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Doncaster MBC v Watson and Haigh [2011] EWHC B15 (Fam)

Application by local authority to have the respondents committed to prison for contempt. In this judgment the President explains why he found Ms Watson in contempt.

This case arises from the same litigation as Doncaster MBC v Victoria Haigh, David Tune and X (a child by her Children's Guardian).   The facts giving rise to the litigation are summarised here [insert link to other case].  In brief, Elizabeth Watson described herself as the chief executive officer of "Discoveries International Limited" and as "a private case investigator since 2010".  She had been employed by Victoria Haigh who was dissatisfied with the outcome of Children Act proceedings concerning her daughter, referred to in the litigation as X. 

Ms Haigh made allegations against her child's father, Mr David Tune, that he was a paedophile and that he had sexually abused X.  These allegations were found by the courts to be completely unfounded and to have been fabricated by Ms Haigh.  Ms Haigh, assisted by Ms Watson, then launched a media and internet campaign as a result of which a considerable amount of untrue and private information about Mr Tune, X and the court proceedings was disseminated to the world at large and to the local community in which X and her father lived.

The local authority made an application to have both women committed to prison for contempt of court.  In this judgment, the President explains why he found Ms Watson guilty of contempt.

The allegation was that Ms Watson had breached an order made by Baker J on 25 February 2011.  Ms Watson was named as the second respondent/defendant in that order.  This was a reporting restriction order and it specifically prohibited the publication of the names and address of the child, the child's parents, her grandparents, the local authority and its employees, any school attended by the child and the name and address of the child's guardian.  It also prohibited any person from seeking information relating to the child, her parents or grandparents from the child, her parents, her grandparents and any school attended by the child.

The judgment follows a hearing on 15 August 2011 which Ms Watson chose not to attend, disobeying an order made previously that she should attend.  The President could find no reason to justify her non-attendance at that hearing.  The need for her to obtain legal representation had been impressed upon her and she had chosen not to do so.  The court was entitled under the Family Procedure Rules 2010 to proceed in the absence of an alleged contemnor, provided it was satisfied that she had been duly served and had had the opportunity to obtain legal advice.

Ms Watson, acting in person, raised a number of procedural and jurisdictional objections to the court proceeding with the committal application, all of which were found to have no merit whatsoever.

The alleged breaches included an e-mail from Ms Watson to the Minister for Children, copied to a number of people, several e-mails sent to various recipients naming the child, some of which also named the mother and the local authority, a posting on the "Victims Unite!" website and two postings on the "Inquiring Minds" website naming the mother and the child.

The President held that all of the necessary procedural steps had been satisfied by the local authority and the court.  The proceedings for her committal were properly brought and she had knowingly disobeyed the order of Baker J.  She had had ample time and opportunity to defend the case.  Whilst the Family Procedure Rules allow a party to communicate certain information without being in contempt of court, this did not apply to Ms Watson who was not a party to the proceedings.  The fact that some of the communications were to those in authority, who were themselves bound by a duty of confidentiality, may go to mitigation but did not go to the substance of the contempt.

The President found that Ms Watson had 'plainly' breached the order and was therefore guilty of contempt of court.  He sentenced her to 9 months' imprisonment with the caveat that he would entertain any application from her to purge her contempt.

Summary by Sally Gore, Barrister, 14 Gray's Inn Square


Case No. SE09C01011

Royal Courts of Justice
Monday, 22nd August 2011


Sir Nicholas Wall
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B E T W E E N :



1st Respondent


2nd Respondent
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1. There are two matters before me this morning, both brought by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (whom I will call "the local authority").  Both arise from care proceedings instituted by the local authority in relation to a child (whom I propose to call "X"). For present purposes it is sufficient, I think, for me to say that X will be 8 in November this year. Her parents (who may be referred to by their proper names) are Victoria Haigh and David Tune.

2. I am giving both judgments in open court.  This is the second of the two judgments, and in it I propose to explain why, on 15 August 2011, on the application of the local authority, I found Elizabeth Watson (whom I will call "Ms. Watson") in contempt of court.  When I have given this judgment, I propose, before passing sentence, to adjourn to hear anything Ms. Watson may wish to say in mitigation.

3. Ms. Watson describes herself in the documentation as the chief executive officer of an organisation called "Discoveries International Limited" and as "a private case investigator since 2010".  She is plainly not a lawyer.  As I will shortly make clear, she was told that it would be sensible for her to get legal advice.  She was also warned that she was at risk of being sent to prison.  She was ordered to attend the hearing before me on 15 August and did not do so.  Despite what she said to me this morning, and no doubt she will repeat it in mitigation, I can see no good reason why she did not do so. There was an order of a High Court Judge that she should attend and she did not do so. As a result, the case proceeded in her absence.

