Judge’s decision to limit mother’s evidence in abuse case set aside
The High Court has ruled that a judge's decision to limit a mother’s evidence in a domestic abuse case to five allegations was wrong and should be set aside.
The case involved a married couple who separated in 2019. They had two children aged 12 and three.
In 2020, they each issued applications for child arrangement orders. Each made allegations of abuse against the other.
The judge ordered that they each file a Scott Schedule limited to five allegations.
The mother alleged that the father had negligently allowed the younger child to fall from a table, resisted taking him to hospital, had sexually assaulted the mother on a specific occasion, had slapped and threatened the older child, had self-harmed and called the police saying that she was responsible, and had twisted the older child's arm.
She also filed a statement adding more detail and examples of the abuse she alleged the father had inflicted on her and the children, which included allegations that he had forced her to have sex on more than one occasion and had hit the older child more than once.
The father argued that her statement went beyond the five allegations that were permitted by the order.
The judge concluded that significant sections of the mother's statement should be excluded and ordered that she file a new statement.
The mother appealed on grounds that the judge had been wrong to exclude some matters in her statement as that limited her ability to explain the history of the father's behaviour and the background to specimen allegations.
The Family Division of the High Court found in her favour.
It noted that the mother had produced the new material late in the process and it was not surprising that objections had been made regarding its admission.
Nonetheless, the court was satisfied that the judge's decision that the mother could not adduce the evidence she sought to do in her statement could not stand. The allegations beyond those in the Scott Schedule were neither inadmissible nor irrelevant.
The fact that the father was alleged to have hit the older child more than once was plainly an allegation of a pattern of behaviour highly relevant to an application for contact. So too were allegations that he had forced the mother to have sex on several occasions, and that he was a bully to his older child.
These allegations demonstrated that strict adherence to single incidents in the Scott Schedule would have to be reconsidered. The court allowed the appeal and set aside the judge's order.
The mother was ordered to file a narrative statement setting out her allegations against the father, including any allegations of a pattern of violent, abusive or controlling behaviour.
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Case Citations: AA v BB  EWHC 1822 (Fam) Judd J
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