findings already. In concluding her evidence, NM said, looking intently at M, that she still loved her to bits and did not know "why she has done this". I thought that expression of profound affection sat uneasily with the strong, uncompromising way in which particularly her second written statement was expressed. In it, she asserts that M was "a really bad mother" and that she did not do anything for S. It contains material about M discussing visas and council housing in February 2007 that appears to be included to suggest a motive for M leaving the marriage and now showing an interest in the children when NM's evidence is that she "would always be shouting, screaming and abusing the babies". She says "I am surprised that behind such an innocent face there is such a cunning and deceitful person…..J is just using the babies for her own cunning motives but is not capable of looking after the babies and is negligent and abusive towards them." NM says M used to get very annoyed whenever S would scream or cry and that she had seen her shaking and slapping S and told her on "many occasions" not to behave like this with the children. She said M was proud this was how children were dealt with in India. These sweeping highly critical comments are hard to reconcile with neutral observations of the way M has related to her children since she left the marriage. It is also difficult to accept a picture of widespread abusive behaviour of M towards the children when I have found that, on the whole, she was not allowed to take sole care of them in the paternal household. Indeed, when NM gave oral evidence, the generalised picture contracted to her having seen S being hit "2 or 3 times" and to having seen M shake her when she was 3 or 4 months old on which occasion PGM came in and said "don't do it like this, do it slowly".

56. Another difficulty with NM's position is that she permitted the situation she describes to continue. It will be recalled that she gave evidence of M speaking to her about suicide and saying that she would kill the children first and she said she, NM, was worried. She did nothing about this and told me she was so shocked she just "put a brave face on and told her not to be silly". Slarly, she did not do anything to secure effective intervention in the abuse she said she saw M meting out to the children. She told me that she only mentioned it to F once and he said to her that he had already told her not to deal with the children like that. Her statement anticipates that this anomaly may be remarked upon in that she says that she feels bad that she did not "do anything or tell anyone about J's intentions before" but that does not explain how, if she had seen the degree of abusive/dangerous behaviour by M that she described in her second statement, she could have failed to take more action than she said she did to protect the children.

57. I concluded that NM's sympathies were firmly in the paternal camp. She was F's friend before he married M and has continued to be friendly with him since the separation. She says she volunteered to provide a statement and did the first one all by herself. I have been struck, however, by how very Slar in format the various statements produced on F's side in the immediate aftermath of the separation are. It seems to me that this is almost certainly more than a coincidence. F contacted a number of people the night when the children were removed from his care and it seems to me likely that he was drumming up support from that moment and, whether more or less overtly, steered NM, AK, LG, Mr JB and RH to make the statements that they did on 30 and 31 March. Having considered the whole of NM's evidence carefully, I am not prepared to accept her as an impartial witness with regard to M and, in particular, I am not prepared to rely on what she says about her treatment of the children.

58. I am not prepared to set any store on what Mr JBl and RH who were not called to give evidence said on the topic in their "statements" either. AK was called to give evidence, however, and that evidence requires further consideration. She works at SingleRapid Ltd where F works. She wrote her first statement late at night on the evening of 30 March 2007 following a "very distressed phone call" from F to the effect that his children had been taken away. I have no reason to doubt that F would have been very distressed as I am sure that the removal of the children came as a huge blow. She plainly felt that he had turned to her as a friend and he may well have done. She had gained the impression from him once S was born that M was disinclined to care for her and that the paternal family were looking after her. She says, "He began to imply that Jassie was both emotionally and mentally either unwilling or unable to be a real mother to S and his family feared for the child's safety and tried not to leave mother and child alone….." She is clear that she learned most of what she "knew" about the situation from F himself. Although she was not to know this, he was not, in my view, a reliable source. However, she also described what she saw when she visited the K family home once herself in December 2006. She says that she

"noticed how S was completely ignored by her mother who seemed to be absent in spirit even though she was in the room. The child was evidently so used to this that she made no attempt to gain her mother's attention although she did interact normally and happily with all the members of K's family. When the toddler stumbled and might have hurt herself on the table, it was K's mother, not her own mother, who reacted to prevent an accident. Jassie showed no response, either when the younger baby started to cry – K's sister soothed and fed her."