4. Ms. Watson has plainly had abundant opportunity to take legal advice, as the history of the matter, which I shall outline in a moment, will make clear.  This judgment, therefore, should be read as a cautionary lesson by all those who claim in an interest in family justice.

5. There is a famous adage which I quoted both in my previous judgment and during the course of argument, "Be you never so great, the law is still above you". If anything I say in this judgment is wrong or unfair, the Court of Appeal will tell me so.  If the Court of Appeal gets something wrong, the Supreme Court tells it.  If the Supreme Court gets things wrong, parliament can pass an Act democratically to reverse the decision of the Supreme Court.  Everyone has to obey the law.

6. In its first application, which is quite separate from the second, the local authority sought to put into the public domain material relating to the proceedings. I have already given judgment in that application.  This, accordingly, is the application to commit Ms. Watson to prison for alleged breaches of an order made by Baker J. on 25 February 2011.  Ms Watson is named as the second respondent, or second defendant, in that order.

7. The order is in the following terms.  It is described as a "REPORTING RESTRICTION ORDER".  It names Ms Haigh and Ms. Watson and the media as defendants.  It contains a rubric:

"If you disobey this order you may be found guilty of contempt of Court and may be sent to prison or be fined or have your assets seized.  You should read the order carefully and are advised to consult a solicitor as soon as possible.  You have the right to ask the court to vary or discharge the order."

8. No application, as I say, to vary or discharge has been made. The order is headed BEFORE MR JUSTICE BAKER SITTING IN BIRMINGHAM ON 25th FEBRUARY 2011.  He heard counsel for the local authority, solicitor for the child, and he gave the following explanation:

"A. On 6 January 2011 the court granted the Local Authority permission to apply under the inherent jurisdiction for a reporting restriction order restraining publication of certain information relating to the child.  The court joined the child as a party to the application and appointed an officer of CAFCASS to act as her guardian ad litem.

B. Further on 6 January 2011 the court made a reporting restriction order on short notice to the media by CopyDirect and listed the case for further hearing on 14 January 2011.

C. On 14 January 2011 the court gave further consideration to the application for a reporting restriction order.

D. On 25th February 2011 the court gave further consideration to the application for a reporting restriction order.

E. The following persons and/or organisations were represented before the Court;

"(i) the Local Authority;
"(ii) The child.

F. The court read the following documents:  email with attached letter addressed to CAFCASS dated 23rd February 2011 from the mother and emails and correspondence from Ms. Watson including emails to the court dated 1st February 2011, documents dated 16th February 2011, emails dated 21st, 22nd and 24th February 2011.

G. Having read the documents the court was satisfied that the mother, Ms. Watson and the media had notice of the application."

9. Baker J's order reads as follows: -

1. Duration
Subject to any different order made in the meantime, this order shall have effect until 13th November 2021.

2. Who is bound?
This order binds all persons and all companies (whether acting by their directors, employees, or agents or in any other way) who know that the order has been made.

3. Publishing restrictions
This order prohibits the publishing or broadcasting in any newspaper, magazine, public computer network, internet website, sound or television broadcast or cable or satellite service of:

(a) The name and address of:

(i) The child whose details are set out in Schedule 1 to this Order;
(ii) The child's parents, whose details are set out in Schedule II of the Order;
(iii) The child's grandparents whose details are set out in Schedule III;
(iv) The Local Authority named in Schedule IV;
(v) Any employee of the Local Authority named in Schedule IV;
(vi) Any school attended by the child;
(vii) The name and address of the guardian as identified in Schedule V.

(b) Any picture being or including a picture of either the child, the child's parents, any employee of the Local Authority or the school attended by the child,

(c) Any other particulars or information relating to the child,

"IF, BUT ONLY IF, such publication is likely to lead to the identification of the child as being:

(i) a child subject of proceedings under the Children Act 1989; and/or

(ii) a child who is or has been the subject of allegations of abuse; and/or

(iii) a child who has been removed from the care of her mother; and/or

(iv) a child whose contact with her mother has been prohibited or restricted.

No publication of the text or a summary of this order (except for service of the order under paragraph 7 below) shall include any of the matters referred to in this paragraph.

