Judges rule man must be told name of abuse claims woman

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Senior judges have ruled that a man must be told the identity of a woman who has accused him of “serious sexual abuse”.

Three Court of Appeal judges also said social workers should disclose the substance of the allegations to the man – who is Australian and denies sexually abusing “anybody”.

The ruling, which did not identify any of the parties involved, was made after the man’s estranged wife tried to limit his access to their 10-year-old daughter in the wake of the abuse allegations.

Lord Justice Thorpe, Lady Justice Hallett and Lord Justice McFarlane – who heard evidence at a hearing in London in July – said the couple had married in 2000 but separated in 2002, when their daughter was six months old.

The man had returned to Australia and a County Court judge had made an order saying the little girl could stay with her father for six weeks a year.

In 2010, local authority social workers told the mother a young person had made “serious allegations of sexual abuse” against her estranged husband.

Judges heard the young person was no longer a child but suffered “increasingly poor physical and mental health” and alleged she had been “very seriously sexually abused” over a period of years.

Social workers had said she did not wish her identity to be revealed to “any person” and they had not given the mother any detail of the allegations, judges said.

Judges were told the man denied “sexually abusing anybody”, but social workers had thought the allegations “credible” and had advised the mother against “unsupervised contact”.

The mother had then asked a County Court to restrict the little girl’s future contact on the basis of the “limited information given to her by social workers”.

Appeal judges said that application had yet to be determined but the case had stalled as lawyers debated whether the local authority should be required to disclose the identity of the woman to parties involved in the case.

In February, Mr Justice Peter Jackson had decided against ordering disclosure, of her identity in the Family Division of the High Court in London. But the appeal judges disagreed and overturned the High Court judge’s ruling, following a challenge.

Lord Justice McFarlane acknowledged it was a “hard and difficult decision” but said that the balance of rights was in favour of disclosure of (the woman’s) identity and her allegations.