Judge oversteps mark in child abuse case

A COUNCIL has successfully challenged a Crown Court judge who ordered a child cruelty victim to undergo psychiatric examination to help in the sentencing of her parents.

Newham Council applied for Judge Timothy King's order to be judicially reviewed after the judge claimed the council's director of social services was in contempt of court for refusing to go along with the examination.

The emotional state of the 12-year-old child, said her social worker, meant a further psychiatric examination would not be in her best interests.

The council clash was at Snaresbrook Crown Court when Judge King claimed he had the power to order the child to undergo psychiatric examination to help him sentence the parents. He claimed council social workers were not qualified to assess the effect of the offences on the child.

After the council had won leave for a review, Judge King withdrew his order as a result of discussions conducted with the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Under a compromise ar-rangement, he relied on reports made by the child's social workers when she was taken into care to make his decision.

Newham Council's social services department took out the care order on the child after her parents put chilli powder in her eyes and beat her as a punishment for stealing biscuits.

Her father admitted actual bodily harm and her mother pleaded guilty to a charge of child cruelty.

Gifty Edila, head of Newham's legal services, said: “The judge did not have jurisdiction to compel a victim to be psychiatrically examined. A child's rights remain intact even when he or she is in care.”

Specialist child care lawyer Allan Levy QC said such an order was unheard of and something he had never experienced before in a court.

The Lord Chancellor's Department declined to comment on the case.