On Tuesday, a family court judge ruled that 13 month old Poppi Worthington had been sexually assaulted by her father shortly before her death in 2012. Following the family court judgment, the former Liberal Democrat justice minister Sir Simon Hughes led calls for the Crown Prosecution Service and the Police to review the criminal case against Paul Worthington, Poppi’s father.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson held on Tuesday that on the ‘balance of probabilities’ Paul Worthington had carried out a penetrative attack on Poppi shortly before her death. The ‘balance of probabilities’ standard of proof is lower than the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard required for a criminal conviction.
No criminal case was brought against Mr Worthington because the CPS considered that there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction. In 2014, Cumbria police referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which has conducted a review into possible police misconduct in the original investigation but is yet to publish its findings. However, Justice Jackson identified twelve separate failings in the original police investigation. He criticized the police for not preserving items in the family home for forensic analysis and Poppi’s last nappy, which could have provided important DNA evidence, was lost despite police being at the scene.
On Wednesday, Sir Simon Hughes led calls for a new criminal investigation into Poppi’s death. Speaking to BBC radio 4’s Today programme, Hughes called for the police and the CPS to reopen and review the case:
‘If our justice system is about justice for the deceased as well as the living and above all about the welfare of children still alive, then it must be in the general interests of justice that there is a further review of this case.’
Hughes’ calls were echoed by John Woodcock, Labour MP for Barrow-in-Furness where Poppi died. In parliament on Wednesday, Woodcock requested a new, independent investigation by another police force.
However, Home Office minister Karen Bradley said that no action could be taken until a second inquest had taken place, stating that ‘in order for the case to be reopened, new evidence will need to come to light, which may or may not be the case depending on the IPCC inquiry and also the second inquest.’
Ollie Persey is a legal fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, where he works on issues concerning criminal justice, international human rights law, and mental health