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Assumptions by doctor undermine evidence of sexual abuse

Assumptions by doctor undermine evidence of sexual abuse

  1. Dr G, the child’s General Practitioner, acknowledged during her cross-examination on the last day of the trial that she had compiled her summary of her notes of a consultation on 11 July 2016 on the basis of her assumption that the child had been brought in to see her on that occasion.
  2. If Dr G had not been asked to reflect, and her assumption had been accepted, it is highly likely I would have concluded that the child was present:
    1. when his mother and Dr G discussed, amongst other things, his prior disclosure of alleged child abuse by the father; and
    2. when his mother played to Dr G the audio recording she had made of her conversations with him about this (about which more will be said later); and
    1. when Dr G told his mother that it would be expected she (the mother) do everything she could to protect him, because she (the mother) had significant evidence to support her concerns of abuse by the father.[1]
  3. However, the child was not in fact present during that particular consultation.
  4. The above is, I think, a very good illustration of the dangers of assumptions. This is particularly relevant to this case, which involves (amongst other things) determining whether the child’s mother has assumed – from the combination of his comments to her, his behaviours and her overarching view of the father’s deficiencies as a person and a parent and her view of the paternal grandmother – that the child has been sexually abused by his father and his paternal grandmother or whether there is a foundation in fact for such assertions.
  5. There is no doubt that the mother and the child’s maternal grandmother share in a critical assessment of the father. They also appear to share a critical view of the paternal grandmother, at least about her parenting of the father.
  6. Given the father’s decision to take methamphetamine in June 2016 – apparently to help with weight loss – their reluctance to see him as anything but reckless, impulsive and potentially neglectful of the child’s care is certainly understandable.
  7. However, poor decision making does not mean that a parent has sexually abused their child. Recklessness or impulsivity do not, of themselves, mean that a parent has sexually abused that parent’s lineal descendant.
  8. Consideration of this primary issue[2] (and the others which, by law,[3] must be the subject of consideration in the determination of those parenting orders which are in the child’s best interests) and additional issues, including whether the child will be at an unacceptable risk of suffering physical harm in the unsupervised care of his father and whether he will be at an unacceptable risk of suffering psychological harm if he continues in the primary care of his mother, occurs within the following factual context.

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Queensland/New South Wales/Victoria


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