Bared Teeth – Grrrrr!

Contempt of Court are the “teeth” behind privacy rules in family proceedings. The court will bite, but only when necessary.

This week a private investigator enmeshed in the Vicky Haigh care proceedings (which has become a weird kind of celebrity care case thanks to the Max Cliffords of the family justice world: Christopher Booker and John Hemming MP), was jailed for 9 months for contempt of court. This is a pretty stiff sentence – it is a civil contempt, so there is no early release on licence. 9 months is broadly equivalent to an 18 month criminal sentence.

Vicky Haigh was of course the Mother championed by Hemming and Booker for being the victim of family court injustice. There are many articles by Christopher Booker concerning her case on The Telegraph website, a number of them quoting Hemming. The early ones do not mention her by name but it is fairly clear when they are read in sequence that they relate to the same case. Hence Booker has been responsible for disclosure of significant amounts of information connected to this case, although it remains to be seen how accurate or complete that information in fact is.

Although The Telegraph is one of the papers to report this new development (along with The Times of which I have a paper copy) the Telegraph article is written in fairly straight terms by Tom Whitehead and Holly Watt. Christopher Booker remains – so far at least – noticeably silent. Both he and Hemming have claimed to be well informed authorities on the Haigh case – and neither to my knowledge ever reported the highly material fact that there have been (it seems) two finding of fact hearings in the High Court exonerating the Father of any sexual abuse, although prior to identifying Ms Haigh they were prepared to be quite specific about the facts (see here for example). Based on the reports today in The Times and The Telegraph it now appears that they used the facts in a rather selective and misleading way. The judgment may well shed further light on this, so I will wait until then to comment further. In any event it will be interesting to hear the response from Hemming & Booker.

Unfortunately the judgment does not appear to be available on Bailii yet, which is a shame and rather surprising to boot, since the President decided for very good reason to make the judgment public in order that the Father could publicly clear his name (and no doubt so that the public can see that the court will not tolerate fabrications and malicious allegations and behaviour of this kind).


30 thoughts on “Bared Teeth – Grrrrr!

  1. This case was one of the extreme cases where allegations were made as an act of revenge or to obstruct and impede a child’s relationship with their father. There are three main points that come out to me about this and other similar acts.
    What Vicky Haigh did was child abuse.
    She used the system as a weapon – termed ‘administrative violence.’
    There are many other times where a similar pattern goes on but it is not as extreme so falls ‘below the radar’. Usually it’s domestic violence accusations.
    Any time the system is used falsely it harms the real victims.

  2. This case clearly demonstrates why MPs must not place themselves as a higher authority than the Courts. John Hemming MP, having knowledge of only half of the case, decided that he was better placed than the court to decide whether an injunction should be in place or not. His cavalier attitude is dangerous. His judgement has been shown as not being impeccable, despite his apparent view that it is. If Hemming has any decency at all he will issue a full public apology to the man involved.

  3. Lord Justice Wall who made his judgement regarding Vicky Haigh and Elizabeth Watson on Monday is the President of the Family Division of the Royal Courts of Justice.

    On Monday he decided to make his judgement public, except for the name of Vicky’s daughter.

    However, the judgment ignored evidence by the child:

    [remainder of comment deleted]

  4. It is really about time if I am honest that the Courts were been played the correct field instead of usually accepting false DV and Abuse Claims, I feel that this may set president if you pardon the pun etc so that at long last a lot of the false claims that are been made everyday will be quashed as it is been getting to the stupid levels of making false claims within the FPC’s and them accepting them like gospel, I know about this first hand, and it is not a laughing matter, I feel sorry for the poor father that has been put through this kind of horrible ordeal when there was no need to, I have never been accused of abusing a child but was accused of DV etc,

    Maybe women who are using the Children as weapons through out the Courts which is common knowledge will now think twice about it instead of lying in the Courts and then even worse getting friends and family to lie for them in the arenas etc when it is totally uncalled for, they should be looking at the best interests of their child not getting back at their ex partners!!

