A couple of days ago I received an email from Carl Gardner, who blogs at Head of Legal, in which he asked whether I had been contacted by Liz Watson and asked to remove from the Ministry all reference to her and to her involvement in the case of Vicky Haigh, which both Carl and I had covered in some detail up to the point at which Watson was jailed for contempt.
The background to this rather desperate case is set out, at some length, in a ruling issued on the same day by the President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, in which he also issued an order which prevents Haigh from making any applications to the court for orders in respect of her eldest daughter for two year, without prior written permission from the court. My own commentaries on this case, and on John Hemming’s involvement in it can read here and here.
In replying to Carl, I noted that I hadn’t had any contact from Watson and that, if she did get in touch, she’d be referred to Arkell vs Pressdram, but was nevertheless left wondering quite why Watson had resurfaced at this particular point in time, until an unexpected upturn in the number of search engine hits looking for information about Vicky Haigh provided an answer in the form of an extended interview/puff piece in the Daily Mail on Haigh’s case and her life in prison, from which I discovered that Haigh had been jailed for three years, last year, for breaching a non-molestation order relating to her eldest daughter.
Reading the article, the reason that Watson had contacted Carl become obvious.
Although the article provide some factual information about Haigh’s case, the overall tone of the article is clearly intended to elicit sympathy for Haigh and invites its readers to consider that the conduct which resulted in Haigh losing custody of, and access to, her eldest daughter and, subsequently, being jailed might not have been quite so serious as it would appear from a purely factual reading of her case – for example, John Hemming (inevitably) is quoted as having said that Haigh was jailed for a ‘minor technical breach’ of a court order and that the sentence was ‘ridiculously harsh’, although to be fair to John, these were his comments at the time that Haigh was sentenced and it does not appear that he has any personal involvement in this particular article.
What the Mail has presented is a picture of loving, if somewhat obsessive, mother trapped in a Kafkaesque legal system, an image which belies the fact that the courts found that Hsigh had not only repeatedly – and falsely – alleged that her ex-partner was sexually abusing their daughter but that she had also coached her daughter to repeat those allegations to the point that she began to repeat them spontaneously. The child, I should add, was only three years old at the time of Haigh’s first allegation, which was made on the same day that she attended a court hearing* at which her ex-partner was seeking a penal notice order in respect of Haigh’s refusal to allow him to see his daughter. This, by any reasonable definition, amount to psychological abuse of a vulnerable child and is, of itself, ample grounds for denying Haigh access to if, as her comments in this article appear to suggest , she still regards herself a victim in this case and not as an abuser.
*At that same hearing, Haigh also assaulted her ex-partner, for which she was given a formal police caution.
That the Mail can get away with softpeddling Haigh’s actions is due, in no small measure, to the fact that full extent to which Haigh and her supporter set about trying to destroy the reputation, and life, of her ex-partner is not widely known to the general public, although the following extracts from a statement made to the court by the Headmaster of the child’s school and included in Sir Nicholas Wall’s ruling on Haigh, should serve to illustrate the nature of Haigh’s behaviour without the need to go into the luird details of her discredit allegations against her ex-partner:
44. Under a subheading “The position of the school” the headmaster writes:
“I am aware that some, if not most, of the parents whose children attend the school have an understanding of the allegations made by Ms. Haigh that are placed on the World Wide Web. None of the parents of the children have spoken to me with regards to any material that they have seen on the internet or have overheard in the community. However, on 27h May 2011, Ms. Haigh emailed several of the parents whose children attend the school, having obtained the contacts list, inviting them to visit her web page. Following that, an email having been sent, I understand that some of the parents may have followed the invitation, and have accessed the material on the internet. Some of the parents have spoken to me with regard to concerns regarding the content of the material on the webpage and the internet regarding X. However, none of the parents has made enquiries with regard to allegations made against Mr. Tune by Ms. Haigh.
In terms of the current proceedings and Ms. Haigh’s contact with the school, I have had, now on several occasions, to contact the local police with a view to seeking support from them following attendance by Ms. Haigh at school …
Ms. Haigh sent the email to the parents at the school, linking them to a petition and material on the internet concerning X.”
45. The head teacher then deals with a number of incidents in which the police have been called to the school. He goes on:
“As a part-time teaching head, I am a class teacher for two and a half days a week. Whenever a particular incident takes place – for example, when Ms. Haigh sent the email via the school web site to the parents of children at school, the entire day was spent liaising with Nottinghamshire children’s services, Nottinghamshire legal services, South Yorkshire Police, Doncaster MBC children’s services, liaising with the social worker, with the father and briefing members of the teaching staff at school as to advise them of the situation. The actions of Ms. Haigh seemed to be made without any consideration for X, for Mr. Tune or for the school itself. The resources which have been deployed in an attempt to keep the children of the school away from the material on the internet is having an adverse effect upon them, is significant and of monumental importance. Teaching time is affected as a result of the actions taken by Ms. Haigh on the basis that I am responsible for ensuring the safety of the children. It is my paramount concern whilst at school that if my attentions are directed towards issues concerning X’s welfare other members of staff have to resume my responsibilities on a particular day.
I am of the opinion the current proceedings and the actions of Ms. Haigh in terms of the material which is on the internet are extremely damaging for a child of X’s age. It is fortunate that at this time X is not yet of an age when she is likely to locate the information about her and her family on the internet and that none of the children within her peer group at school also have access to the material. There will, however, come a time when that material will be available to X, which I am of the opinion is extremely damaging. The impact of the current situation on Mr. Tune is clearly impacting on him greatly and in turn his … his presentation at the present time is also likely to affect X.”
As for the severity of Haigh’s sentence, the Mail – in typically fashion – omits a number of details about the incident which resulted in her being jailed, even though these were reported by the Mail when she was sentenced:
It was also revealed that Haigh had breached the court order on March 29 after approaching her daughter at a garage in Bawtry, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
At Haigh’s trial, Mr Tune said that after he went into the garage, she walked towards his car and opened the passenger door where his daughter was sitting. He then began to return to the car.
‘Victoria was screaming demonically,’ he told the court. ‘It all happened in a flash. She said: “This man has abused her.” She kept repeating those words. She was screaming at the top of her voice. Our daughter was very upset.’
Haigh, who was pregnant at the time and now has a seven-month-old daughter with her new partner, claimed her former boyfriend set up the meeting. She denied she was planning to abduct her seven-year-old daughter.
But Judge Peter Kelson QC said the incident had ‘sinister overtones’, given that Haigh had recently applied for a new passport for the child.
‘It looked to Mr Tune as if it was an attempted abduction,’ he said. ‘I don’t accept at all that it was a purely co-incidental meeting.’
What’s missing from the Mail’s puff piece is any sense that Haigh acknowledges, accepts or even appreciates that what she did to her ex-partner, and her daughter, was wrong – in fact the whole article appears to be nothing much more than a cynical and wholly one-sided attempt to rehabilitate Haigh’s own reputation by playing for ill-deserved sympathy while, at the same time, omitting key details of the conduct for which she was jailed.
Bearing this in mind, the timing of Watson’s sudden reappearance and the nature of her request to Carl – she wants all references to herself removed from Carl’s blog which, by extension, would also mean the removal of all references to Haigh – is more than a little suspicious and smacks of an attempt to remove, from the public domain, information that is likely to prove rather inconvenient to Haigh and her efforts to paint herself as the victim in this matter.
Arkell vs Pressdram, indeed.