4. Restriction on seeking information
This order prohibits any person from seeking any information relating to the child or the parents or grandparents of the child from any of the following:

(a) the child
(b) the parents
(c) the grandparents
(d) the school attended by the child

5. What is not restricted by this order

Nothing in this order shall prevent any person from:

(a) publishing information relating to any part of a hearing in a court in England and Wales (including a coroner's court) in which the court was sitting in public and did not itself make any reporting restriction;

(b) publishing information, which is not restricted by paragraph 4 above;

(c) inquiring whether a person or place falls within paragraph 4(a) above;

(d) seeking information relating to the child while acting in a manner authorised by statute or by any court in England and Wales;

(e) seeking information from the solicitor acting for any of the parties or any appointed press officer, whose details are set out in Schedule 4 to this Order;

(f) seeking or receiving information from anyone who before the making of this order had previously approached that person with the purpose of volunteering information (but this paragraph will not make lawful the provision or receipt of private information which would otherwise be unlawful).

6. Service

Copies of this Order endorsed with a notice warning of the consequence of disobedience shall be served by the Plaintiff (and may be served by any other party to the proceedings):

(a) by service on such newspaper and sound or television or cable or satellite or programme services as they think fit, by fax or first class post addressed to the editor (in the case of a newspaper) or senior news editor (in the case of a broadcasting or cable or satellite programme service) or website administrator (in the case of an internet website) and/or to their respective legal departments; and/or

(b) on such other persons as the parties may think fit, by personal service.

7. Further applications about this Order

The parties and any other person affected by any of the restrictions in paragraphs 3-5 may make an application to vary or discharge it to a Judge of the High Court on not less than 48 hours notice to the parties, reserved to Mr Justice Baker if available.

8. Costs

No Order as to Costs."

10.  That, in my experience, is an absolutely standard reporting restriction order, and it has been obeyed by the media, as one would expect.

11. The breaches upon which the local authorities rely are helpfully set out in the documentation.

12. However, before I deal with them, I think it is sensible to deal with a number of preliminary points and points which Ms. Watson has raised. 

13. The first is that I am dealing with quasi criminal proceedings, and I must throughout apply the criminal standard of proof. The burden of proof is on the local authority.  In other words, I must be satisfied by the local authority so that I am sure Ms. Watson has knowingly breached the court's order before I can commit her for contempt.  In other words, the local authority must prove its case "beyond reasonable doubt".  For the same reason, since the liberty subject is engaged, I am giving judgment in open court.

14. Secondly, I need to record that the hearing on 15 August 2011 took place in Ms. Watson's absence.  This was for several reasons.  The first is that Ms. Watson chose not to attend and disobeyed an order made on 25th July by the High Court. that she should attend.  I notice that on 25 July Ms. Watson was present in court.  The judge, in the words of the preamble to the order, not only impressed upon her the desirability of obtaining legal representation but explained to her that she was at risk of the possibility of being committed to prison.  The judge also refused her application to dismiss the committal proceedings and stood it over to be heard by myself on 15 and 16 August of this year.  As I have already stated, the judge ordered Ms. Watson to attend on 15 August.  This is a plainly a valid order made by a High Court Judge, which Ms. Watson chose to disobey. 

15. In addition, as will be clear from what I am about to say, there was no physical reason why Ms. Watson should not have attended, and she made no application for an adjournment.  I had granted her an adjournment on a previous occasion. 

16. Added to this, of course, this is a case involving a small child.  It is urgent and is being heard in the long vacation.  There was, accordingly, every reason to proceed.  I notice that in the latest edition of the Family Court Practice in 2011, it is stated that the court is entitled to proceed in the absence of the alleged contemnor, provided that the court is satisfied that she has been duly served and had the opportunity to obtain legal advice.  As I indicated a moment ago, Ms. Watson has had ample opportunity to do both.

17. In the written material which she has placed before the court, which is voluminous, Ms. Watson takes a number of objections to the committal proceedings, all of which I have considered carefully but none of which, in my judgment, has any validity.  As Ms. Watson is in person, however, I propose to deal with her objections.  She has produced a number of documents, one of which is headed "press release", which is dated 12th August.  It is copied to a large number of people.  She seeks to argue that the proceedings brought by the local authority are malicious and that it is for the court to bring "genuine" contempt proceedings.

18. I regret to say that, in my judgment, both points are simply wrong.  The local authority is fully entitled to bring these proceedings and they have not acted maliciously in doing so.  Furthermore, the court does not bring proceedings for contempt of court; it adjudicates on them.  A judge who initiated proceedings and then heard them was severely criticised, and rightly so, by the Court of Appeal in Re M (Contact Order: Committal) [1999] 1 FLR 810.

19. Ms. Watson also goes on to argue in, I have to say, somewhat extravagant terms that the local authority does not know what it is doing,  has no integrity, nor does it have any iota of respect for civil liberties or the rights of the people of the British Isles. For instance, Ms Watson asserts that it does not appear to have occurred to the local authority that Ms. Watson is not a party to their case and would first have to be joined in the case with her consent before any proceedings could be lawfully issued.  They have acted, she says, with intent to cause harm and stress. 

