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Church minister cleared of abusing sons by judge after family court hearing

by Press Association

 A church minister accused of sexually abusing his three sons has been cleared by a High Court judge who criticised a detective involved in a police investigation.

The three boys, now aged between 12 and 17, made "serious allegations" against their father.

But Mr Justice Keehan has concluded the allegations are "false".

The judge said a woman detective's conduct of the investigation had been "woeful" and said guidance on interviewing children had been "seriously and serially" breached.

He said he could attach little or no weight to allegations the brothers made during police interviews.

Mr Justice Keehan analysed evidence at a recent private family court hearing in Birmingham and has outlined his conclusions in a written ruling published online.

Council social services bosses with responsibility for the brothers' care and welfare had asked the judge to make findings.

The judge said West Midlands Police was the force involved and the detective he had criticised has retired.

The detective told the judge of having a "heavy caseload" and said she had done her best.

Mr Justice Keehan said the detective had not accepted that her approach in interviews "risked encouraging the boys to make allegations".

But he said she had told him, in a "troubling rider", that "they knew what I was looking for".

The judge has not named any family members, or the council involved, and said the brothers could not be identified in media reports of the case.

He said the man separated from his wife nearly three years ago

The three boys lived with their mother but continued to see their father.

Mr Justice Keehan said the boys' mother had not challenged their allegations even though she knew some aspects were "palpably false".

He said she had developed a "mindset" which made her "incapable of rational thought".

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