Cumbria

Poppi Worthington inquest: Father's evidence 'disappointing'

Poppi Worthington Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Poppi Worthington was blue and not breathing when she was taken to hospital

Poppi Worthington's father "hid behind a veil" by refusing to answer questions at an inquest into her death, a lawyer has said.

The 13-month-old died suddenly at a house in Barrow in December 2012. No-one has been prosecuted in the case.

Lawyers representing Poppi's mother said Paul Worthington's refusal to give evidence was "disappointing".

Last year a family court judge said Mr Worthington "probably" sexually abused Poppi before her death.

During the three-week inquest in Kendal, which has now concluded, Mr Worthington refused to answer 252 questions, citing rules protecting witnesses from incriminating themselves.

The coroner said Mr Worthington should not be criticised for exercising his rights.

In her final submission to senior coroner for Cumbria, David Roberts, Gillian Irving QC rejected claims by Mr Worthington's legal team that the inquest had heard full evidence.

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Paul Worthington said answering some questions could incriminate him

Ms Irving said the "key protagonist" had not given evidence.

She said it was "regrettable" that it had taken five years for a second inquest to be held.

A first hearing lasted less than eight minutes and concluded the cause of Poppi's death was "unascertained".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Cumbria coroner David Roberts has been overseeing the inquest

She said: "Common sense dictates that an investigation which is dependent on part on the memory of individuals is automatically at risk of prejudice caused by delay."

Ms Irving also criticised the "feeble and ineffectual" evidence of Cumbria Police.

The force was criticised by the police watchdog for failings in evidence gathering at the time.

She said: "If this was not such a tragedy one could best describe the response of Cumbria Constabulary as a comedy of errors.

"Undoubtedly their conduct should be questioned because as far as the mother is concerned, they have denied Poppi justice and denied her of establishing or helping to establish a cause of death."

She told the hearing she agreed with Leslie Thomas QC, representing Mr Worthington, that neither an unlawful killing nor natural causes conclusion was open to the coroner.

Mr Thomas said it was "completely inappropriate to leave the inference or smell that evidence has been excluded from the proceedings".

He said the evidence of Dr Alison Armour, who suggested Poppi's body showed evidence of sexual abuse, was "unsafe" and that other expert witnesses contradicted her findings.

Paul Clark, representing Mr Worthington, said it would be "absolutely wrong to draw inferences" against his client because of gaps in the evidence gathered by police.

He added it was "entirely wrong" to say the police failings resulted in a failure to prosecute him.

A verdict is expected in January.

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