  5. […] The UKHR Blog post also lists some other good articles on the topic published yesterday and which are far more comprehensive than my short post of the same date. […]

  6. Chris Booker is a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, not a journalist for the Telegraph group. He also writes occasional pieces for other papers.

    So your assertion that Booker is “noticeably silent” is to date a false assumption. We’ll need to wait until his Sunday column is uploaded to the website on Saturday evening before seeing whether he does respond to the court judgement.

  7. […] will blog about this once the full rulings are released, but in the meantime see Lucy Reed: Bared Teeth – Grrrrr! | Pink Tape; Inforrm; News: Hemming MP’s “super injunction victim” named as sex abuse fabricator « […]

  8. The problem, Familoo, is that FC legal teams for the families invaribly advise their clients that they cannot appeal a decision, either because they do not think the LSC will approve the necessary funds, or because they do not wish to do so.

    This is a constant complaint by families.

    Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this case, in his position Nicholas Wall should be aware of this.

    Or has he forgotten he and his fellow senior judges block appeals by turning them down at permission to appeal stage in the C of A ?

    When cases are over it is then said “but there was no appeal!”.

    I personally have seen this where the legals are thrown into a state of excitement “you’ll never guess, they are going to appeal!”

    • Well, I would advise against appeal if there weren’t any good grounds. Lawyers have a duty to give realistic advice and a separate legal duty to the LSC to protect public funds. Are you suggesting that lawyers will routinely advise against appeal where there are proper grounds? It’s not my experience of how things work and it’s a serious allegation.

      In any event, although it is a difficult and daunting task, a party is entitled to pursue an appeal as a litigant in person, and in my experience litigants who feel very strongly will sometimes take that course. I take the point that there are many people who simply feel unable to pursue an appeal without legal support and representation, but I don’t think that is justification for simply bypassing the legal process and acting in ways which are a contempt of court and / or adverse to the welfare of a child. The proposition that the difficulty in securing backing for an appeal makes it ok to run a trial by internet / media in respect of allegations of sexual abuse is a non sequitur.

      Incidentally, you mention refusal of permission to appeal – we haven’t got the full judgment but the impression I have from the press release is that this was not a case of permission refused, but of permission never sought.

  9. […] “Secret Family Court …” on the Confessions of a Family Lawyer blog,  “Bared teeth – Grrr” on the Pink Tape […]

  10. Notafamilylawyer


    As I understand it those who support Vicky Haigh are adamant that there is in fact evidence to support her allegations, not least a medical report, and that Wall LJ refused to look at it. His judgement does not explain why he refused. If this evidence was in fact germane then surely the rules of evidence required him to look at and evaluate that evidence and in not doing so he has suppressed evidence and misconducted himself on the bench.

    I would like to know your views on that and whether in doing so Wall LJ has provided Vicky Haigh with both cast iron grounds for appeal and for reporting him to the OJC for gross misconduct on the bench.

    Specifically unreasonably and possibly unlawfully refusing to take into account germane evidence, unreasonably and unlawfully refusing to look at the whole of Vicky Haigh’s application and indulging in assassination of her character. If he were a barrister he could be struck off for what he said, why should a judge be allowed to use language like that particularly when he knew Vicky Haigh was not represented and therefore could not defend herself? Surely that is abuse of authority and abuse of process as well.

    • Still awaiting the judgments. I’ve no idea what’s in them above and beyond the contents of the judicial press release. I can observe however that medical evidence is rarely probative in itself of sexual abuse, and that the permission of the court is required before an expert can be instructed or can assess a child for the purposes of a Children Act case. Also that the weight of an expert’s evidence, if that evidence is admissible, will depend on their own expertise, their independence and upon the quality of information given to them. Beyond that I can’t comment on your hypotheses.