59. I thought AK was an honest witness. Her observation that when Su started to cry, M showed no response was of particular interest. It contrasted, for example, with the picture painted by NM of a mother who would be quick to anger and react when her older child cried. In my view, AK's description of a mother who appeared to be detached from her children, which she ascribed to a deficiency on M's part, fits equally well with M having been successfully prevented over time from caring for her own children and having given up any struggle to do so. The whole picture I got from AK's evidence was of passivity and inaction on M's part. That, coupled with the lack of opportunity that the paternal family allowed her to care for the children, reduced the chance of her behaving abusively towards the children as the paternal witnesses described or certainly of doing so as frequently as their evidence suggested.

60. There was a statement in the bundle from SKk who works at the Royal British Legion with G. She describes having visited the paternal home in November 2006 to do some work. She says she heard shouting and saw M slap S and snatch the remote control from her. She says she also saw a bruise on S's thigh. G explained to her that this happened regularly and he often felt compelled to protect S who often had scratches or bruises on her. Miss SKk did not give oral evidence and I do not feel able to rely solely upon her written statement to find proved the serious allegation that she makes. G confirmed the story and so did PGM but I am afraid that I feel unable to rely on paternal family members as witnesses of truth in relation to M's conduct towards the children in their household given that they have been untruthful about so much of what happened during that time and plainly wish to paint a picture of M as mentally unstable and a risk to the children.

61. BKn is a friend of F's who made a statement that is in the bundle setting out an incident when he says M was annoyed that S was playing with the remote control whilst she was watching an Indian soap and pinched S on her arm and snatched the remote control from her. BKn did not come to give oral evidence and in the circumstances, as with Miss SKk and other makers of statements who were not produced at court, I am not prepared to rely on his written statement to find the serious allegation that he makes proved.

62. ST is a friend of the paternal family who says he has known them for about 11 years. He was first a friend of G's but soon became a friend of F's too. They are now his closest friends. The terminology of his statement shows where his sympathies lie although I take into account that he wrote it in Tamil and his cousin translated it for him. He says, for instance, "The children are currently out of their comfortable, safe, family and caring environment and unnecessarily put at risk by keeping them with their violent and hot tempered mother." He has been instrumental in collecting the children from BK's for contact with F. He came to court on several days of the hearing when his attendance was not necessary on the basis that he might be called as a witness and must have been in order to lend support to F. He spoke in his statement of witnessing M violently shake Su in January 2007 whilst she was crying in order to "shut her up" which was only stopped by F taking the child to feed her. He also said he had witnessed M grab and pull S by the hair. He said in oral evidence that this was in November 2006. On that occasion, F was in the garden and PGM was upstairs but he told them what happened. I was cautious about a witness who was so closely embroiled in a family such as the paternal family as this witness and, in relation to M's behaviour towards the children, I was not prepared to accept his evidence as sufficiently cogent to make findings that the two events he described occurred. I will return later to his evidence about the threat made to him after the separation.

63. RI was a non-family member who gave evidence about M's conduct towards S. The limit of her incentive to give false testimony is that she is a friend of SK's although she said she does not see SK very often. She says in her statement that she has known the K family for nearly 9 years but she said in evidence that she does not really know the family except through SK. She visited SK in February 2007. I may be quite wrong but I got the impression that this might be the last time she visited her although they had spoken since on the telephone. Whilst she was there, S grabbed a table mat from the table and threw it on the floor. M all of a sudden got up and grabbed S by the arm and slapped her really hard across the face. PGM comforted S. RI provided some details of the event when she gave oral evidence such as the fact that it was in the evening and Su was asleep upstairs. Her account was not that M had been left alone to care for S, which I would have found unlikely, but that the incident happened in the presence of PGM although SK had gone into the kitchen to get some drinks. It seemed to me that there was no sufficient reason for her to allow herself to be persuaded to lie and that, on the balance of probability, what she described was true.

64. In summary therefore, there is one witness whose evidence of M slapping one of the children I accept. I am not prepared to find that this was necessarily the only time this happened although I think it likely that the number of occasions were limited by the arrangements for caring for the children if by nothing else. Furthermore, I am not in any position to consider why M may have reacted in this way. That she did it in front of PGM suggests that it was possibly not so unacceptable in that household to slap a child as it might be in others and one does need to be conscious of the possibility that M's experience of how small children were brought up was different in India.

65. F's schedule includes allegations of negligent care by M of S in that in January 2007, she was left to play in the front garden alone, in late November 2005 and February 2007 she was left in the bath, and on 26 March 2007, she was left in the care of M and fell off the bed hurting her lip and chin.

