The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned a ruling Thursday that found the province had failed to protect four Lower Mainland children from sexual abuse by their father.
The children’s mother, who is only known as J.P., was “shocked and completely disappointed” by the decision, according to a statement released by her lawyer, Jack Hittrich. He said he plans to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Back in 2009, J.P. had claimed that the father was abusing her children and wanted to stop him being able to see them. In 2012, a family court judge found that the father had sexually abused three of them.
Despite that, he was still allowed unsupervised visits with his kids while they were in foster care, where he subsequently molested his fourth child, a toddler.
J.P. then sued the Ministry of Children and Family Development, after a civil court judge ruled in 2015 that social workers failed to protect her family.
In a 133-page decision on Thursday, the province’s top court threw out that ruling and ordered a new trial for the father’s allegations.
The appeals judges said the rulings in both trials, family and civil, were influenced by unqualified expert witness testimony.
In the family trial, the mother retained Dr. Claire Reeves, a licensed psychologist described by J.P.’s lawyer as “an expert in the area of child sexual abuse.”
The judges, however, said the universities that Reeves claimed to have received her degrees from were “diploma mills” and thus her testimony was not that of a qualified witness.
The 2015 civil case was based on much of the same evidence and decided by the same judge, so this latest ruling said that was also tainted by Reeve’s testimony.
“(We) want to acknowledge the stress that difficult situations like these can cause to the children, families, social workers and others involved,” said Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy in a statement Thurswday. “Our hope is that this judgment will provide clarity on a number of issues of general importance for child protection practice.”