20. Once again, with great respect to Ms. Watson, she is simply wrong, as a moment's thought would demonstrate.  If a party had to consent to contempt proceedings being issued against them, such proceedings would rarely be issued or be effective, and a contemnor does not have to consent to be joined into proceedings for there to be an effective committal summons.  Ms. Watson is, in any event, a defendant to the committal summons.  There is, furthermore, no evidence at all the local authority has acted with intent to cause harm and stress.  As I have already indicated, the proceedings are, in my judgment, properly constituted.

21. Ms. Watson's other objections are equally wrong, in my view.  She says that the local authority have falsified court papers produced by themselves, not by the court.  They have been using false seals.  The director of the Principal Registry has confirmed that they did not apply the seals.  He, the same person, confirmed there is no such case number as is on the papers, and the same was confirmed by the Royal Courts of Justice, apart from three persons, including the Clerk of the Rules, who apparently are in a conspiracy to intercept Ms. Watson's calls and to ensure that she does not get through to anyone in the building apart from themselves.  She describes all this as deception and mendacity and collusion with the local authority and its staff.  She said it is the "worst form of terrorism" because of the abuse of position, feigning authority and the criminal concealment that it intends. 

22. With respect to Ms. Watson, that is all absolute nonsense.  The local authority is entitled to bring these proceedings for an alleged breach of the court order.  It has done so.  She has been ordered to attend.  The proceedings are properly constituted and, in my judgment, they must proceed.

23. I also notice that in the course of her documents Ms. Watson appears to be of the view that the case cannot proceed because the person who allegedly instituted them on behalf of the local authority has been pretending to be a solicitor when she is, in fact, not a solicitor.  Once again, that seems to me, although there is no evidence for it, completely irrelevant to the present situation.

24. In addition to the matters that I have already considered, a number of court orders, including the relevant order by Baker J., were returned to the court defaced by Ms. Watson.  She has put lines through most of the orders and written phrases on them such as "void", "no consent", "no jurisdiction", "no legal right", "no contract", "contempt of court", "offence against public justice", "not valid" and "return to sender".  If nothing else, these childish scribblings make perfectly clear Ms. Watson has received the documents and knew exactly what was in the order made by Baker J.  Equally plainly, in my view, they do not affect the right of the local authority to bring proceedings for contempt of court against Ms. Watson.  As I have already stated more than once the proceedings are, in my view, lawfully constituted.  I have to say, it does Ms. Watson no credit as a campaigner to deface court documents in this childish way, but I remind myself that this does not form part of the committal proceedings against her and therefore it is to the proceedings themselves that I need to turn.

25. I have already read the order made by Baker J.  I now turn to the allegations which the local authority makes against Ms. Watson, all of which are contained in the statement and in the exhibits to the statement made by the social worker in the case.   

26. The first alleged breach constitutes an email from Ms. Watson to the Minister for Children, copied to a number of people, dated 25th March 2011.  The second breach is an email to various recipients, naming the child.  That is also dated 25 March.  The third breach is an email posted on the "Victims Unite!" web site dated 26 March 2011.  The fourth breach is an email from Ms. Watson to various recipients, naming the child and her mother.  The fifth breach is an email to various recipients, naming the child and her mother.  The sixth breach is a similar email, addressed to various recipients, naming once again the child, the mother and the local authority.  The next breach is an email from Ms. Watson to various recipients, naming the mother, the daughter and the local authority.  That is dated 7 April.  The next breach is the fact that the email was put on the web site Inquiring Minds on 17th April.  The last breach was an update on the web site, "Inquiring Minds", naming the mother and the child.  That particular article ends, "Best wishes, [signed] Liz".  The local authority alleges that those are all communications of the child's name and the name of the mother.

27. As I have already indicated, the local authority, in my judgment, is properly constituted the complainant as far as these proceedings are concerned.  They appeared before me on 25th August by leading counsel, Mr. Anthony Hayden.  The local authority under the Children Act, having parental responsibility for the child, has a clear right to institute proceedings for contempt.  The legal status of the person who actually may have put pen to paper on the point is immaterial.  In my judgment, there is no evidence for any of the assertions which Ms. Watson has indicated.

28. The history of the matter is again set out by the local authority and bears repetition because it indicates the number of opportunities there have been for Ms. Watson not to have breached the order.  The application was originally made as long ago as April 2011 by the local authority against Ms. Watson.  On 6th January, Baker J. granted an order to the local authority, forbidding Ms. Watson and the mother from disclosing details surrounding the child X and putting those details into the public domain.  Neither respondent, I am told, was present at court on that occasion and the matter was adjourned to 25 February.  Ms. Watson was served with the order on 11 January 2011 at 1149 hours.