66. The source of the bath allegations is F. They are both set out in his statement in the context of him encouraging her to care for the children but her falling down on the job. Having rejected the paternal family's account of their approach to whether M cared for the children, I do not propose to rely on these two assertions and I do not find either proved.

67. The occasion when S was left to play in the front garden alone was described by G. He says in his statement that M brought S outside to wave him goodbye when he went for petrol for the car and when he got back 5 minutes later, S was on the front drive alone and M was in the kitchen. Once again, given what I have found about the unwillingness of the paternal family to allow M to have any care of the children, let alone sole care, I am not prepared to make a finding based on this allegation.
68. F is the one who describes the March 2007 fall from the bed. The paragraph begins, "There have also been many times when Jassi has been unacceptably careless with the children. There are many examples of this." He describes M being upstairs watching television on the bed with S sitting with her whilst he was downstairs. F says he heard a bang on the ceiling then crying and rushed upstairs to find M picking an injured S up from the floor. "This is quite unusual as normally she does not bother" he said. Any scenario of M upstairs alone with one of the children and F downstairs is unlikely in that household. M says that S was with PGM and G, who was on the bed with Su. M herself was doing jobs. She heard a sound and came running back. S was on the floor. This seems to me much more likely than the paternal account. In the circumstances, I am not prepared to find this allegation proved.

69. M alleges that she was required to carry out the domestic chores during the marriage to the extent that she portrays a picture of herself as a domestic servant to the family. She suggests that this was so she would not be able to see the children. She says she was required to wake at 6 a.m. to begin the cleaning and did the laundry for the whole family as well as the cleaning, finishing around 3 or 4 p.m.. She says that on Thursdays, she would be given a list by SK of the chores with deadlines for their completion. The paternal family deny this absolutely. They say M did not get up until the middle of the day then watched television. They say that there was no particular routine for cleaning in their house. Everyone took a hand in it. SK said they only cleaned once a week anyway. On the account given by himself and PGM, G did a lot of the work being principally responsible for the hoovering and laundry. F, however, did not seem to see G as the main launderer. His account was that sometimes his mother would wash for him or someone else in the family or he would do it himself. F's response in dealing with these matters in cross examination was that it was "hilarious" that M says she was woken at 6 a.m. and ate scraps at 4 p.m. and "very funny" that she said he made sure she ate breakfast. I did not think there was anything funny about it. I thought it improbable that this paternal family would have allowed a new wife to stay in bed until the middle of the day. I think they are probably all hard working. Both G and F obviously work hard at their employment. SK worked out of the home too until, she says, she became too upset to do so because of the removal of the children. PGM and M were at home all day on their own. I simply cannot accept that PGM would have permitted M to laze around, leaving the household chores to be done by the other family members on top of their employment. I am quite sure it would have been expected that she make herself useful around the house and not just cooking companionably with her mother in law when it suited her as PGM suggested. It will be recalled that LG described how it was M who made a cup of tea for her and F on the day she called and how M was in the kitchen cooking. It seems to me more probable than not that M was expected to do a considerable amount of housework. Whether it was as rigorous a regime as she describes, I have no way of knowing but it does seem to me likely that many chores were expected of her and that she was required to do these rather than to spend time with her children.

70. The other major category of allegation on M's schedule concerns the violent behaviour that she says F engaged in towards her, both physical violence of a non sexual type and rape. These are serious allegations and I remind myself again of the need for cogent evidence to establish them. Yet again, I am forced to lament the lack of independent corroboration or even independent indicators of where the truth lies in a situation in which neither M and her family nor F and his family can be relied upon to give an accurate account of what really happened, unembellished in the light of a desire to improve their position and to make that of the other side worse.

