John Hemming MP, Vicky Haigh, and her supporters

by Carl Gardner on August 25, 2011

In April I wrote about John Hemming’s use of Parliamentary privilege to name a woman involved in a family law dispute with a local authority. I concluded:

since this appears to be a family case involving a local authority, it’s reasonable to suspect it’s a child care case in which section 1(1) of the Children Act 1989 applies. The court probably therefore had the welfare of a child at the front of its mind when making that order. That’s why, in spite of John Hemming’s view, I’m not sure it’s actually in the public interest to name either her or the council involved.

I’m not sure either that it’s in the public interest for an MP, in his self-imposed role as a critic of the family justice system (as Lord Justice Wall put it), to use Parliamentary privilege in this way.

At the time I decided it was not in public interest to name her, or the council involved; I more than once had to redact comments from John Hemming in which he tried to name her, in spite of my asking commenters, and again asking him specifically, not to.

But earlier this week the President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir Nicholas Wall, named her publicly in court.

According to this Mirror report:

The judge ruled Ms Haigh, Mr Tune and the local authority could be identified. But he said the child – referred to in court as X – should not be named. He said: “Allegations of sexual abuse were first made by the mother and not by X. These were false and the mother knew them to be false. X was coached by the mother to make allegations of sexual abuse against the father.

“These proceedings have had a serious effect on the life of the father and have threatened the stability of the child.

“Her mother’s actions are wholly contrary to her interests.

“The father is entitled to tell the world, and the world is entitled to know, that he is not a paedophile, that he has not sexually abused his daughter and that the allegations made against him are false.”

The court heard how Ms Haigh never had a “scintilla of evidence” against her ex but enlisted the help of newspapers and MPs.

Ms Haigh, who is now a racehorse trainer, received support from Daily Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker, and Labour [in fact he’s a Liberal Democrat – Carl] MP John Hemming even brought up the case in Parliament.

And according to this Daily Mail report:

Sir Nicholas Wall, the country’s most senior family judge, said that Miss Haigh should be named and shamed and her former partner, David Tune, freed from the false smear that he is a child abuser.

He made the damning remarks as he jailed another woman, Elizabeth Watson, who acted as an ‘investigator’ on Miss Haigh’s behalf, sending ‘aggressive and intimidating’ e-mails and internet postings about social workers involved in the case.

Watson was given a nine-month sentence for contempt of court. The ruling was the culmination of a long-running row involving Miss Haigh which started with her allegations about her boyfriend and social workers.

Here’s a fuller report from the Press Gazette.

Hemming is now facing a demand for his resignation by the Labour MP for Bassetlaw John Mann, who was Vicky Haigh’s MP at the time – but whom John Hemming did not consult before his intervention.

Unity has written an excellent blogpost about all this at Ministry of Truth, and rightly feels vindicated for his criticism of Hemming (and Watson) at the time. But John Hemming continues to defend what he did. According to the Guardian

Hemming told the Guardian on Wednesday that, when he raised Haigh’s case in the Commons in April, he was not referring to the rights and wrongs of the custody battle.

Instead, Hemming said, he spoke out because he thought Doncaster council was wrong to threaten Haigh with jail for revealing confidential details of the custody case at a meeting in the Commons that he was chairing. Hemming said he was particularly concerned because in cases of this kind, involving contempt proceedings in the family courts, people have been jailed without the details being made public.

On his own blog, John Hemming maintains the line that

I am not making any statement as to the details of the underlying care issue … It remains that I am making no public comment about the underlying care case in respect of Ms Haigh.

while also going on to say

However,

1. Even if the court’s decision is 100% accurate – does that warrant the removal at birth of Ms Haigh’s baby. I don’t think so.

Can we take at face value Hemming’s implication that he’s only ever been interested in the free speech aspect of this, and not in giving oxygen to the complaints of Vicky Haigh and her supporters about the care case?

First, the remarks Haigh made, for which she was threatened with court proceedings, were made at a meeting Hemming chaired about transparency in the family court system.

And second, the comments he made on this blog in response to my April post seem to contradict the idea of his interest being limited to free speech. He explained that

the point about her name being known publicly is that those people who know here (which is a lot) can then check whether they think the state is at fault or not.

This relates to potential future care proceedings rather than historic care proceedings.

So he was clearly interested in allowing people to access information about matters relating to potential future care proceedings, at least. When I pressed him, he replied

Anyone who provides any details in public of the initial care proceedings is in contempt of court. Hence I cannot sensibly discuss them nor can anyone else come to a sufficiently evidenced conclusion to have any merit.

I am, however, interested in that issue and some associated issues.
I will not say any more.

I pressed him further on what he’d meant about people being able to check whether they think the state is at fault or not – except that his naming Vicky Haigh meant people could now search for any “information” about her case on the internet. He never answered.

A commenter at John Hemming’s blog has said – and, if I understand his comments right, John Hemming has apparently admitted – that Elizabeth Watson has published somewhere (I can’t find it) an e-mail exchange she had at some point with Hemming. John Hemming says none of his e-mails encouraged Watson:

although I do not think it is my responsibility to discourage her I have in fact discouraged her. Very explicitly.

