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Expert’s credentials queried in B.C. child sexual abuse case

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The lawyer for a man found by a judge to have sexually abused his children – a ruling that also blasted B.C. social workers for giving the man continued access to the children over their mother's pleas – has questioned the academic credentials of an expert used to support the allegation.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Walker last year delivered a scathing ruling in which he said social workers violated a court order by allowing the father unsupervised visits with his children. B.C.'s Ministry of Children faced a barrage of criticism after the judgment and announced a review. The province also appealed the ruling.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel at the B.C. Court of Appeal heard from the father's lawyer.

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The family cannot be identified, and the mother has been identified only as J.P.

Morgan Camley, the father's lawyer, told the court the trial judge failed to act as a "proper gatekeeper." Ms. Camley took particular issue with the judge accepting expert evidence from U.S. psychologist Claire Reeves, saying her degrees appeared to be obtained through "diploma mills."

"If this court finds that Ms. Reeves did perpetuate a fraud on the court by lying about her academic qualifications or other important things in her CV, it should absolutely affect the result of the case. Ms. Reeves's evidence was crucial and central to the trial judge's finding that [the father] sexually abused his children," she said.

Ms. Reeves, who founded the group Mothers Against Sexual Abuse, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Jack Hittrich, who is representing the mother in the court case, has said the judge's decision was not based on Ms. Reeves' evidence.

The province said social workers received expert advice from, among others, a pediatric psychologist who specializes in child sexual abuse. The province said the consistent advice was that the sexual abuse was unlikely to have occurred.

The father has denied abusing his children. The Vancouver Police Department investigated the matter in 2010, but charges were not laid.

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A lawyer for the province made its submission Monday. The province has said the trial judge ignored relevant evidence and drew inferences that did not rationally emerge.

Andrew Gay, the lawyer for William Strickland, a social worker who was involved in the case, said the trial judge found his client showed "antipathy and ill will" toward the children's mother. He said the judge erred by saying Mr. Strickland committed misfeasance.

"Aside from criminality, there is no finding that could be made against a social worker that is more damning than a finding of misfeasance in public office," he said.

The appeal had originally been scheduled to be heard in June but was delayed until this week. It is scheduled to run through Friday.

Mr. Hittrich is to begin his submission Wednesday.

Justice Walker's decision said the ministry showed "reckless disregard" when it falsely accused the mother of being mentally ill and removed four children from her care in 2009. The ruling, which stemmed from a lawsuit brought by the children's mother, said social workers failed to investigate the children's claims that their father had sexually abused them.

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The B.C. government released its review into the matter last December. The review, led by former deputy minister Bob Plecas, said two decades of chaos produced a system that failed children in care.

The government acknowledged it needed to restore funding to child protection programs.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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