71. M's very first statement makes allegations of physical violence but it does not include any allegation of rape. That surfaced in her second statement in April. She describes an incident on 1 January 2007 when she refused to sleep with F and he slapped her across her face and had sex with her against her will. She gave more detail of this in her fourth statement. She also mentions in that a further occasion in February 2007 when F had sexual intercourse with her when she had said she did not want to and a final occasion in late February/early March 2007 when he slapped her and had sexual intercourse with her although she asked him to stop and was crying. She includes in that statement a generalised complaint that "most of the time, especially during the pregnancies and after the birth of the girls, I did not want sexual intercourse with the respondent – I made this clear but the respondent went on to have his way with me in spite of my protests." F is on bail with regard to these rape allegations but I have not seen any trace of the police evidence which I presume will include records of interview with F. In these proceedings, he has absolutely denied rape and said M did not ever ask him to stop having sexual relations with her. He did not hold her down or continue when she struggled. It was interesting that when he gave this evidence, I noticed that F was quiet, in contrast to his normal voluble presentation, and more convincing. In cross-examination, M said "When I did not want sex, I used to tell him that in daytime you abuse me and night time how do you expect I do sex with you and he said he could do anything he liked." It seemed to me that this might well have been the sort of exchange that took place between them but it does not follow that any sexual intercourse thereafter was rape. I recall the passage of oral evidence to which I have already made reference when M said, "When they were nasty to me, I used to take everything and be quiet as I did not know the law of this country. I was not allowed to talk to anyone. I was very scared of them. I could not see which way to turn. Every time they used to tell me that if I left the house they would not let me have the children because of this country's law….". I think it likely that until her family assisted her to move out, M did indeed "take everything and be quiet". There is every possibility that this applied if she was disinclined to have sex as well as with other aspects of the way in which she was treated. Of course, if I was satisfied that the intercourse was accompanied or preceded by slapping as M alleges, that would be different but on the evidence before me, I am unable to find that allegation proved, nor am I persuaded of the allegations of rape.

72. As to the non-sexual allegations of violence by F, they are many, all denied. M alleges that the assaults began in September 2004 and continued until separation, including kicks and slaps, sometimes forceful so that on one occasion, for example, her ear (which was often the site of a slap) was painful for a fortnight. On M's account, the assaults were associated with her having fallen short of F's expectations in some way, for instance ruining his t-shirts by using the wrong washing cycle on the machine or not knowing where the salted maize was when he wanted some. I found her evidence of detail about these small errors convincing and, in the general climate of the house, I find it more probable than not that F did slap M from time to time for failing to live up to the required standard. I cannot begin to reach a view as to the extent of the assaults - how frequent they were and whether, as M alleges, they went further than a simple slap.

73. A considerable number of allegations have been made about the way in which the families have behaved towards each other since M left. I need to determine, in so far as I can, where the truth lies with regard to these because they may have a bearing on the suitability of both sides of the family as carers for S and Su. The evidence about these post-separation events also contributes to the consideration of what happened during the marriage and I have taken it into account when reaching my findings on the allegations relating to that period, even though my analysis of it appears later in this judgment.

74. I have evaluated the cross allegations about the conduct of each side of the family since the separation in the light of the fact that it is abundantly plain that feelings are running enormously high on both sides. I have no doubt at all that battle lines have been drawn. Each side feels gravely wronged by the other and everyone has lost all perspective and most of their sense of moral behaviour in terms of day to day actions and in terms of attempting to present truthful evidence to the court. Neither parent appears to appreciate that their failure to co operate with the other and to attempt to put the interests of the children before the family feud is seriously prejudicing the welfare of the children. Warnings from the court and from social services on the subject seem to have gone unheeded and I am entirely satisfied that far from assisting in calming the situation down, the wider family on each side has been responsible for aggravating it to a greater or lesser extent. A told me that their side always turned to the police and the courts for assistance. Indeed they do frequently turn to the authorities, as do the paternal family. However, for reasons that I shall explain, I do not believe that that is the only way in which they deal with things.

75. Each side has made criticisms of the care of the children since the separation which have, in my view, been generated more by the adult battle than by real concerns for the children. The s 37 report comments on how each side has continued to use the local authority as a middle contact between them and itemises referrals made to the Emergency Duty Service over weekends. On the weekend of 21/22 July 2007, Su was taken to hospital twice about nappy rash, first by F and then (presumably in response) by M, although the health visitor had had no concerns about Su's nappy rash and the West Middlesex Hospital where M took her had no child protection concerns and discharged her the same day. On 28 August 2007, A rang the EDT with the sole purpose, it seems, of asking them to put on the record that Su had come back from contact with her father with a mark on the left side of her face. When the local authority visited Su that day, the mark was a very small scratch likely to have been caused by Su's fingernail.

