LEGAL EAGLE: He abused my daughter but I don’t want my husband jailed
The Local Authority has recently issued care proceedings for my only daughter after she made allegations to her teacher that my husband sexually abused her .
My husband has consistently denied this up until last night when he admitted to me and his best friend what he had done. I’m so confused. I want to tell the truth because my daughter wants to see him punished but I don’t want him to go to prison if I say something. He says it was all a big mistake and that he really regrets it.
As a mother you are party to proceedings and as such under a duty to provide full and frank disclosure. As a parent you cannot refuse to give evidence. If you refuse an inference will be drawn. This means the court will assume the thing you are being asked about did occur.
If you deny the allegations you could face prosecution for contempt of court. This is a very real possibility especially since your husband has disclosed the abuse to a third party.
You mention you are worried about criminal proceedings against your husband. The starting point is that a disclosure made in the family court cannot be disclosed into the criminal court. If the police wanted to use your evidence in criminal proceedings, they would need to apply to the court for permission to disclose your evidence. The court will then consider several factors when assessing if the evidence should be disclosed.
If your daughter would be adversely impacted by the making of an order this would be a very important factor. However, it would appear that your daughter wishes your husband be held accountable for his actions and as such disclosure may be of benefit to her.
The court will consider the maintenance of confidentiality in child cases which is linked to the importance of encouraging the truth.
This generates the starting point of no disclosure but is then balanced against other factors such as the seriousness of the offence and public interest in prosecution.
As you can well imagine sexual abuse is a very serious offence and there is a strong public interest in convicting those who are guilty of sexual offences against children.
The court will also consider how important co-operation is between agencies involved in the welfare of children. It will be a question of whether this information needs to be disclosed to assist this co-operation. In cases of sexual abuse this is important as your daughter will have medical and emotional needs.
Although I cannot provide a definitive answer as to what the court will decide, I can advise that the serious nature of the offence makes disclosure a viable prospect.