A mother whose toddler was sexually abused at a Douglas nursery has spoken for the first time about the family’s ordeal.
And the woman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, has revealed how her son was denied access to counselling before his abuser was jailed.
She has welcomed proposed changes to the criminal justice system, announced last week, to allow the cross-examination of all witnesses under the age of 18, and those identified as vulnerable, to be pre-recorded.
‘The impact on the family has been profound,’ she said.
‘Everything my son says and does is analysed now. Is it because of what happened or just because he’s a little boy?
‘He was in a place of trust where he should have been nurtured and been safe, not violated and groomed by a depraved sexual predator.’
In September 2013, Andrew James Maddrell, 24, who lived off Ballanard Road in Douglas, was sentenced to a total of five years and three months’ imprisonment for sexually assaulting a child and making 232 indecent images of children.
The former employee of Sandcastles nursery pleaded guilty to the offences in August 2013, shortly before he was due to stand trial.
The mother said she only found out what had been happening when the police contacted her wanting to speak to her three-year-old son.
‘I was in complete disbelief. You can’t believe that it’s your life. That day my life changed. We weren’t a normal family any more,’ she said.
The boy was interviewed by police four times, as he continued to disclose information.
Then in August last year, shortly before the trial was due to start, her son had to watch his police interviews again to prepare him to face cross-examination.
‘For vulnerable witnesses and children who have been through a profound terrifying experience, to have to relive it yet again 12 months later, that’s not what the criminal justice system should be about,’ she said.
‘They are the innocent victims and they are the ones who should be protected.’
She said an advantage of pre-recording children’s evidence was their recollection of events would be clearer.
In her son’s case, if the trial had proceeded he would have faced cross-examination a year after he first spoke to police.
She said: ‘He had a whole year of possibly forgetting things.
‘At his age, how likely was it that he was going to talk to a complete stranger on a TV screen with probably a delay in transmission?’
And she believes children and vulnerable witnesses would benefit from pre-recording their evidence as it would enable them to access counselling sooner.
She said: ‘For both children and vulnerable witnesses, once they have given their evidence it allows them to get on with their lives, leave the criminal justice system, and allow them to recover.’
She explained that, in her family’s case, she was advised her son was not allowed counselling or therapy before the trial because it could ‘question the integrity of his evidence’.
‘He wasn’t allowed any counselling. I was advised only to talk to him about it if he talked to me about it.’
The boy received no counselling until he was five, after Maddrell was sentenced.
It stopped after six months as the family wait to see how he develops.
She said: ‘It sounds paranoid but as his mum, you question everyone.
‘If he’s invited to someone’s house for tea you question their parents.’
He is no longer at Sandcastles and is at school.
She said: ‘When he started school he was very clingy and anxious, which has improved over time. I made his teacher aware of what happened. I didn’t know if he would do something inappropriate not knowing it was wrong.
‘Because he is so little you don’t know how it will affect him in the future.’
She wrote to Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson calling for the law change to allow pre-recorded evidence.
‘I hope if I get my story across it might push politicians to make it a priority.
‘Otherwise it is going to happen to another young child and they are going to go through exactly the same thing.
‘Other children who have been through similar, and their parents, will probably have gone through the same worries and concerns. We can’t make it better for our children, but the politicians can make it better for other children and vulnerable persons in the future.’