76. I noted that PGM and F both continued to attempt to generate a climate of concern about M's current care of S from the witness box and I considered it particularly pernicious that they endeavoured to reinforce what they said by suggesting medical opinion was in support of their point of view. PGM told me about the poor condition in which she considered S came for contact. She and F both suggested that S was being hit by M because she made a particular sound that indicated this to them. PGM referred to having to take one of the children twice to the hospital for a rash. She said the hospital provided a letter saying that M should take better care of the children as regards nappy rash. F told me that S got a "woman infection" and the doctor said it should have been picked up straight away. He said the "paediatrician was shocked" and that it was related to hygiene. I was not sure whether this occasion was the same one to which PGM was referring. I am equally unsure whether either of them were referring to the July 2007 occasion of nappy rash or whether they were speaking of the end of April 2007 when Su was alleged to have vulvo-vaginitis and was taken by F to Accident Emergency on 29 April 2007 and then by M to the general practitioner on 30 April 2007. I have now seen a letter from Dr O'Neill who saw S on 29 April 2007 and the medical notes for that visit which are also available. The letter records that F had told the doctor that when he had taken over care of S from her mother for past weekends he had found her with various bruises and in a state of poor personal hygiene with dirty hair. The letter sets out the examination findings of the doctor as follows, however: "S was quiet, but looked well. Full body survey revealed erythema (redness) & inflammation around the vulva and vaginal orifice, consistent with vulvo-vaginitis. There was no evidence of trauma and I had no concerns regarding S's general state." [my italics]. The diagnosis was vulvo-vaginitis. Under Treatment, it is recorded that verbal and written advice was given regarding the causes and treatment of the condition. Next day, the GP had no concerns about the child either. Nobody could therefore properly describe the outcome of this visit as shock on the part of the paediatrician or a letter advising that M should take better care of the child. I am sure that if there had ever been another letter in existence which said these things or anything remotely like them, it would have been produced. I am therefore quite sure that these references by F and PGM to medical opinion critical of M are simply an example of the sort of attempt that I consider both sides have been making to blacken the name of the other.

77. It seemed to me likely that an example of the maternal family engaging in the same sort of behaviour was their "concern" that G could have sexually abused S. The s 37 report records that this arose after M discussed with her family about the sleeping arrangements when she was living at F's home and said that S slept with G. It is recorded that S was taken by M and M's cousin for a medical examination purely on this suspicion.

78. The only post-separation allegation specifically on M's schedule is that relating to F's dishonest application for passports for the children. That has been adjudicated upon by Munby J and I do not feel able to shed any further light on the matter as a result of what I have read and heard.

79. There was another serious allegation made during the hearing in relation to the behaviour of F and his family towards M and her family. M gave evidence on the first day in front of me that the night before, the windows in BK's house where she is living with the children were broken. Her view was that that was because the court case was starting. A confirmed that at 2.35 a.m. she had heard glass being shattered and had run to the front window to see someone running away. The front windows of the house and the front door were shattered, a total of 8 windows. A car jack had been found nearby that had a stain on it matching their door. She said they had complained to the police but as far as they knew, no one had been arrested in relation to the crime. F denied absolutely that it was anything to do with him. The incident, if incident there was, came so late that the evidence about it was very much lacking. I am not therefore in a position to make findings about it but I would say that my view of this case overall and of the conduct of the parties and their families makes me entirely open to the idea that windows were indeed smashed at M's house on the night before the hearing started and that this was related to the feud and was orchestrated by the paternal family. If it is true that as many as 8 windows were smashed (and no doubt the police will be able to confirm or deny that), it seems unlikely that the maternal family would have gone so far in an attempt to create an impression of criminal activity against them by the paternal family – one or two windows would have done for that purpose. On the other hand, it also needs to be remembered that, as F pointed out, the children were in the house at the time. Would he have risked their safety by smashing so many windows (whether by himself or an agent)?

80. M also alluded to her aunt in Maidenhead's house being burnt and the aunt being in hospital. She appeared to ascribe that event too to the trouble over the marriage and the children but I have been presented with no more information about it and I cannot possibly take any view on the subject.

81. Joginder Kaur (M's next door neighbour) was spoken to by Dr Briscoe and said that she was always there at the handover of the children for contact. She told Dr Briscoe that SK spits in the direction of M on these occasions. SK denies this but given the level at which it is obvious that feelings are running, I am prepared to accept it as entirely possible. I do not make a finding about it because Joginder Kaur was not called to give evidence and I have only the hearsay account of what she said to Dr Briscoe and have had no opportunity to explore how partisan she may have become.

82. F's schedule includes quite a number of allegations of very serious conduct against himself and his family and associates which he ascribes to M and her family.

