Family `left in limbo' after allegations

Couple `coerced' into separating are bitter at lack of support offered
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Katherine Mason understands that once her six-year-old daughter made an allegation that she had been sexually abused by her partner, Tom, social workers had to intervene, writes Rosie Waterhouse.

But she is incensed by the way the child-protection system treated Tom as guilty, despite his denials and despite the opinion of a forensic psychiatrist that he had never abused any child.

The allegations began in September 1991 when Louise, then five, told her mother that she had been sexually abused by a 13-year-old boy. The boy's family were confronted and although he maintained the incident had not been serious he apologised for upsetting Louise.

A few months after Tom moved in Louise began speaking of the abuse again, but this time she included Tom in her allegations. Katherine immediately confronted him and he denied any abuse. Katherine went to her family doctor for advice. A psychiatrist who interviewed Louise felt there was cause for concern and the couple referred themselves to social services.

Social workers "coerced" them into living apart, she said, and then left them "in limbo", failing to investigate whether the allegations were founded or not.

Eventually, after the birth of their baby son, the couple gave 28 days notice that Tom intended to move back in, to force social services to act so they could clear his name in court.

Eventually, in June 1994 at the High Court, a judge found the sexual abuse allegation against Tom "not proved" and dismissed the local authority's application for a care order.

Katherine is bitter: "Social Services have never expressed any regret for the trauma we went through or offered the least help to help us get back on our feet . . . After three years we are still waiting for therapy for Louise".

All names have been changed