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President names parties in care proceedings in order to assert father’s innocence of paedophilia allegations

Elizabeth Watson jailed for contempt of court

The President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, has made a statement explaining the background to two judgments given in open court but not yet available for publication. As soon as they are available they will be published by Family Law Week.

In the first judgment the President disclosed details of care proceedings in which the mother has made allegations of sex abuse against her child's father. The President says that the mother 'is wholly unable to accept the court's verdict, and with the misguided assistance of Elizabeth Watson has unlawfully and in breach of court orders put into the public domain via email and the internet a series of unwarranted and scandalous allegations about the father and others.' The President made an order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 prohibiting her from making any application in relation to her daughter without the President's permission for at least two years.

The second judgment explains why Ms Watson had been found in contempt of court. She was subsequently jailed for 9 months.

For more details of this case, see the coverage in the Yorkshire Post.

The President's statement, delivered in court and released by the Judicial Communications Office, is as follows:

'I am today giving two judgments, both of which will be in open court.

'The first judgment will put into the public domain matters which, in care proceedings under the Children Act 1989 Parliament has decided are normally confidential to the court and to the parties. The second will explain why I have found a woman called Elizabeth Watson in contempt of court. After giving the second judgment. I will adjourn to hear any mitigation Ms Watson may wish to put forward as to why I should not send her to prison.

'Why am I giving the first judgment? The reason is simple. Two judges have now heard different aspects of this case at great length. The first judge found that allegations of sexual abuse made against the father of a young child were not just untrue, but manufactured by the child's mother who then caused her daughter to repeat them.  The mother, who was represented by counsel at that hearing,  did not seek to appeal against the judge's decision that the father had not sexually abused his daughter, and that she had manufactured the "evidence".

'Because the mother: (1) was wholly incapable of fostering a relationship between her daughter and the child's father; (2) refused to accept the judge's findings; and (3) continued to assert that the father was a paedophile, a second judge found that her mother had caused the child significant harm and  made a care order in favour of the Doncaster Metropolitan City Council. The care plan was for the child to move from her paternal grandmother to her father's care. That occurred. And there she remains. The mother did not seek to appeal against this order either.

'The child's mother is wholly unable to accept the court's verdict, and with the misguided assistance of Elizabeth Watson has unlawfully and in breach of court orders put into the public domain via Email and the internet a series of unwarranted and scandalous allegations abut the father and others.  She has repeated the untruth that the father is a paedophile, and – without a scintilla of evidence – has attacked the good faith of all the professionals who have had any contact with the case.

'I have read all the papers in the case carefully. The father of the child, who may be named, is not a paedophile and he has not sexually abused his daughter.  Two judges have so found, and their decisions stand. That is how our system of law operates.

'In these circumstances, I have come to the conclusion that, with one major exception, I should put the two previous judgments and a document prepared by the local authority and the guardian into the public domain, and that I should also give a public judgment in which I explain, having read all the papers in the case, why I have reached the same conclusion as the two previous judges.

'The exception will remain the identity of the child. Due to the actions of the mother and Elizabeth Watson many people in the immediate locality will know who she is.  But many will not, and in my judgement I owe it to her to preserve her anonymity as far as it is in my power to do so. It will therefore remain a contempt of court, punishable by imprisonment to name her or the school she attends in connection with these proceedings. Those who know who she is must, for her sake, keep the knowledge to themselves, and the injunction restraining the media from identifying her will continue.

'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 mother, on the other hand, whose actions have done so such to disrupt the stability of her child and the family will be prevented under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 from making any application in relation to her daughter without my permission for at least two years.'