83. The most serious of these allegations is that he was stabbed on 5 May 2007 at about 11.10 p.m. when he answered the door to a white man whom he did not know who said "Here's a present for you from J and A." F's account is that he pulled away and instead of the blow catching him in his chest, the knife went into his left arm and slashed it. There is indisputable evidence in the form of the hospital records that F was injured that night and taken to hospital by ambulance. Although F complained to the doctor of profuse bleeding (see under HPC on page 24 of the medical notes), the doctor has recorded later "Ambulance crew arrived -> wound was dressed. Bleeding stopped. Ambulance crew mentioned bleeding as minimal." [my italics]. The wound was described as approximately 3-4 inches long and about 1 cm deep with a Y shaped tail 1 mm deep. It was not bleeding. F says in his statement that it was a wound "in the muscles of my left arm" though the record reads "No injury to muscles and deep structure.". It was sutured.

84. M's case is that F caused the injury to himself or arranged for someone to cause it to make things look bad for her.

85. Before I reach a conclusion about the stabbing incident, I will set out the evidence on the other post-separation allegations on F's schedule and make some incidental findings about them, leaving my critical findings until I can consider the whole pattern of incidents as well as the details of each individual one.

86. The first in time of the allegations is that, on 27 April 2007, R or A made two abusive telephone calls to F at work, threatening that he would be kidnapped or killed and threatening to kill the children if he did not drop the appeal that he was in the course of making in these proceedings. F could hear a man in the background swearing at him on the first call and threatening to kill him on the second. By the time of the second call, F thought the caller was A and was asking "Is that you A?". The police were called by F's employers.

87. In addition to F's evidence about the two calls, there is evidence to a Slar effect from Geoff Holborn who is the Director of Client Services at SingleRapid Ltd where F works. He gave clear evidence of sitting near F in the office, well within earshot, at about 4.15 p.m. on 27 April and witnessing F receive a telephone call which he took on the speaker phone. The caller was a girl who was shouting a tirade of abuse. F cut off the call. Mr Holborn himself answered the second call shortly after that. The caller requested to speak to R and Mr Holborn transferred it to F who took it on speaker phone again. The female caller made a number of threats which included "drop the appeal you bastard or we are going to kidnap and kill you", "if you do not drop the appeal we will kill the kids" and "drop the appeal you fucking bastard". There was also other abusive ranting from the female caller and a male voice in the background making Slar threats. In his oral evidence, Mr Holborn recalled hearing F saying "is that so and so?" to the caller but did not remember what the name he used was.

88. Mr Holborn was perhaps rather more prepared than I would have been on the information available to him to give in his statement the opinion "R is a fine and respectable father. I have seen him with the children who are always well cared for by him." It turned out that he had only seen F with the children a couple of times in passing in the street and based his conclusions on the fact that F presented in the office as a very proud father and was the only one in the office who had taken his full paternity leave entitlement. However, I have no reason to doubt Mr Holborn's veracity and I entirely accept that he heard the calls that he described. Mr Bennison, who is also a colleague of F's at SingleRapid Ltd, was not called to give evidence but made a statement Slarly confirming the calls.

89. Accordingly, I am satisfied that there were two abusive and threatening calls to F at the office which appeared to be related to these proceedings. Once again, the critical question that arises is whether F himself arranged for those calls to be made in order to damage M's case. In this regard, it is material to remember that no one but F was in a position to identify A as the caller and he was well placed to create the impression that it was her by asking, as I am satisfied that he did, "Is that you A?". It is also material that Miss Ball-Dodd, a solicitor who is A's supervising partner at work, gave evidence which I entirely accept to the effect that A was at work on 27 April 2007 at the time of the phone calls to F's workplace. She and A share a room and they were engaged on a memorable transaction that day. She said that A did not leave her room for any significant period during the day although she would have gone out at times to use the scanner or to go to the lavatory and Miss Ball Dodd also went out at intervals. The fact that A was at work did not, however, render it impossible for her to have made the calls F received although it may have been more awkward for her to do so than otherwise and particularly to do so in circumstances in which a male voice making Slar threats would have been heard in the background. As for R, she too denies making the calls. She works in a bank and has produced a letter from her supervisor confirming that she was at work the whole of Friday afternoon and that the bank has a strict policy forbidding the use of mobile phones and work phones are monitored and recorded. This letter does suggest that it would have been difficult for R to have made the calls although no doubt, had the supervisor been called to give evidence, she would have had to agree that at times an employee leaves the trading floor to go to the lavatory. This might have provided the opportunity, I suppose, though again the question would arise as to how in these circumstances the abusive voice of a man came to be present in the background. A further possibility is that the call was made by neither R nor A but by someone else on the maternal family's behalf who F mistook for one of the other two. It will be recalled that although F considered it was one of the two of them, he could not identify which with certainty. He was asking for confirmation during the call that it was A. I do not know, for example, whether the third sister sounded Slar as I did not hear from her in evidence and the point was not explored.

