By and -

Key decisions

  • Syms [2021] FamCAFC 38
  • Commissioner of Police for State Central Authority of South Australia & Garnett [2021] FamCA 86
  • Obannon & Scarffe [2021] FamCAFC 33
  • Hicks & Trustee of the Bankrupt Estate of Hicks [2021] FamCAFC 19


Mother’s ‘fixed’ but unfounded allegations of sexual abuse by father were damaging to the children 

In Syms [2021] FamCAFC 38 (26 March 2021) the Full Court (Aldridge, Watts & Austin JJ) heard an appeal where a mother unsuccessfully argued that her three children were at unacceptable risk of sexual abuse by their father. The Court found that the mother’s fixed but unfounded views posed an unacceptable risk of emotional harm and ordered that the children live with the father. 

The mother’s time was to be supervised after a four month moratorium. Such supervision was to continue at the discretion of the father.

The Full Court said (from [93]):

‘[H]er Honour was not satisfied that the children were describing actual events of abuse. …

[94] … [I]t was found that the allegations … [by the children to the mother] “began a course of action akin to a mission to establish that the children had been sexually abused by the father” (at [170]). …

[106] The single expert … considered that the probability of the father being a sexual abuser was “fairly low down the list”. There is no reason whatsoever to consider that her Honour did not have regard to … the entirety of the single expert’s evidence.’

As to the risk posed to the children by the mother, the Full Court said (at [116]): ‘[T]he most relevant time for considering whether the mother posed a risk of emotional harm … due to her fixed belief that they had been sexually abused … was at the hearing before the primary judge.’

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