29. On Friday, 25 February, Baker J. made the order which I have already related.  It contained a warning that, if disobeyed, Ms. Watson might be found guilty of contempt, could be sent to prison.  The order was served on her by email to her email address and by first-class post.  The local authority's case is that Ms. Watson, subsequent to being served, breached the order in the ways that I have already set out.

30. On 11 April 2011, Mr. Justice Wood ordered that the matter be transferred to the High Court, to be heard on 13 April 2011.  Ms. Watson was directed to attend the hearing, and service was again by email to her email address.  Proof of service was effected. 

31. The matter was in fact heard by Baker J. on 13th April.  The mother attended.  Ms. Watson did not.  A representative for Ms. Watson attended on her behalf, citing a car accident as the reason for her absence.  Given the assurances made by the mother, the local authority did not ask the court to make any findings against her on that occasion.  Instead, it focused on the breaches by Ms. Watson.  That was then adjourned until 9 May 2011. 

32. Once again, Ms. Watson was directed to attend.  Proof of service was established.  The matter was heard by Baker J. on 9 May 201.  Ms Watson did attend on that occasion.  She was assisted by a McKenzie friend.  The local authority was ordered to file updated material and the matter was adjourned to 12 and 13 July before myself.  On 12 July, the matter came before me.  Ms. Watson was not there, having indicated that she was undergoing surgery and would be unfit to attend.  A sick note was later produced, and I duly granted her an adjournment. 

33. In consequence of the non-attendance on this occasion, the matter was adjourned to 25 July before Baker J.  Again, Ms. Watson was ordered to attend.  She was served with notice of the hearing on 16 July, and she confirmed receipt in an email to the local authority on 17 July.  In the event, the hearing was taken by Bodey J.  As I have already indicated, when the matter was before him, Ms. Watson was informed that the hearing before me would proceed, that she should take legal advice and that she was at risk of going to prison. She was directed to attend the hearing.  She did not do so, and I proceeded.

34. It is, I think, worthwhile pointing out that cases such as this, apart from the pressure on the court's lists, are extremely expensive.  I was able to finish the case, fortunately, within the day, having pre-read, having heard full argument and having heard the evidence put forward by the local authority. The result was that the second day was not in fact required. 

35. In my judgment, the history which I have outlined indicates very clearly that Ms. Watson has been given every facility to attend and the actions of the local authority have been entirely proper.  Therefore, I proceed to deal with the matter on its merits.

36. There are a number of matters about which I have to be satisfied before I can proceed.  It is, I think, as well to set them out:  first of all, I have to be satisfied the judge made a valid order; secondly, that the order has been served; thirdly, that Ms. Watson has knowingly disobeyed the order; fourthly, that the committal proceedings relating to her alleged breach have been properly brought; fifthly, that she had been properly served with the proceedings and knows the allegations made against her; and, sixthly, that she is aware of the proceedings for contempt were fixed for hearing.

37. As to the first of those matters, Baker J. plainly had jurisdiction to make the reporting restriction order dated 25 February 2011.  The contrary has not been argued and is unarguable.  So it is a valid order.  Secondly, Ms. Watson in a letter to the local authority refers to "the injunction and other legal fiction".  She says she is unanswerable to the local authority and claims what she says is her inalienable right under common law and her inviolable right to exercise lawful rebellion under chapter 61 of the Magna Carta.  Once again, I do not understand these in the context of committal summons, as well as her assertion that she has no contract with the local authority.  In my judgment, those matters are completely irrelevant.

38.  The order was plainly valid and was equally plainly properly served.  I have evidence in my papers of service on every occasion.  I note in passing, of course, that it is plain that Ms. Watson had the order in her possession because, as I have already indicated, she scribbled all over it.  I also note the local authority wrote to her on 22nd December last year, advising her of the restriction upon the disclosure of confidential information into the public domain, and I note that the local authority wrote to her on several occasions thereafter to the same effect. 

39. I will, of course, come back to item 3, which is the principal issue.  As to 4, I have already said more than once that, in my view, the proceedings were perfectly properly brought.  The local authority shares parental responsibility for the child with her parents (see s.33 of the Children Act 1989) and is thus fully entitled to bring proceedings for contempt.  Once again, the contrary was not argued, and I do not believe it to be arguable. 

40. As I have already made clear, there is abundant evidence of service in my papers.  I will not read out all the various affidavits, statements and orders.  Every order which has been made, in my judgment, has been properly served, and I do not propose to go through the documents, giving details.  They are there to be read if need be.  I have already made it clear Ms. Watson was aware of the hearing on 15th August.  I am thus satisfied the proceedings are entirely in order and can proceed to deal with them on their merits. 