90. F alleges that on the night of 28 April 2007, BK damaged G's car (which F drives) whilst it was parked in the drive at the paternal family home. G gave an account that he was awake worrying about the case when he heard the side gate being opened. He looked out of his bedroom window. The security light on the drive illuminated the scene. He saw BK strike the windscreen of the car about three times. G said "Oi" and BK ran off. He thought the man was making off on foot but in fact there was a Golf parked in front of the house with a female driver and he got into it and sped off. He did not get the registration number. In his statement, G said he believed the driver to be A or R. He was rather more circumspect in his oral evidence, simply saying that it "could have been" one of BK's daughters, that was what he assumed but he could not really say. He had the windscreen (which was undoubtedly smashed, as the photos show) replaced at a cost of £50 through his insurers.

91. BK denied that he caused the damage to the windscreen. He said he was in bed half drunk on Bacardi and coke that night and his daughters will not drive him when he has been drinking. A and R denied that they drove him to or from the scene. Once again, it was suggested that F had arranged for this damage to be done to his own family's property to improve his case.

92. BK has a conviction for conspiracy to obtain property by deception, dating back to 1996. He pleaded not guilty but was convicted and his appeal to the Court of Appeal was unsuccessful. He served a term of imprisonment in relation to that offence which involved a fire in business premises with which he had a connection and in relation to which an insurance claim was made. It is clear therefore that he has, in the past, had the capacity to engage in dishonesty. This is not a case that can be determined on the basis of who has the capacity to engage in dishonesty, however, because it is also quite clear from F's activity over the passports that he has that capacity too when it suits him. Nevertheless, whilst reminding myself that the fact that a man has a criminal conviction for dishonesty does not mean he has behaved badly or been dishonest on any other occasion, I bear the fact of BK's conviction in mind. BK conceded that he felt angry at the way in which M had been treated in F's house. Once again, I remind myself that the fact that he felt this way, which was entirely understandable in many ways, does not mean that he would necessarily exact revenge by smashing F's windscreen.

93. F's friend NM gave evidence that on 29 April 2007, she received a telephone call on her mobile telephone which appeared to come from M, MGM and A. She was in the locker room with a friend. M commenced the call. She said in Punjabi, "You gave a statement against me and you did not do good." NM said "You know what I said was true.". She says M replied "I know what you said was true but take the statement back as we are good friends. Tell Ravi to take the appeal back otherwise me and my family will kill Ravi and his family and you.". M then handed the telephone to A who was abusive and issued further threats, apparently saying "Look you two-faced bitch, tell that wanker R to take his appeal back and you take your statement back or else I'm going to kill him and his family and you as I've got contacts. I don't give two shits about the law as I know all the loopholes, I'm a trainee solicitor…." NM put the phone down. It rang again and the person on the other end sounded like MGM who issued further threats. NM says she was terrified. She seemed agitated when she told me of the call but I remind myself of my caution with regard to placing any reliance on her evidence, for the reasons I have already set out. NM's evidence that there was a telephone call does not establish that fact with the degree of certainty that there is in relation to the stabbing, the windscreen and the phone call to F's work. Even if one accepts a phone call was made, there remains the possibility that it was set up by F to improve his case, either with or (probably to better effect) without NM's knowledge.

94. On 1 May 2007, according to ST, a white van stopped outside his drive when he had just parked and got out of his car. The driver, a white man, said "Oi! Come here." He approached the van and the man asked if his name was ST. He felt uncomfortable and said no but the driver got aggressive and started to use abusive language as he grabbed a sheet of paper from the dashboard with photocopies of photographs of himself and the three K siblings on it. The man said "If you ever go to BK's house I'll kill you motherfucker!" When ST told him that he knew no one by that name, he said if he ever went to BK's house, he would kill him. ST said he was going to call the police and went towards the car for his phone and the driver sped off. ST thought this was an attempt to intimidate him into refusing to assist with contact. He was challenged in cross examination on the basis that he would have got the registration number of the van if his account was true but responded that it was impossible as the van was parked sideways on to the road and drove off whilst he was otherwise engaged in fetching his mobile phone. That seemed to me to be an entirely feasible scenario. I bear in mind BK's evidence that ST still comes regularly to his house and that the threat has had no effect, despite the fact that ST said it scared him. I also have to keep in mind my reservations about ST's evidence generally.

