Sir Nicholas Wall has published his judgments in these cases involving Vicky Haigh, the woman John Hemming named in Parliament as a potential “secret prisoner” back in April after she spoke at a public meeting about the court case involving her child, and Elizabeth Watson, the woman who wrote e-mails and articles on the web in support of Ms. Haigh, and who made serious and false allegations against the father of the child.
Here’s the judgment in Doncaster v Haigh; and here’s Doncaster v Watson. Vicky Haigh has been barred for two years under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 from making any Children Act application relating to her child, X, without the court’s permission; Liz Watson was jailed for nine months for contempt of court.
I won’t quote extensively from the judgments: I simply recommend you read them in full if you’re interested in John Hemming’s campaigning about family justice – especially “The Information” Sir Nicholas publishes as an addendum his judgment in the Haigh case, and which consists of the core information regarding the case which he ruled should now be put in the public domain.
What’s clear from the Vicky Haigh judgment is that she was found by a judge in 2010 to have coached her child into making false allegations of sexual abuse against her father, in order to obstruct the father’s contact with the child. At paragraph 6 of “The Information” published with the Doncaster v Haigh, we’re told that
The consequence, the Judge concluded, was that X had repeatedly incurred unnecessary and ‘potentially distressing’ intrusions into her life by professionals. The allegations had resulted in a cessation of X’s contact to her father and the process had, in this way, been emotionally harmful to her.
At para. 12 of Doncaster v Haigh, Sir Nicholas Wall explains that
Miss Haigh has not been able to accept the findings of either judge. What renders the case unique, however, is that Ms Haigh, aided and abetted by one Elizabeth Watson, is not only unable to accept the judges’ findings but has put into the public domain the false allegations that she has not had justice and that X, contrary to both judges’ findings, has been sexually abused by her father. Those allegations have been posted on the worldwide web and are in the public domain. In addition, the mother has circulated the allegations to the parents of X’s school and to Mr. Tune’s fellow employees at his place of work. All this, of course, has been done illicitly and in breach of orders of the court.
Sir Nicholas tells us the police have had to be called to X’s school on occasions when Vicky Haigh had been there.
He was invited by Doncaster council to “deprecate the use of parliamentary privilege” by John Hemming MP “on the basis of inaccurate and misleading information supplied to him” – but rightly, Sir Nicholas declined. Parliamentary privilege and its abuse is exclusively a matter for Parliament, and what John Hemming said cannot be questioned in the courts. That’s why it’s so important MPs themselves properly scrutinise his conduct.
.. this case demonstrates .. the dangers of partisanship. The mother and Ms. Watson think they are right and that everyone else is wrong and, moreover, everyone who is wrong is also corrupt. Such an unbalanced view is likely to do grave harm to the child. The fact that Ms. Watson has quite unlawfully put the matter in the public domain is very worrying and, in my view, gravely exacerbates the contempt which she has undoubtedly committed. Anyone who receives a partial account, be they a campaigner or journalist, should appreciate that the account is precisely that; it is partial. In family proceedings it is likely to be tendentious.
At one point Sir Nicholas calls Liz Watson’s case a “cautionary lesson”. So it is.
John Hemming, apparently carried away by his own partisanship for Vicky Haigh, chose to draw very public attention to the case at a time when much of the media was concerned about “superinjunctions”, and both before and after his intervention, some journalists and bloggers made a connection between his naming Vicky Haigh and “superinjunctions”. How anyone came to make that connection, we can only speculate of course.
This, let’s remember, is what he said on his blog after naming Vicky Haigh:
My objective was to identify the parties in the Vicky Haigh / Doncaster case where Doncaster tried to Jail Vicky for talking in Parliament.
All the other details of the story are in the public domain, but an injunction prevented the parties being identified.
Later, in comments here, he said
.. 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.
In response, I asked:
I wonder what on earth you meant when you said
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.
What could you possibly have meant, except that they could now search for any “information” there is about the case on the internet?
No doubt John Hemming would categorically deny any intention to aid Liz Watson in her utterly wrong-headed and harmful internet campaign. But as Unity has said at Ministry of Truth,
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 .. been committed to prison for nine months.
Objectively speaking, John Hemming’s intervention, by enabling more people than otherwise could do so to search the internet and find Liz Watson’s writings on the case, must have helped the spread of her falsehoods and risked further harm to a child – never mind the rule of law. To anyone who cares about Parliament, this episode is a matter of real concern. I hope MPs look seriously into it.
By the way, Liz Watson has now purged her contempt, and been released from Holloway prison. Her sentence is suspended.