Council criticised over handling of child abuse claims cannot be named

A family court judge has ruled that the public cannot be told the name of a council criticised over the way social services staff handled a case in which a woman accused her former partner of sexually abusing their son.

Recorder Clive Baker suggested that social workers had been too quick to conclude that the boy had been abused by his father.

The judge said "egregious errors" had been made, and social services staff had not taken a balanced view.

He said in the end everyone involved had agreed that the man had not abused the boy - now seven.

But the judge, who analysed the case at a private family court hearing in Manchester, says the anonymity of the boy involved must be preserved.

And he has suggested that naming the council - or staff - involved might create an information jigsaw which could lead to the boy's identity emerging.

The judge has outlined criticisms - and his reasons for not revealing the council's name - in a ruling published on a legal website.

He referred to the child only as "V" and the council only as "the local authority".

Recorder Baker is the second family court judge in recent weeks to rule that a council whose social services staff have been criticised cannot be named.

In late October, Mr Justice Hayden criticised social workers after overseeing a case in which a boy had been brought up as a girl by his mother.

But Mr Justice Hayden, who oversaw the case at a High Court hearing in London, also said the council involved could not be named in case the youngster's identity was revealed through an information jigsaw.

Recorder Baker said lawyers representing the man thought that lessons might be learned if the public was made aware of the case.

The judge said he had decided to publish his ruling - but not to reveal names.

"I have considered carefully the degree to which the various participants in the proceedings should be identified," said Recorder Baker.

"I have decided I should take steps to protect the anonymity of this family and in particular the child, including anything more specific than the (family's) general geographical location."

He added: "I have... decided not to name professionals involved in this matter (save for the parties' advocates) or the local authority, as to do so would narrow the geographical location too specifically."

Recorder Baker said the boy's parents have become embroiled in family court litigation over him after separating.

Social services staff and police had also become involved.

The boy lived with his mother but spent time with his father.

Recorder Baker said the mother had accused the father of sexually abusing the boy.

But he said he had not had to undertake any detailed investigation because in the end "all parties" had agreed that the father had "not at any time acted in a sexually inappropriate way towards his son".

The judge said at one stage the mother had been granted an order preventing the father from removing the boy from her care - that order had resulted in the boy not seeing his father for around 10 months.

Recorder Baker said social workers had appeared to conclude that the boy had been sexually abused by his father.

The judge said "egregious errors" had been made.

He said social services staff had not taken a balanced view.

Council bosses had admitted that errors were made, said the judge.

They had accepted that an investigation had concluded too soon, said assessments had not "sufficiently" balanced evidence and agreed that "factual errors" were made.

Recorder Baker named barristers involved, saying Susan Grocott QC had represented the father and Gina Allwood the mother.