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Poppi's father 'given £117,000 legal aid' for custody battle

Published 29/02/2016

Poppi Worthington's father Paul Worthington was identified by a judge as having sexually assaulted his 13-month-old daughter before her death
Poppi Worthington's father Paul Worthington was identified by a judge as having sexually assaulted his 13-month-old daughter before her death

The father of a toddler sexually abused before her sudden death has reportedly been awarded £117,000 in legal aid to fight his custody battle to see his other children.

Paul Worthington was granted the public funds as he sought to have a legal ruling overturned that his 13-month-old daughter Poppi died suddenly after a sexual assault.

Mr Worthington, 48, who denies any wrongdoing, was arrested but never charged with any offence.

Police and the local authority have come under fierce criticism since the death of the youngster at her home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, in December 2012.

A judge ruled that Poppi was probably sexually assaulted by her father but police are now under investigation over their delayed and bungled inquiry which allowed evidence to be missed.

During family proceedings Mr Worthington failed to overturn a decision by Mr Justice Peter Jackson that Poppi had been abused before she died.

And according to the Sunday Post, a freedom of information request has revealed Mr Worthington was given the six-figure public funding to fight in the family courts to be allowed to see his other children.

Poppi's siblings were taken into care 10 months after her death and the local authority launched proceedings in the family court.

Since October 2013, Mr Worthington has been awarded £87,318 for counsel payments and £29,450 for solicitors' fees to fight against the proceedings.

And Cumbria County Council, which was also criticised over the death of the youngster, has spent £198,500 on outside lawyers for matters relating to the protection of Poppi's siblings, and the equivalent of £12,365 using its own in-house solicitors, the newspaper said.

The costs include failed applications made to the court to ban details of the case being released for 15 years.

In January, High Court family judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson ruled that - on the balance of probabilities - Mr Worthington "perpetrated a penetrative ... assault on Poppi".

The little girl's death had been shrouded in secrecy, with a 2014 fact-finding civil court judgment being kept private so as not to prejudice any criminal proceedings, while an inquest controversially took only seven minutes to declare her death as "unexplained".

A fresh inquest into the death is set to take place.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The Government has taken action to reduce legal aid expenditure. It has been reduced by over 20% since 2010.

"Legal aid is now only available for the highest priority cases, which includes care proceedings.

"Legal aid is only granted where the case meets the statutory requirements for funding which have been set by Parliament."

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