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June 26, 2011 permalink
Christopher Booker reveals the impropriety that got Vicky Haigh in trouble with English child protectors. She had been ordered by a family court to avoid contact with her daughter from a previous marriage. When driving she unexpectedly encountered the girl at a gas station.
English efforts to get baby Sapphire continue, but have been rebuffed by Ireland. This case shows that, contrary to common belief, neither fame nor fortune are protection from social services. The only real protection for Vicky and Sapphire was the one most parents reject until it is too late: leave the country.
Social workers see sense – it's just a shame they're not ours
Vicky Haigh fled to Ireland to escape her council's social workers, but they haven't given up, reports Christopher Booker.
Last week, a Doncaster district judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Vicky Haigh, the former jockey and racehorse trainer who recently fled to Ireland to prevent Nottinghamshire social services seizing her expected baby. As I reported at the time, Miss Haigh duly gave birth to baby Sapphire; mother and daughter receive regular visits from England by the baby's father and his three children, for whom she has been a beloved stepmother for six years.
Judge Bennett issued the warrant after Miss Haigh failed to appear before him to answer a charge that she had breached a "non-molestation order" relating to an incident two months ago at a petrol station when, quite unexpectedly, she ran into her daughter by a previous relationship. The child's father reported this to the police, who arrested the already heavily pregnant Miss Haigh, holding her in a police cell on and off for 65 hours, except when she had to be rushed to hospital three times because of pregnancy-related complications. She was then charged with criminal breach of the court order forbidding her to have any contact with her daughter, for which she was summoned to appear in court last week.
Although an Irish doctor wrote to the court to say that she had advised Miss Haigh, who was breast-feeding a five-week-old baby, not to travel to England – as was confimed by Miss Haigh in a phone call to the court – the judge ruled that this was insufficient reason for her not to appear, and ordered her arrest. The following day, after a senior criminal lawyer (and friend of Miss Haigh's), wrote to the judge, he lifted the warrant and adjourned the case until July 6. Because of the controversial background of her case, which I cannot report but about which John Hemming MP has written to South Yorkshire's chief constable and the Director of Public Prosecutions, she plans to ask that it is heard by a Crown Court before a jury.
Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire social services recently wrote to their Irish counterparts, asking for a joint case conference to discuss baby Sapphire's future. The Irish social workers, who know Miss Haigh and the baby well, replied that they could see no need for such a meeting. Nottinghamshire pleaded with them at least to hold a case conference on their own. Again the Irish replied that, since Miss Haigh seemed an excellent mother and the baby was doing fine, they saw no reason to intervene. As Miss Haigh has often commented, "the Irish social workers are lovely people, quite different from any of those I have encountered in England".
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: A later story shows how Vicky got into bad graces with social services. Either she is the ex-wife from hell, or the courts are getting even with her for escaping to Ireland.
Daughter of racehorse trainer at centre of custody battle was coached to claim her father had sexually abused her
A former jockey and racehorse trainer at the centre of a child custody scandal lied that her former boyfriend was a paedophile, a High Court judge said yesterday.
Vicky Haigh made up the allegations and even coached her seven-year-old daughter to repeat the claims, he added.
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.
Initially the secrecy of the family courts meant the public were not allowed to know any of the facts of the affair.
But John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP who named Ryan Giggs in the commons as a footballer with a privacy injunction to hide an affair, named Miss Haigh using Parliamentary privilege.
The MP said Haigh had been unfairly put under threat of imprisonment by Doncaster Council for speaking to a Westminster meeting about family law issues.
It led to sympathetic portrayals of the then heavily pregnant Miss Haigh.
But yesterday that changed when Sir Nicholas made his judgement public and ordered that Miss Haigh, 40, could now legally be named, as could Mr Tune, and that Doncaster council be identified as the employer of the social workers in the case.
The judge ordered that the seven-year-old girl’s identity must remain secret and she can be known only as ‘X’.
Sir Nicholas 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.’
He added that two judges examined the case at previous High Court hearings and both found that Mr Tune was not a paedophile and had not sexually abused his daughter.
Sir Nicholas said: ‘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 about 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 had had any contact with the case.
‘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 judge said that Watson had identified parties in the case in defiance of court orders and had criticised social workers and police.
He said she had referred to ‘social disservices’ and ‘abductees’ who ‘snatched children’ and ‘tortured innocent parents’.
Sir Nicholas said: ‘You have seriously breached an order and seriously compromised the well-being of a child. There is no question of misunderstood. You knew exactly what you were doing – writing the most aggressive, intimidating emails calling everyone in sight corrupt.’
He added: ‘She thought herself above the law. That will not be tolerated.’
Source: Daily Mail
Addendum: Christopher Booker responds that judge Wall, Vicky's judicial critic, has not always had his facts right.
Judge Wall, the secrecy rules, and another stinging attack
The most senior judge in the Family Division, Lord Justice Wall, takes an unprecedented step.
Some of my readers may have been puzzled last week to see such lurid headlines as “Racehorse trainer lied that her ex was a child molester”, over stories about Vicky Haigh, who has featured several times in this column. They were prompted by an unprecedented broadside launched by Lord Justice Wall, head of the Family Courts division, against Miss Haigh – who, as I have reported here, escaped to Ireland in April to pre-empt her newborn baby being seized by Nottinghamshire social workers. However, the case in which Lord Justice Wall broke all legal precedent by identifying Miss Haigh in such damning terms was not the one I have reported here. It centres instead on her daughter by a previous partner, which has long been the subject of a highly contentious case involving Doncaster social workers.
The reason for Wall deciding to break all the normal rules of secrecy surrounding child care cases was that for months, details of this case had been advertised on the internet by a private investigator, Liz Watson. Last Monday, at Doncaster’s behest, Wall decided to bring matters to a head. He ruled that the parties to the case could for once be named and that papers relating to it, including two earlier court judgments, should in due course be published. He then sentenced Miss Watson to nine months in prison for breach of secrecy rules.
Relying on the findings of the two lower courts, Wall stated that Miss Haigh had coached her daughter into making lengthy statements to the police and social workers that she had been abused by her father. There is obviously much about this case that still cannot be reported, but at least Wall’s ruling will give the public a chance to decide whether the assessment of the evidence by the earlier judges seemed persuasive.They will also be able to judge whether Wall was right to state that there was not “a scintllla of evidence” to support the arguments which the lower courts rejected.
Wall has something of a track record in making such unqualified statements. In 2008, in another case, he was complained about to the judicial ombudsman by John Hemming MP, after he had witheringly dismissed Hemming’s arguments that a crucial document in the case was forged. “I find it not only unacceptable but shocking,” Wall ruled, “that a man in Mr Hemming’s position should feel able to make so serious an allegation without any evidence to support it. In my judgment it is irresponsible and an abuse of his position.”
Mr Hemming presented the ombudsman with several pages of transcript showing how he had produced lengthy evidence for his claim, set out in meticulous detail. Rather than stating that he had not had “any evidence”, it would have been more accurate for Wall simply to state that, having considered it, he had not found the evidence convincing.
I too recently felt the lash of Wall’s tongue, when he rushed to endorse the criticisms of me by a family judge for the “inaccuracy” of my reporting on another unhappy family case. Wall was so eager to defend the system over which he presides that he seemed unaware of the fact that the judge who criticised me had been forced to come back the following day to correct three errors in the two points he had made about me.
When judges have such power to make their own rules about what can and cannot be reported, it places a special responsibility on them to be rather more measured in their language than they sometimes allow themselves to be.
Source: Telegraph (UK)