A father found to have sexually assaulted his 13-month-old daughter shortly before her sudden death will not face criminal action unless new evidence comes to light.
High Court family judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson has ruled that 48-year-old Paul Worthington – on the balance of probabilities – “perpetrated a penetrative ... assault” on daughter Poppi.
Pathologist “may have jumped to conclusions” in her belief the child had been a victim of abuseCumbria Police
Poppi collapsed with serious injuries at her home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, in December 2012 and was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead.
But Cumbria Police conducted no “real” investigation for nine months, the judge found, as senior detectives thought a pathologist “may have jumped to conclusions” in her belief the child had been a victim of abuse.
The toddler was buried in February 2013, precluding a further post-mortem examination, after her body was released by the local coroner.
There is now said to be an “absence of evidence’’ to find out how Poppi died, or definitively prove if or how she was injured.
Mr Worthington was arrested in August 2013 and questioned on suspicion of sexual assault but was not charged with any offence.
He strenuously denies any wrongdoing.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has previously said it conducted “a thorough review of the evidence” but decided it was insufficient to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
Poppi’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”.
During the civil proceedings it emerged that Mr Worthington watched pornography on his laptop in bed in the hours before his daughter’s death, which he described as “involving adults”.
It was also revealed that he was informally interviewed by police in 1995 over his association with someone who may have committed offences against children.