41. I should perhaps add that even if I were wrong about the detail of what I have said above it would not be conclusive against the local authority.  There is abundant authority for the proposition that if there is a technical defect in committal proceedings they are nonetheless valid if the defect does not prejudice the alleged contemnor.  Here, as it seems to me, the local authority, knowing that it is dealing with a litigant in person, has been rightfully astute to ensure that all the "i"s have been dotted and the "t"s crossed.  But, even if I am wrong about that, the simple fact remains that Ms. Watson is fully aware of the case against her, has had ample time to meet it and knew full well that the case was to be heard on 15 August before me.  On any view, therefore, I am entitled to consider the case on its merits.

42. At the hearing on 15 August 2011, the local authority called the child's allocated social worker, who had made a statement exhibiting most of the documents, produced by Ms. Watson.  I do not propose to go through each one.  It will, however, be remembered that Baker J. had forbidden the publication or broadcasting of any information relating to proceedings under the Children Act concerning the child, including, inter alia, the names of the child, her parents, the local authority and the guardian.

43. A point in Ms. Watson's favour which occurred to me was, to the extent that she communicated with those who might be thought themselves to have a duty of confidentiality, she could thus pass information to them and might not be in contempt.  I put this to counsel.  He reminded that, whereas under the Family Proceedings Rules (now the Family Procedure Rules) a party to proceedings was entitled to communicate certain information without being in contempt in court, this did not apply to Ms. Watson who is not a party to the Children Act proceedings.  On reflection, it seems to me that counsel is right about that, and the fact that some of the communications are to those in) authority may go to mitigation, but does not go to the substance of the contempt.

44. So I now turn to look at the detail of the allegations which are made.  The first is the allegation that relates to an email from Ms. Watson to the minister.  The email in question is exhibited to the statement of the social worker and was produced by the social worker in evidence.  Once again, it is in somewhat intemperate language, referring to "injunction and other legal fiction" but clearly communicates information about the case.  The second item does the same and specifically names the child and the mother.  The third item refers to the "Victims Unite!" web site and, once again in the public domain, names the child and her mother.  The same is true of the next breach, which again names the child and her mother as being parties to the proceedings.

45. Item 6:  perhaps I will pause for a moment on this particular item because the language is perhaps more extravagant than it might otherwise be.  This is an email dated 4th April 2011 from Ms. Watson addressed in extravagant terms to a large number of persons, setting out the mother's case, and naming her. The following is an extract:

"Soon you will no longer need to be involved at all as Vicky Haigh will have claimed back her child from you and your miserable cohorts (aka abductees).  You and your co-partners in crime are a public liability, having taken leave of your senses and should be banged up in jail.  You can run but you cannot hide.  You can feign power but you are powerless.  All the 'power' you have is reliant upon lies, skulduggery, perversion of justice, through an abuse of process in the courts.  If you had a modicum of sense, you would treat people as human beings and not numbers or financial instruments.  I suggest you go off and get yourself a real job.  The public and the court of public opinion will not look on wistfully as social disservices snatch their children and mete out injustices and torture innocent citizens in the name of 'care'!  Perhaps all 'social workers' across England shall relinquish their own rights and civil liberties and surrender to having their children abducted by the general public and see how you like it.  If indeed it is 'quite inappropriate' for me to have knowledge of your unlawful interference relating to the child [who is named] contact(?), then how appropriate do you consider it would be for the public to be warned about the nationwide child snatching that has now reached epidemic proportions in the UK, giving corrupt CAFCASS an extremely heavy workload."

46. That is signed by Ms. Watson.  It is dated 4th April.  In my view, addressed as it is to a large number of people, it is a blatant breach of Baker J's prier and a contempt.

47. The other items of which complaint is made are in similar terms.  They usually name the child.  They usually name the mother.  It is quite apparent that Ms. Watson has, quite uncritically, embraced the mother's case with vigour and enthusiasm.  In my judgment, Ms. Watson's actions are a lesson to all who take the tendentious view.  As I indicated in my previous judgment, versions of events given by one party in proceedings under the Children Act are rarely objective.  They are usually partial and often tendentious, and any person who embraces one point of view and deliberately ignores the other is in grave danger of committing a serious error, compounded in the instant case by the fact of being in breach of a specific order of the court and it being put into the public domain.

48. As I say, I heard evidence from the child's allocated social worker.  She struck me as being a sensible, down-to-earth sort of person whose principal anxieties were for the child and for the child's father.  I will not read her evidence which I have noted carefully.

