Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why did Vicky Haigh not appeal?

Further to this post, the UK Human Rights Blog this morning published what they call a 'press release' from Sir Nicholas Wall on the Victoria Haigh case (quite why a press release was sent to them and has not as far as I can see been released elsewhere, for example on the Judicary media releases page, I don't know).

Anyhow, in the release Sir Nicholas points out that Miss Haigh did not lodge an appeal, either against the judge’s decision that the father had not sexually abused his daughter and that she had manufactured the “evidence”, or the finding that she had caused the child significant harm and the making of the care order. Lucy Reed at Pink Tape finds the absence of any appeal to be 'notable', and at first blush it does seem somewhat odd. After all, an appeal would be the first reaction of most people who are so certain of their case.

I do not know why Miss Haigh did not appeal. Perhaps this will become clearer when the judgments and documentation come into the public domain, as promised by Sir Nicholas. However, I would venture one possible reason: that she had lost all confidence in the system. Perhaps she decided that all those within the system were against her, that an appeal would thus be pointless, and that she must therefore have recourse to some other, shall we say, non-conventional means of redress.

I am not for one moment saying that the decisions of the court were wrong, just that we should not necessarily assume that the lack of any appeal amounts to an admission by Miss Haigh that she accepted that those decisions were right.


  1. It would be far preferable if the court issued its written judgment and press release together. (An ex tempore judgment was given at the time).

  2. This is one of the key questions to be asked. The absence of an appeal in our system is not "notable". It arises often from the absence of funding for appeals. It is also true that many many people lose all confidence in the system.

    What happened was that she was told it would fail and not be funded. Hence she really did not have a practical option of an appeal.

    In essence I and my assistants end up as the closest thing to a CCRC in the Family Division.

    In the mean time, however, people should not face commital proceedings where their identity is concealed and the identity of those wishing to imprison them is concealed.

  3. Very interesting. Thanks for that, John.

  4. Has anyone observed, I wonder, that Elizabeth Watson, Vicky Haigh's legal 'advisor' was a Freeman-of-the-Land.

    This rather weird legal cult believe that the law only applies to them if they consent to it; their beliefs are described here:

    This may well explain the apparent advise not to engage at all with the legal process.

    Whatever else one thinks of the case, the outcome for Watson shows that this is not a terribly sensible or effective way to approach a family law case.

  5. Thanks, Nick. I had never heard of them. Very odd and, as you say, not at all a sensible way to approach a family law case.

  6. Reasons for no appeal might include:

    1. The fact that appeals are not re trials of factual issues. Appellate court only interferes on limited grounds - e.g. Wednesbury unreasonable decision etc.

    2. The possibility that she knew she had been lying all along.

  7. Your second suggestion is quite possible (although perhaps unlikely, in the light of what John says above), but my point is that it would of course be quite wrong to jump to such a conclusion, without evidence that it was the case.

  8. Few thoughts:

    1) Freeman approach, to work, supposedly needs one to resist any submission to the 'law'. I believe Watson apologised and put forward her legal arguament which, by definition, means she did not take the Freeman approach as it is supposedly meant to be taken. I have no expertise in the area but have see case studies in which the Freeman even refused to enter the court room until the judge was sat and agred that they (defendent/respondent) were able to refer to the judge by his/her first name. i.e. no acceptance of authority over the person concerned. I further understand that if the 'Freeman' were to obey any order of the judge (e.g. would you care to sit please) then the 'Freeman' arguament immediatly collapses as the person has submitted to the courts authority. Great idea in principle, hard to enact in the real world and possible a load of bull anyway.

    2) I am of the understanding from certain posts that the only reliable evidence in the case backs her story, and shows the other party to be guilty as accused. Now, we don't know if this is true and may never know. Bottom line, until al the evidence is made public (if ever) we will not be able to know what actually took place here.

    3) Agree with coments above, appealing in practice is somewhat different from having the right to do so and no conclusion should be inferred from walking away. I know this as it's what I did after 9 years of fighting a system that was not interested in the truth and fought only to preserve it's original 'perspective' - despite it not being in the childs best interests.

  9. Yes, we must wait until the evidence is made public, before coming to any conclusions.

  10. John Hemming responds to his critics

  11. Isn't the answer that under the LSC's funding code (the general criteria and the rules applicable to family cases, including care proceedings, can be found here), funding for an appeal in care proceedings won't be granted if the prospects of success are poor. Presumably, that's what Vicky Haigh's barrister advised.

  12. Could be, Carl, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she accepted the court's decision.


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