Monday, September 05, 2011

Two Haigh judgments published: "Be you never so great, the law is still above you"

The two judgments in the Victoria Haigh case have now been published on Bailii. They are:

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council v Watson [2011] EWHC B15 (Fam) (22 August 2011)

- which obviously deals with the contempt proceedings against Elizabeth Watson,


Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council v Haigh [2011] EWHC B16 (Fam) (22 August 2011)

- which deals with the applications by the local authority "to put into the public domain aspects of [the] care proceedings" and for a s.91(14) order against the mother.

The latter (chronologically the first of the two judgments) also includes as an addendum the local authority's "information document", containing the information which the local authority considered should be in the public domain. It concludes:
"Such is the extent of the false, unauthorised and tendentious material now placed in the public domain that the Local Authority, who would otherwise be striving to protect the privacy of X [the child], have concluded that the balance has shifted and that in this particular case, X's best interests is served by the true facts being made available. This position has been supported by the Children's Guardian although he does not agree to X being named. It is ironic, of course, that the mother has complained about the privacy of the Family Court process and has historically argued for greater openness. Realising that the professionals in the case would be bound by their respect for X's privacy, the mother has utilised this to promote her own distorted view of the case which she has been able to advance thus far, unopposed by the true facts."
Here is a flavour of the 'Watson' judgment (paragraph 50):
"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."
and here a flavour of the 'Haigh' judgment (paragraph 22):
"The disappointed party in English law is not left without a remedy. Ms. Haigh has a number of avenues open to her, by means of which she can complain. The Family Proceedings Rules (now the Family Procedure Rules) were specifically amended to allow people in her position to do so. Moreover, she has the right, or had the right, to apply for permission to appeal against either order. Nothing, however, alters the rule that no party is entitled to breach the confidentiality of the proceedings by illicitly putting into the public domain material which is confidential to those proceedings and which, moreover, the judge in this case has ordered not to be published."
(The well-known adage quoted in the title to this post is used by the President in both judgments.)

I suspect that the judgments may attract considerable comment* in the coming days...

* * * * *

*See, for example, Carl Gardner's analysis on Head of Legal, and Hayley Trim's analysis on Family Law.

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