Poppi Worthington: Court rules baby was sexually assaulted by her father before her death

The 13-month-old was pronounced dead in December 2012

A 13-month-old girl was sexually assaulted by her father shortly before her sudden death, a family court judge has ruled.

Poppi Worthington was found with serious injuries at her home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. She was pronounced dead in December 2012 after being taken to hospital.

At Liverpool Crown Court, Mr Justice Peter Jackson said that, on the balance of probabilities, Paul Worthington “perpetrated a penetrative… assault on Poppi”.

In August 2013, her father was arrested and questioned on suspicion of sexual assault, but he was never charged with any offence.

Worthington, 47, has denied any wrongdoing.

The actions of the police and the local authorities following Poppi’s death have come under fire in earlier hearings.

In March 2014, a fact-finding judgement on the circumstances of Poppi’s death was delivered but its publication was delayed for fear it would prejudice criminal proceedings. In October 2014, an inquest took only seven minutes to declare Poppi’s death as unexplained.

Cumbria Police said, in March 2015, no charges would be brought against anyone over Poppi’s death.

Mr Justice Jackson’s ruling comes after three medical experts said in December they disagreed with the findings of a Home Office pathologist who carried out a post-mortem examination on Poppi. In an open court, they stated they believed she was the victim of “a penetrative sexual assault”.

Following a review of the medical evidence, Mr Justice Jackson said on Tuesday he arrived at the same conclusion as expressed in the previous judgment. He dismissed Worthington’s appeal against his 2014 findings.

Mr Justice Jackson said: “My finding [in my previous judgment] was that the father perpetrated a penetrative… assault on Poppi… That remains my conclusion.”

Additional reporting by PA

Women’s Aid in child safety drive

Women’s Aid is to launch its Child First campaign, calling on the family courts and the Government to “put the safety of children back at the heart of all decisions made by the family court judiciary”. 

The national domestic abuse charity also publishes its Nineteen Child Homicides report, which recounts the stories of 19 children intentionally killed by a parent who was also a known perpetrator of domestic abuse. For seven of the 12 families involved, the contact had been ordered through court.

The report makes two key recommendations, which form the heart of the campaign: to ensure the prevention of avoidable child deaths “by putting children first in the family courts – as the legal framework and guidance states”, and “to make the family courts fit for purpose through the introduction of protection measures for survivors of domestic abuse”.

Paul Gallagher