Appeal court dismisses B.C. mom's lawsuit alleging kids in ministry care were molested

The province’s highest court has dismissed a civil case in which the mother sued the Ministry of Children and Family Development for negligence.

The civil claim, filed by the child's mother in 2012, argued the ministry had been negligent

The family members can't be identified to protect the children, three of whom a B.C. Supreme Court justice determined were sexually abused by their father. (CBC)

The B.C. Court Of Appeal has dismissed a civil claim against the province's Children's Ministry that accused officials of allowing a toddler in its care to be molested by their father.

The panel of judges ruled the father was initially given an unfair family court trial and has ordered a new trial. 

The civil claim, filed by the child's mother in 2012, argued the ministry had been negligent and acted in bad faith when it allowed unsupervised visits with the father.

Thursday's appeal court decision stems from two parallel cases involving the woman, who can only be named as JP: one was a family court case, while the other was heard in B.C. Supreme Court.

In 2012, the mother was awarded sole custody of her four children after a family court judge ruled they were physically and sexually abused by their father.

The father, who also cannot be identified, has never been criminally charged.

In 2015, Supreme Court Justice Paul Walker issued a scathing 341-page ruling that found the ministry breached its fiduciary duty to the family.

Both the father and the ministry appealed the respective decisions. On Thursday, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld those appeals.

Family court trial

The family court trial involving JP and the father began in 2011.

At the time, Justice Walker ruled there was enough evidence to conclude three of the former couple's children had been sexually and physically abused by their father. The judge also said a Vancouver police investigation into the case was flawed.

On Thursday, the B.C. Court of Appeal said there were problems with expert testimony in that trial and that Walker had relied on inadmissible evidence and ruled the father had had an unfair trial.

The judges cited issues with the expert opinion on child sex abuse from a Ms. Claire Reeves.

"In my assessment, the fresh evidence establishes that Ms. Reeves knowingly misrepresented her qualifications to the court, was untruthful about her expertise, employment and court experience and offered opinion evidence that was based on discredited science," ruled Appeal Court Justice Daphne Smith.

Civil trial

In 2012, JP filed a civil lawsuit against the Ministry of Children and Family development.

She argued the ministry was negligent, ultimately allowing her children to be molested by their father.

The children were placed in ministry care after their father raised questions about JP's mental capacity.

The father was allowed unsupervised visits and JP alleged that's when he abused the children.

The civil trial ended in 2015, when Justice Walker found the province had breached its fiduciary duty to the mother and the children.

On Thursday, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled mistakes made in the initial family court trial carried over into the civil trial.

The panel of judges dismissed claims of negligence as well as misfeasance.

JP 'shocked and disappointed,' statement says

JP's lawyer, Jack Hittrich, said his client "is shocked and completely disappointed" by Thursday's decision.

Hittrich said JP plans to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The children will remain in JP's custody, pending a new trial for their father.

The ministry also issued a statement, saying it would review the decision.

"Our hope is that this judgment will provide clarity on a number of issues of general importance for child protection practice," a spokesperson said. "[Our] thoughts, especially, are with the children at this time."