49. From the documentation, as far as I can gather, Ms. Watson advances two arguments.  The first is that she has not published the material and is therefore not in contempt.  The second which is, I have to say, contradictory is that she is entitled to say what she has because she is assisting the mother and has been instructed to do so by the mother.  As to the first of these arguments, the judge's order was that Ms. Watson should not publish or broadcast any material relating to the proceedings", including, of course, the name of the child, her parents and the local authority.  She has plainly breached that order.  It is, moreover, at best, ingenuous for her to say that she gave material to a web site and it was up to the web site provider whether or not to publish.  On any view, she has created and communicated the information. 

50. As to the second argument, this case demonstrates, as I have already indicated, 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.  This is an issue which I addressed in the first judgment, and I will not say more about it.

51. In my judgment, Ms. Watson is plainly in contempt, and this concludes the reasons which I give for saying that she is.  I should perhaps record that at the hearing the mother sought to distance herself from Ms. Watson's assertions and indicated that she, the mother, was not in contempt.  I took the view, however, on 15 August, having found contempt, that it would be unfair to Ms. Watson to proceed to sentence in her absence, and I now propose to give her the opportunity, with a short adjournment if she wishes it, to address me.



52. I have spent the short adjournment looking carefully at the documentation to see if I can accept any of the matters which are put forward by Ms. Watson in mitigation.  She asserts that she is a campaigner for justice and apologises to the court if she has been, in her phrase, "carried away" by the issues in the case.

53. Having looked very carefully at the documents, it seems to me that on every occasion Ms. Watson was properly served with the court orders.  There is no doubt about that.  I have papers in my possession.  On each occasion there is a certificate of service.  But, even if that was not right, one looks to see what happens when we know that she received the documentation, because there was a perfectly courteous letter from the local authority sending her documentation on 1 February 2011 and there was a perfectly courteous letter sending her documentation on 29 March 2011.  On each occasion she returned the documents, which included the court orders, with remarks scribbled across them, as I already indicated in my earlier judgment, such as "void", "no jurisdiction", "contempt of court", lines put through the letters and, most importantly for present purposes, lines put through the two orders made by Baker J., firstly on 14th January and the order which is the subject of the proceedings today.

54. When she received the letter of 23rd March, which sent her Baker J.'s order, she wrote a number of things all over it, "contempt of court", "no consent", "no jurisdiction", and she also wrote this:

"With regards to the 'injunction' and other 'legal fiction' that you have now regurgitated on at least three disparate occasions, please note that we are becoming both concerned and annoyed that you are causing unlawful harassment, given that you have no lawful authority in this matter whatsoever.  Kindly cease and desist from continuing this charade.

For the record take note that none of us, Victoria of the Haigh family and her daughter [who is named] nor myself, are in any way answerable to you or to HMCS…."

55. I can only suppose that "HMCS" stands for Her Majesty's Court Service". Ms Watson adds: -

We claim our inalienable rights under common law and our inviolable right to exercise lawful rebellion under chapter 61 of the Magna Carta.  To further spell it out to you, we remind you that we have no contract with you whatsoever, nor do we consent to contract with you nor any of your army of provably dishonest cohorts."

56. She then refers to a document which she describes as a "birth certificate" and as a "legal fiction" and adds: -

You have caused untold alarm and distress, intense suffering, acute separation anxiety and unmitigated torture to both mother and child.  This will no longer be tolerated.  Full evidence is available……

These documents you have forwarded are not valid in law.  Please do not send any of your mindless drivel to us ever again.  If you do so, you will rack up liability against you further.  Take note that any more phone calls or documents received from you will carry a hefty fine, which you will be held commercially liable for if you contact us again other than to settle…..

To date your actions have been lawless, mindlessly ignorant and have been conducted without consent or authority.  This is because you, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, CAFCASS, and indeed all others colluding in this child racketeering with you, have engaged in an appalling abuse of process of the court.  You are all, without exception, including the judges involved here, in contempt of court.  This is an offence against public justice.  You are all held answerable and accountable for your huge failings to uphold the rule of law."

We are observing the chicanery and foul play with which you are engaging.  We do not give any credence nor audience to yours nor the court procedures on account of the serious breach of trust and abuse of position that has occurred and because of your proven dishonesty in this matter in abusing the court process for your own pecuniary gain, committing serious criminal offences in the process [and so on]."

57. That is not the language of contrition.  That is not the language of apology.  That is not the language I have heard this afternoon.

58. As I say, I spent a substantial time on the adjournment going through the papers, making sure that on each occasion - I repeat "on each occasion" - Ms. Watson was served with the relevant documentation.  Mr. Justice Bodey, in particular, went out of his way in the order which is in the papers to say to Ms. Watson that she really must attend on the next occasion because she was in danger of being sent to prison and she was in grave danger of being found in contempt of court.