However strongly he discouraged her, I think many people will be amazed that Hemming was engaging in e-mail correspondence with Watson at all. The fact that a “chronology” of the Vicky Haigh case published by or for Elizabeth Watson appears according to Unity at Ministry of Truth to have been finally amended for publication only very shortly before Hemming’s naming of Vicky Haigh raises, for him,

an interesting question about the possibility of a degree of co-ordination between Hemming and Haigh and her supporters. Hemming may well have been unaware of the fact that Haigh’s supporters intended to publish this document, but the timings do at least suggest that Haigh and her supporters may well have been aware, within a matter of minutes, of precisely when Hemming intended to make his move in the House and raise his point of order. It, therefore, seems to me that there are serious questions to be asked as to whether Hemming was in contact with Haigh or any of her supporters on the day that he made his statement in the House and that this a matter that the House of Commons’ authorities should investigate as, whether he realised it or not at the time, Hemming’s statement appears to have helped to facilitate the actions for which Elizabeth Watson has no been committed to prison for nine months.

Watson isn’t the only one of Vicky Haigh’s supporters that John Hemming has had contact with, either: here he is speaking about “secret prisoners” at a meeting in Parliament in January chaired by Sabine K. O’Neill, another Haigh supporter (sitting immediately to Hemming’s right).

In the past Ms. O’Neill published on one of her websites the “chronology” written about Vicky Haigh’s case by Watson. She’s also commented recently on John Hemming’s blog, where she’s posted the URL of that website and of her newer, dedicated Vicky Haigh campaign website, where only today she has again republished Elizabeth Watson’s “chronology”. I hope John Hemming at least redacts those comments soon.

John Hemming’s conduct in this matter, and the extent of his apparent contacts with those who’ve campaigned on the internet about Vicky Haigh, need to be scrutinised by his Parliamentary colleagues. John Mann MP is right to call for him to be held to account.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jimmy August 25, 2011 at 23:31

I am the commenter on Hemming’s blog to which you refer. Watson contributed to a discussion group called the Marlborough Group to which she forwarded email chains making it clear that she was in correspondence with Hemming and looking to him for encouragement. It is fair to point out so far as the published material is concerned there is nothing to indicate either encouragement or discouragement, but as you will have seen, he asserts that she was explicitly discouraged by him in e-mails which unfortunately don’t appear to have been forwarded to the group.

2 Jimmy August 25, 2011 at 23:45
3 Carl Gardner August 25, 2011 at 23:55

Thanks, Jimmy.

4 mike farrell August 26, 2011 at 14:43

very interesting to hear a politician talk about the separation of powers, a concept that he has now flouted on numerous occasions through dubious use of the Bill of Rights, and now to the extreme detriment of an innocent child and father

5 Jim Nately August 26, 2011 at 16:37

I must confess to being slightly surprised by John Hemming’s admission at 1’55” in the video where he accepts that

this is not a parliamentary proceeding, so I could potentially be imprisoned for naming some of the ‘secret prisoners’. But if I’m talking in a select committee or in parliament in the chamber itself about ‘secret prisoners’ I can name them.

So I’m slightly surprised to see Mr Hemming railing at the committal proceedings against Ms Haigh as an affront to parliamentary privilege….

6 ian josephs August 27, 2011 at 20:46

Well I believe in free speech as long as it does not incite violence or threaten national security.When the authorities try and gag those who disagree with them ,and basically that is what the family courts do,the ghosts of Hitler and Stalin applaud.Ask Lord Justice Aikens !
“Lord Justice Wall (The Senior family court judge) said that the determination of some social workers to place children in an “unsatisfactory care system” away from their families was “quite shocking”.In a separate case on which Sir Nicholas Wall also sat, Lord Justice Aikens described the actions of social workers in Devon as “more like Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China than the West of England” !

Who am I to disagree??

7 DR HODA TOULAN August 28, 2011 at 13:36

Whether Vicky Haigh was right or wrong, that is not the point. The point was that secret justice is bad, so bad. John Hemming is an opponent of secret court hearings. Unfortunately, a small number of mafia-style solicitors take advantage of secret court hearings to enforce decisions which can never be achieved in open hearings attended by the public and watched by the media.We came to a situation where people who have money can secure injunctions covering up any wrongdoings. So the point is that the Law has to be changed and secret justice and back door lawyers should be stopped, once and for all. On the first reading of this, one would think that it is a very convincing argument and that John Hemming was wrong. However, on a careful reading of what you wrote shows evidently that you hate John Hemming personally and you took this as a chance to attack John Hemming who spoke out when all the cowards kept silent. Most of what you wrote is an absolute rubbish and is directed personally against this brave MP. It is simple, Hemming is taking the side of the public and the people who cannot raise their grievances in Parliament without people like him. Unfortunately, a small number of local representatives have connections and interests with the local authorities and cannot afford to upset them. But some MPs like Hemming would take the grievance and raise it in Parliament to show that there is something wrong in the current secretive court proceedings where the more powerful can change the black to white and the white to black. And now and hypothetically, if Vicky Haigh launches an appeal and wins it, will you still insist. I hoped that you concentrated on the substance of the argument rather than shifting everything to pursue a personal attack on John Hemming.

