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Judge Blames Wife In Child Abuse Case; Resignation Demanded

November 30, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ Politicans and child welfare experts on Wednesday called for the resignation of a judge who ruled that a man was driven to child abuse by his wife’s pregnancy.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, who could recommend that Parliament dismiss the judge, called for a report.

″The fact that this man had a pregnant wife is no reason to condone him sexually assaulting a girl of 12,″ said Elizabeth Peacock, a lawmaker from the governing Conservative Party.

Judge Sir Harold Cassel sentenced the 30-year-old man, who pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault on his stepdaughter, to two years probation.

In pronouncing the sentence Tuesday in Knightsbridge Crown Court, Cassel said the pregnancy led to a ″lack of sexual appetite in the lady and considerable problems for a healthy young husband.″

The judge said the mother, 33, had invited the girl into the couple’s bed and encouraged her daughter to cuddle with the stepfather. None of those involved were identified because British law prohibits publication of any information that might help identify a minor involved in a court case.

The case made headlines in British papers Wednesday with the tabloid Post demanding that the judge who freed the ″sex beast″ should quit.

Mildred Gordon, a member of the opposition Labor Party, submitted a motion in the House of Commons Wednesday calling for dismissal of the 72-year-old judge.

″I feel that if his comments are accurately reported it is tantamount to condoning the abuse of children,″ she said. ″It implies that if a man has a healthy sexual appetite and his wife is pregnant then he has carte blanche.″

Her call was backed by 20 members of the Conservative, Labor and Social Democratic Party and by Diane Core, director of the charity Childwatch.

Judges normally retire at 72 but can apply to stay on until 75. If the Lord Chancellor recommends that Cassel be dismissed, both the House of Lords and the Commons would have to agree.

The sentencing coincided with the government’s disclosure that 5,100 cases of child sexual abuse have been reported to authorities nationally. Experts say that figure greatly underestimates the extent of the problem.

On Tuesday, Health Minister David Mellor told a conference that at least 39,300 youngsters were registered ″at risk″ of neglect or physical abuse.

Valerie Howarth, director of Childline, a national telephone hotline for children, said surveys have estimated that as many as one child in 10 suffers at least one instance of sexual abuse.

The stepfather admitted three assaults, two when the girl was 12 and one when she was 13.

The girl, now 14, is reported to have the mental ability of a 7-year-old and suffers from epilepsy. ″She is a nervous wreck now,″ the mother said.

Cassel snapped ″No comment″ Wednesday to a written message asking if he had anything to say about the controversy.

The judge traced the abuse to the mother’s efforts to overcome the girl’s resentment of the new man in the house.

″The stepmother encouraged the girl to cuddle her husband and even got into the habit of inviting her into the marital bed,″ the judge said. ″This was not an invitation to a toddler, but to a girl approaching puberty and the cuddles began to go too far.″