Mothers labelled as delusional by courts

COURTS are giving alleged sex abuser fathers custody of their children in Tasmania, a child protection expert says.

Mothers alleging such abuse are being declared mentally ill or delusional and to be the "dangerous parent", according to Professor Freda Briggs, a former Scotland Yard child protection officer who visited the Coast in September.

"Having recently spent time in Tasmania, I am concerned that no-one appears to be protecting very young children from father-child incest when there is a case pending in the Family Court or a Family Court order is in place," Prof Briggs said in a letter to Premier Lara Giddings in December.

Mothers 'labelled dangerous'

"While in Devonport, I received 12 phone calls or visits from mothers who had lost or were about to lose residence of their children because of inadequate investigations by state services ... being diagnosed as mentally ill/ delusional and labelled as the dangerous parent."

Family court's view A spokesperson for Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant said: "The premise of the writer's criticism is that there is some kind of systematised or formulaic approach by the Family Court to cases involving the allegations of child sexual abuse".

"That proposition misunderstands and distorts the role of judges who deal with individual cases in which, in each case, the goal is to arrive at an order which is in the best interests of the particular child or children in that family.

"In many cases that will involve the need to protect children from harm."

The spokesperson said cases involving allegations of abuse were frequently cases in which the abuse was denied.

" ... crucial to any decision will be the need for the judge to make findings of fact as to whether or not alleged events occurred.

"The standard of proof required under the Family Law Act, is not the criminal standard, but is on the balance of probabilities."

Best interests "Even then the judge has discretion to make orders in the best interests of the child if they are concerned that there is an unacceptable risk of abuse where the evidence does not reach the standard enabling a positive finding one way or the other to be made.

"In other words, every legal opportunity to protect children from harm is available to the judge."

The spokesperson said the court's published judgments involving cases where there were allegations of sexual abuse revealed what the evidence was, how findings of fact were arrived at and why a particular order was made in the best interests of the child.

"In our Australian system the judge's reasoning is transparent and revealed in the reasons for judgment.

"They are published on the Internet and are available for anyone to read and digest.

"Where it is asserted that there is an error in fact finding or application of the law or exercise of discretion, it is open to a party to appeal the decision."

Children's reports `dismissed' Prof Briggs said: "Children are taught in school to report sexually inappropriate behaviour to someone they trust, but if they report sexual abuse by their father to the teacher or another relative, the report is dismissed as the child being trained by the mother to make a false report".

"The system is obviously dysfunctional when women's legal services and family lawyers advise mothers to accept shared parenting and not disclose child sexual abuse because of the high risk that they will be labelled as delusional and the fathers will gain residence and control of their victims."

She told the Premier there seemed to be profound ignorance about child services in the very organisations that should be protecting children.

"I realise that the Family Court is a federal responsibility, but (the child protection system) and police are not. I hope that your government will take action to rectify this situation."

Source : http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/80600/mothers-labelled-as-delusional-by-courts/

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