8 Jean James August 29, 2011 at 06:39

Here, here. Well said.

9 Master Steve Hamilton August 29, 2011 at 15:27

Maurice Kirk beat the “Legal System” fair and square – without the FMOTL stuff. Kirk luckily recieved very good advice from a small group of people who knew the legal tricks. They helped beat the legal system before and during Kirks Trial.

Months after his acquittal though; it seems that he allowed persons / people who did nowt for him during his trial to lead him astray. Beware Narcissists and egotists with hidden agendas.

The “Master” title is Approved and accepted Judicially by the way.

10 anonymous August 29, 2011 at 16:11

Jimmy. thanks for that. I wish to point out that I have been a victim of Waton’s poisonous emails, and that she is also known to edit emails received from others before distributing them. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that John Hemming did nothing to encourage her in any way.

11 Master Steve Hamilton August 29, 2011 at 21:35

Come on Carl Gardner – lets be having you! I could of course offer you 7, 14, 21 or 28 days to reply …. ‘legally’ …. [Ho hum]

The point is – did the UK’s National Press & Media ever “report” Maurice Kirk’s landmark and precedent setting ‘lawful acquittal’? – No they did not …. and nor did the Sun or the Times who were quite prepared and “ready” to tear into him HAD he been convicted ….

So Mr Legal man Carl ….. lets be having you – pronto ‘UNLESS’ of course your just another idiot dupe so suborned under judicial authority / D-notices etc?
And of course it’s not meant ‘personally’ – if you understand what I mean ……

12 Carl Gardner August 29, 2011 at 23:57

I have absolutely no idea what you’re on about, “Master Steve”.

13 Jonathan James August 30, 2011 at 16:40

I think Master Steve is referring to this gentleman, Carl –
http://kirkflyingvet.com/blogs/first/archive/2011/01/02/2011-welcome-to-my-website.aspx
There’s a whole new world out there to be explored – I don’t think Wall LJ has any idea what he’s getting himself into!

14 Master Steve Hamilton August 30, 2011 at 17:32

To Carl Gardner – And your CV promotes you as somewhat of an accomplished lawyer. Tell you what – I dismissed a Lord Justice on 4th October 2005 at COA level as a non-qualified – but it gets even better …. why? … because I thus also dismissed in that case the “No-show” Attorney General – Your former boss Lord Goldsmith.

Take note Carl : “no one” – has to be a lawyer to “Know the law”. Its knowing the dirty tricks that some of your ilk get up to, which is the key.

15 Liz Watson October 14, 2011 at 01:56

Hemming seems to be puffed up with his own importance and is entirely inconsistent in his arguments. He sees one law for him (as an MP) and one law for ‘mere commoners’ , claiming huge privilege for his role, which, quite frankly, is relatively ineffectual so far. If he was making any impact on the problem he stands for, then why does he still have more than 2000 cases of hugely distressed parents (and the list continues to grow) who’ve had their children snatched from them, many for no valid or lawful reason? There is no structure in place to help these people – other than charity, it seems.

Hemming speaks of ‘justice for families’, yet turned his back on those taking a stand and helping the Cause, like myself. He seeks supreme control of his ‘patch’, yet does not seem to be stepping up to the plate. He rescues the dead fish from the tank, but does not change the putrid water they swim in. And he seems to have little or no support from any other fellow MP, doesn’t he? Something is wrong with this picture. Very wrong. A poisonous tree must be pulled at its roots. It is no use offering its poison fruits by way of placating the sufferers.

16 Dadzarmy January 31, 2012 at 22:12

“Anyone who provides any details in public of the initial care proceedings is in contempt of court. Hence I cannot sensibly discuss them nor can anyone else come to a sufficiently evidenced conclusion to have any merit”, only if you are the father I am afraid, If we had Family Court statistics then we can show the discrimination but Sr Wall likes it quiet like so we can manipulate the abuses to the press in controlled way, like the FJR

17 Anonymous August 26, 2015 at 17:15

The importance of the Vicky Haigh case is in the severity of her punishments. 3 YEARS jail for meeting her daughter at a petrol station,(a UK record for breach of a court order), another brief jailing for passing on a birthday card to a vicar that was written by her partner’s children ! The idea that any mother who has never been convicted of any crime( except that of contacting her daughter in breach of a cruel court order) should have been deprived of all contact ,direct or indirect from the daugher who spent the first 7 years of her life with her is a flagrant abuse of her DAUGHTER’s human rights.
Luckily Vicky escaped to France when pregnant after serving her sentence and now trains racehorses there (including one for me) and liveS happily with her new beautiful little daughter;

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