Abuse victims’ case ‘striking and complex’
THE case of two siblings who were subjected to incest, neglect and emotionally abusive parenting is one of the most ‘striking and complex’ a leading psychologist has ever dealt with, a trial has heard.
The pair – who can only be referred to as Plaintiff Two and Plaintiff Three – ate from the kitchen floor, were highly sexualised and lacked basic life skills such as knowing how to wash, the Royal Court was told.
Giving evidence yesterday, consultant clinical psychologist Dr Miriam Silver said that Plaintiff Two killed a cat in the family home, adding that research showed that ‘very distressed’ children were cruel to animals. She later described her evaluation of Plaintiff Three as one of her ‘most disturbed assessments’.
Plaintiff Two, who is currently sectioned in a UK facility, and Plaintiff Three, who lives in a ‘highly supported’ environment, are suing the Health Minister for a total of £238 million in what is believed to be the largest personal injury claim in British legal history.
The siblings claim that they will never recover from the abuse they sustained while living in the family home.
The Health Minister has accepted that the pair should have been placed into care sooner, but disputes the amount in damages the plaintiffs are seeking and instead believes a total of £14.5 million should be awarded.
When asked by Advocate David Benest, who is representing the plaintiffs, how well she remembered the case, Dr Silver, who has been an expert witness at 250 care hearings, replied: ‘I still have a strong recall of assessing because the presentation was so striking.
‘It has remained one of the most striking and complex cases of my career.’
She added: ‘I believe I said at the time they were in the top five children I had seen in terms of the severity and complexity of their needs, which is still the case.
‘That is very striking, as I have worked with a whole county of looked-after children and covered 250 care hearings. These children still stand out as being in my top five.’
Dr Silver said there was evidence of ‘long-standing and chronic neglect of the children’, as well as ‘examples of emotionally abusive parenting’. She added that the siblings were ‘very sexualised’, aggressive in their play and lacked empathy towards other children.
‘Some of the examples I picked out of emotional harm were particularly the mother referring to the children as muck,’ Dr Silver said. ‘Her talking about suicide. Her showing self-harm in their presence, exposing them to violent materials and appearing to be generally uninterested by their needs.
‘She would respond to their needs with smacking and criticism. There was a poor relationship with food – not feeding them regularly and appropriately. There were descriptions of the children eating from the kitchen floor.’
Dr Silver told the court that during her assessment she gave Plaintiff Three dolls to act out stories of family life.
‘It is a horrifying level of insight into what was going on in this family,’ Dr Silver said. ‘[Plaintiff Three] kept playing out repeatedly lots of different variants of incest and sadistic cruelty.’
She added: ‘It was a really disturbing experience. It stood out as one of my most disturbed assessments. That would still continue to be the case.’
The trial, which is being presided over by Commissioner Pamela Scriven QC, continues. Jurats Paul Nicolle and Sally Sparrow are sitting on the case.
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