95. On 3 May 2007, according to SK, she had a telephone call from M in Punjabi, threatening her with a view to persuading her to stop the appeal. She is said to have said otherwise "me and my family are going to burn your S and Su, burn your house and your family". M denies having made this call. She says the police took their phone numbers and checked and no call was made but of course there is no confirmation of this. SK says the police checked her phone too and the call was made from a private number which the police said made it hard to trace and of course there is no confirmation of that either.

96. On 4 June 2007, F alleges that he was attacked on the way to an observed contact session. G says he was in the car at the time too. There is corroboration that an incident took place in which F was injured because he went to hospital and was seen to have an injury to his face. The hospital notes are very difficult to read so it is not easy to be sure of the extent of it. The LA offered F an alternative contact in the afternoon but he declined. M's case is that if anything happened to F it was nothing to do with her side of the family. It was suggested that this incident too was part of a campaign of arranging for things to happen to F that would be blamed on M.

97. Standing back, one can see that there were undoubtedly 4 incidents in which there was aggression towards F or his property (the telephone call at work, the damage to the windscreen, the stabbing and the attack on the way to contact) and possibly 3 more aggressive activities endeavouring to influence the course of this case (the call to NM the white van incident with ST and the call to SK). 6 of the incidents took place within a week at the end of April/beginning of May. Twice F suffered real injury. I have considered the chances of F having orchestrated this himself. Considering the scale of what occurred, it seems to me unlikely. It would not have been necessary, had his purpose been to damage M's case, to arrange for so many separate events or to subject himself to actual injury twice. Ultimately, I concluded that the probability was that the various accounts of aggression towards F and his associates were true and that what occurred on each occasion had its origin in the maternal family. My conclusion about this was reinforced by a small matter that arose towards the very end of the evidence. G let slip that F had not been sleeping at home during the hearing but at a Travelodge. He said that they had not wanted to disclose where F was but he felt able to do so now that the hearing was reaching a conclusion. I took it that the reason for this approach was fear on F's part that he might be attacked because the proceedings had reached a critical stage. Now it is possible that the late and apparently incidental revelation of the Travelodge arrangement was a careful piece of orchestration on the part of the paternal family designed to bolster the impression that F was in fear of the maternal family. I am inclined to think, however, that it was not that but that F genuinely had been fearful of what might happen to him. Fear of this extent makes much more sense if one accepts that he had already been subject to injury on 2 previous occasions.

98. I am doubtful that M herself was the originator of the aggression (although she does seem to have made phone calls) but there are those in her family who are forceful, capable and aggrieved. Who actually carried out the assaults and made the visit in the white van to ST I do not know but I am quite persuaded that they were related to these proceedings. I do not make a finding that the stabbing was intended to be fatal. I appreciate that F's evidence was that it would have hit his chest if he had not moved but he is inclined to exaggeration and, in any event, in the heat of the moment, perhaps not best placed to form any view as to the intention of the aggressor. As to the windscreen, I accept that it was BK who smashed it but the evidence does not establish who drove the car in which he left the scene.

99. It may be helpful if, having dealt with quite a lot of detail and with 82 separate allegations (even if I have not made findings on each and every one of those), I stand back and set out my broad conclusion about the shape of this case. I have formed the clear view that M was badly treated in the paternal household following her marriage and not permitted to take care of her own children. Once she was assisted to leave and told her family her account, they became incensed and embarked on a campaign which may have been by way of revenge or to prevent F from advancing his case for care of the children or perhaps for both reasons. Meanwhile, F's family has attempted by all means at their disposal to call into question M's capacity as a mother and a wife and to ensure that she does not obtain care of the children. Nobody therefore emerges from this with credit. The acrimony and aggression will be bound to have an impact on the welfare of the children if it continues.

100. It would no doubt be helpful for Munby J if the findings of fact that I have made were to be listed on a schedule for use at the disposal hearing. Perhaps counsel would be good enough to collaborate in doing this. The directions which were forwarded to me at the conclusion of the hearing seem to me to be entirely appropriate with one exception and I would be grateful if the amended order could be sent to the associate for drawing up. The exception is that there is no need for a transcript of my judgment which I am, of course, circulating in writing. Arrangements will have to be made for it to be handed down at the start of term, simply to complete the formalities.