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Poppi Worthington's father 'needs human rights protected at inquest'

Published 29/07/2016

Poppi Worthington died after collapsing with serious injuries at her home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, on December 12 2012
Poppi Worthington died after collapsing with serious injuries at her home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, on December 12 2012

A father who a judge ruled probably sexually assaulted his daughter shortly before her death needs his human rights protected when he gives evidence at her inquest, a court heard.

Paul Worthington, 48, should be allowed to be a witness via a videolink rather than attend in person the inquest into the death of his daughter Poppi, his lawyers said, because he is receiving death threats.

Mr Worthington, who denies any wrongdoing, was not at Friday's pre-inquest hearing at Carlisle Coroner's Court ahead of the full hearing later this year.

A judge in the family courts earlier this year ruled that his 13-month-old daughter was probably sexually assaulted by him before her sudden death at the family home in Barrow, Cumbria, in December 2012.

A botched investigation by Cumbria Police meant evidence was not collected and no one has ever been prosecuted.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last month ruled out charges due to lack of evidence following a second review of the case.

Mr Worthington was originally arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.

The child's death in December 2012 was shrouded in mystery after authorities sought to keep details private.

The first inquest into Poppi's death in October 2014 by then Cumbria coroner Ian Smith lasted just seven minutes and called no evidence.

It was later judged ''irregular'' in the High Court and a new one was ordered.

On Friday, as preparations were made ahead of the second inquest in October, Mr Worthington's lawyers asked for special measures to protect his safety.

Leslie Thomas QC, representing Mr Worthington, said the evidence relied upon by Mr Justice Jackson in finding a sexual assault took place by his client will be "hotly and robustly challenged".

He told David Roberts, Senior Coroner for Cumbria, that Mr Worthington had continued to receive death threats and the state or its agents had a duty to Mr Worthington under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights that the right to life of citizens must be protected.

Mr Thomas continued: "This inquest can potentially seriously impact upon Mr Worthington ... the threats, the death threats that's being made.

"There's a risk, a real risk to Mr Worthington and that risk would not just extend to him when he's in the courtroom, it's getting here, leaving here."

The Coroner said he was "alive" to the issue and will make a decision in due course on whether Mr Worthington gives his evidence by videolink.

The toddler was rushed to hospital by ambulance after she collapsed at her home on December 12 2012.

A post-mortem examination found she had a fracture to her right leg and suspected acute injuries to her anus.

Cumbria Police conducted no "real" investigation for nine months as senior detectives thought a pathologist who examined Poppi's body "may have jumped to conclusions" that the girl had been abused.

In January this year during care proceedings in relation to other children in the family, the damning judgment by Mr Justice Peter Jackson was finally made public, prompting heavy criticism of Cumbria Police and Cumbria County Council and calls for a public inquiry.

The judge concluded that Mr Worthington had, on the balance of probabilities, abused his daughter shortly before her death.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission report into Cumbria Police's handling of the investigation is still to be published.

The full inquest, scheduled to last three weeks, will begin at Kendal Coroner's Court on October 10.

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