  11. Oh look at what was uploaded this Saturday evening. It would have helped this blogpost Lucy had you observed the timings of when Chris Booker articles were uploaded to the Telegraph website (every Saturday evening) before making the false claim that Booker was silent. This is clearly not the case and you should correct your inaccurate claim.

  12. Am I the only one who found it curious that Mr. Booker referred to Ms. Watson as “Liz”, a diminutive form not used in the press release or any press report? One might be forgiven for suspecting a degree of familiarity.

  13. Paul Randle-Jolliffe

    This I found interesting on the subject

  14. Paul Randle-Jolliffe

    I do also notice that it has been stated that it was a nursery that 1st raised the issue of sexual abuse not the mother. This seems at great variance with the Judgement by Wall.

    I also notice that Watson never published anything, it has not been stated where she did nor can I find any, certainly not mentioned by Wall and was in court for his judgement, surely there must be evidence of being in contempt of the publishing rule?

    There were also other issues not addressed by Wall in the court hearing, he was handed a document from the PFRD that said they had not issued a puported order and the seal on it was not their seal. This letter was from the Manager of the PFRD. Wall never looked at it.

    • Where does it say that a nursery first raised this issue? It is not in any of the judgments I have read. In any event this will have been one piece of evidence considered by the court in the course of two fact finding hearings, neither appealed. In itself a child making allegations to a third party is not inconsistent with malicious allegations nor of alienation, indeed it can be evidence of it.

      I don’t understand the assertion that Watson never published anything. The judgments refer to numerous emails circulated very widely and material provided to other individuals for publication by them. The definition of “publication” for the purposes of contempt of court and child privacy is very broad and all these would fall squarely within it.

      I believe that one of the judgments deals with the seal issue, although I do not have time at present to go and find the reference.

  15. Paul Randle-Jolliffe

    I know the editor of the blog but they want to remain private, but why wrong?

    What has got lost is Hemming exposed SS lying in documents and that’s why he named and indeed that was the catalyst for all the publicity, not the dispute between the parents. Wall did not address this at all or any of the issues surrounding that.

    You might be right about Wall mentioning the seal but Wall mumbles whilst giving judgements, but I have a copy of the letter from the manager of the PRFD.

    • I’m sure you do know the editor of the blog. I did not make any judgment about that. Do you think it is wrong to conceal it?
      I think you mean that Hemming asserted SS lying in documents, which is not the same thing. The court heard that evidence and did not accept it. Or perhaps I am thinking of the R-P case in 2008 where he accused the solicitor of lying and the court did not accept his evidence.
      I am not sure of the relevance of judicial mumbling. Aren’t we referring to transcribed and approved written judgments that are publicly available?

  16. Paul Randle-Jolliffe

    The problem was what was published online, but that was not Watsons work and yet it is reported that she “published online sex abuse allegations”

    • No, I think the problem was on several levels. She was punished for publication in a number of forms, including a number of emails. The recent judgment relates to her application to purge her contempt – the problem at that stage was that she had made material available to third parties for publication and was unable to then get the toothpaste back into the tube. The problem remaining at the time the contempt was purged was the online material she did not have control of. You may be correct that the UKHR blog should make clear she caused material being published online, but evidently it is a distinction which did not prevent her from receiving a significant sentence of imprisonment for disobedience of a court order prohibiting that conduct.

  17. Paul Randle-Jolliffe

    I think there are significant problems with the judicial discretion on evidence being able to be ruled out of proceedings, I know of one significant case which if judged to criminal law standard makes Justice Coleridge and several other judges knowingly complicit to adoption placement by fraud, maybe the nursery evidence has been conveniently ruled out just like the doctors records in the one involving Coleridge, this being the one that Tim Yeo MP said in parliament that Suffolk CC was kidnapping. The Judgement’s look so good don’t they!

  18. […] (A cautionary lesson: the Vicky Haigh and Liz Watson judgments), theMinistry of Truth, barrister Lucy Reed and the on the Fighting Monsters […]

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