Langmeil & Grange 2011. FamCt 605
A couple had three children aged 7, 6 and 5 years at the time of the rulings. The parents separated after 5 years of being together, and had been in dispute for at least 3 years. The mother expressed a continuing strong belief that the father had subjected two boys to sexual abuse commencing when they were aged about 18 months, on the basis of the children’s sexualised behaviours. The mother initially alleged that paternal grandparents had molested the boys. The father moved out of the family home at the request of authorities. The mother then alleged that the father had abused the boys.
The mother took the children to hospitals on several occasions for assessment with no abnormalities being found on any occasion beyond nappy rash and redness. Police investigated at times. Child protection authorities became involved.
The ICL submitted that the father had not sexually abused the children.
An emeritus professor in a social science department submitted evidence and sought the status of a giving expert evidence on the basis of having given a keynote address to a professional conference, and having lectured to mental health professionals. The professor expressed an opinion that the boy’s sexualised behaviours in the videos were evidence of sexual abuse by one person. The videos appeared to show the boys simulating oral sex, simulating anal penetration, trying to masturbate, and urinating on a carpet while saying that their father did these things.
The professor relied solely on the videoed material to form an opinion. The professor expressed an opinion that language used by the boys was consistent with language used by children who have been abused. The professor dismissed the relevance of other types of information including medical history, knowledge of the history of allegations, professional reports by other professionals including forensic reports and police reports, any need to speak to the boys, and any need to speak to either parent.
The judge ruled that opinions provided by the professor be viewed as inadmissible evidence, and should be treated with substantial caution as the professor had not been properly instructed and could not be considered objective or impartial as the professor acted as an advocate for the mother’s cause (partisan).
The judge noted it is not his role to conduct independent investigations as that is the role of other professionals.
The judge ordered:
- sole parental responsibility be awarded to the father
- that the children live with the father and have supervised visitations with the mother.