59. So, I am sorry, I simply do not accept either that Ms. Watson was not served nor do I accept that this was all some terrible mistake, some terrible confusion.  The language throughout the papers - I have just quoted a little bit of it - demonstrates clearly that she knew precisely what she was doing and thought herself above the law.  That will not be tolerated.

60. There are three choices open to me, it seems.  Either I can say, "Well, this is so misguided and so bizarre that really Ms. Watson must be mentally ill and that it would be wrong to act".  I do not think that runs at all, looking at the papers. 

61. The second course is to do what she asks and to give her a breathing space to find legal representation so that she can mitigate, and then I could hear counsel on her behalf. 

62. The third course is to take action straight away but to make it quite clear that I will entertain any application to purge contempt if she can demonstrate that she has really seen the folly of her ways and really seeks to mitigate the sentence.

63. I have thought very carefully about this, because no judge likes sending anyone to prison, and contempt, which carries a maximum sentence of two years, is an area in which the court has to be particularly careful.  I think if this were the first hearing of the summon or the first occasion when Ms. Watson had come, and if this was the first occasion on which she had the opportunity to express her contrition I might have granted an adjournment, but I am not minded to do so.  She was told in terms by Bodey J. that she should attend.  He is a High Court Judge and his orders, like every other order of a High Court Judge, are there to be obeyed.  It follows that I see no alternative but to send Ms. Watson directly to prison.  I will, however, make it quite clear that I will entertain any application she makes to purge her contempt if she can show that she is genuinely contrite and if she can take active steps to remove from the public domain that which she has wrongfully put into the public domain.  But, in the meantime, with that caveat that I will entertain any application to purge her contempt, she will go to a prison for a term of nine months.

There were other matters you wanted to deal with.  That concludes the contempt proceedings.

My Lord, yes.  It was in relation to the judgment which you gave first this morning, when your Lordship mentioned that the reporting restriction order is to be re-drafted, the order of 25th February.  There were a number of different notes taken when your Lordship indicated that in paras.2-6 -- if we have the right pagination, my Lord, it is at AA14, which is the reporting restriction order made by Mr. Justice Baker on 25th February in the High Court of Birmingham.  This was the order, my Lord, which, at para.1, set out the duration ----

Wait a moment.  I will just make sure I have the right order.  I have got this in several places.  (After a pause):  14th January we are talking about.

It is 25th February, my Lord.

I am so sorry.  (After a pause):  Yes, thank you.

On the third page of that order, which is headed "ORDER", para.1 deals with duration, para.2 deals with who is bound, para.3 deals with the publishing restrictions.  I think the parties have different accounts of what your Lordship indicated.

Maybe it is my fault entirely.  Clearly, the anonymity of the child must be preserved.  The parents' anonymity is gone; it is in the public domain.

Except, my Lord, for this:  at point (ii) it talks about the parents "whose details are set out in Schedule II".  If one looks to schedule II, that not only names the parents but it gives, certainly in respect of the father, his current address.  My learned friend, I think, who represents the father, the father not being present today, had some concerns about that and simply wants to ascertain whether your Lordship intended that the father's address could be published or whether that was to remain a term of the order of Mr. Justice Baker.

I am sorry, you are quite right to point this out to me.  I cannot see any reason why the address of either parent should be in the public domain.  So can we cross that out?  Thank you very much for pointing it out.

I would simply ask … record that the addresses will not be …


Then, of course, (iii), the grandparents "whose details are set out in schedule III", that being Mrs. SA and Mrs. SB, whether your Lordship intended that their names, the grandparents, should be in the public domain.

THE PRESIDENT:  (After a pause): 
The only difficulty is that I have in fact referred to Mr. Tune's mother as one of the people who collects children from school.  I do not see any reason particularly why they should be in the public domain. 

Of course, (iv), the local authority: of course, that element will be taken out of the order … the local authority's name is in the public domain; similarly, the employees of the local authority.

More importantly, (vi), which is "Any school attended by the child":  I think I am right that your Lordship wanted that to be kept in as an item which is kept outside the public domain.

I did, yes.

I think, my Lord, that deals with the matters.  I am very grateful.

Are there are any other points that arise on the form of the order?


My Lord, just one point of clarification.  My Lord very kindly quoted extensively from the guardian's position statement and kindly attributed my piece of work.  It is not.  It is the child's solicitor and the guardian, and I would be grateful if any judgment could reflect that.

That is very good of you, Mr. Perkins, thank you very much.  That is very honourable of you.