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).