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Ministry abused authority in case of B.C. father sexually abusing his children: judge

07/15/2015 01:18 EDT | Updated 07/14/2016 05:59 EDT
A B.C. Supreme Court judge said that the province's child protection service abused its authority in a case involving the physical and sexual abuse of children, which ultimately allowed a father to molest his child while the toddler was in the ministry's care. 

In a scathing 341-page judgement released Tuesday, Justice Paul Walker labelled the failure as 'egregious,' negligent and a breach of duty and said some social workers showed a "reckless disregard for their obligation to protect children." 

The mother's lawyer, Jack Hittrich, says the case could result in a payout in millions of dollars in damages and legal costs paid to a mother who was valiantly trying to get the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development to acknowledge and act on evidence that the father had physically and sexually abused at least three of the couple's four children.

Hittrich says the mother, who can only be identified as JP, was disbelieved and rebuffed and also wrongfully labelled as unstable by authorities. 

"This is the very first case in Canadian history where a mother has succeeded in holding a child protection agency liable for misfeasance in public office," he says. 

'Baseless attempt to discredit mother'

CBC News first reported on the case in 2013.

At that time, Justice Walker ruled that their was sufficient evidence to conclude that three of the former couple's children had been sexually and physically abused by their father and that a Vancouver police investigation into the case was flawed. Despite that, the abuse continued. 

The couple separated about four years prior, in October 2009, when the father, called BG, was charged with uttering death threats. He was eventually removed from the family home for assaulting JP and the couple's eldest daughter. Soon after, the mother became alarmed by evidence that at least two of her other children had been sexually abused by BG, court documents show. 

The mother was awarded sole custody of her children and at the time, Justice Walker ordered that the father only be allowed supervised access to the children. But the ministry ignored that and seized the children from the mother after he and his close friends made repeated calls raising concerns about her mental capacity. 

The ministry gave the children to the father unsupervised — which their mom says allowed him to continue to sexually abuse at least one of the children. 

"When mom was frantically trying to convince the ministry that the sexual abuse allegations were real, they basically labelled her as crazy. And the more she protested, the more she was labelled as being crazy," her lawyer said at the time. 

In his 2013 ruling, Justice Walker deemed the father's allegations a "a baseless attempt to discredit her." 

He also said the investigating Vancouver police officer wrongly sided against the mother in determining there was no basis for the sexual abuse allegations. He added the officer appeared "enamoured" with the father. 

'Herculean efforts' of the mother

In many cases of this nature, government officials and ministries are protected from liability, but in this case Justice Walker found them to have acted in bad faith and as a result their immunity under the Child, Family and Community Service Act does not apply.

"If it were not for the Herculean efforts of [the mother], the children would now, through the fault of the director of Children and Families, be in the custody of their father who sexually and physically abused them," Walker said.

The court found that ministry employee William Strickland misled the police and colleagues to make them believe that the mother was suffering from mental health issues, which led to her assertions being disregarded by authorities, including police. 

The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development issued a statement Tuesday saying it was too early for it to respond. 

"This is a very lengthy decision that we will need time to review. Once that review is completed we will consider next steps," the ministry's media relations manager Sheldon Johnson said in an email. 

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