Siblings who were abused not entitled to late father's assets

Published date22 September 2022
The children of a man who sexually abused and "tormented" them when they were young are in a legal stoush with his new family, saying they are entitled to a share of his assets

The three siblings successfully argued their case in the High Court but that decision has now been overruled in a recently released decision following an appeal.

Court of Appeal judge Justice David Collins has ruled the father was in breach of his "fiduciary duty" to his children by sexually and physically assaulting them when they were younger. However, he said that doesn't mean they are entitled to the assets he left behind when he died.

The father, who has name suppression and is referred to as Robert, frequently abused his wife and their children - including sexually abusing his daughter from when she was seven to 13-years-old, and often beating his son with a belt. The abuse led to the children suffering various mental health and drug addiction problems in their adult life.

Robert and his wife, referred to as Rose, had four children identified as Greg, who died in 2015, Alice, Barry and Cliff. After their marriage ended in 1983 Robert started a new relationship with a widow, identified as Phillipa, who had three children.

Court documents reveal how Alice's self-esteem was so low she tried to end her own life when she was 11. She went on to develop an eating disorder, suffered from depression and found it difficult to maintain relationships with others and hold down a job.

After getting support from ACC for counselling, Alice confided in her three brothers and mother that Robert had sexually abused her.

Rose wrote a letter to Robert, confronting him about the "unforgivable" abuse to which she received a letter from his lawyers saying that the allegations were false and defamatory, and if the statements were repeated legal action would be taken.

The decision detailed how Barry also suffered from the abuse and "torment" he endured at the hands of his father. He left school, and became involved in gangs when he was 17, resulting in him getting stabbed and admitted to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Robert did not visit his son in hospital.

Cliff left home when he was 15, after suffering from and witnessing Robert's violence and effectively had no contact with his father from then on. He also developed a "severe and prolonged" drug addiction, resulting in a number of near-death experiences.

Following the marriage separation, Alice said Robert sometimes stood outside...

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