A senior judge named all the adults involved in a case in which a father was falsely accused of sexually abusing his daughter so that the public could know that the man was not a paedophile.
Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the Family Division of the High Court, took the unusual step yesterday in a case in which the mother of a little girl at the centre of a custody battle “manufactured” claims that the child’s father had sexually abused her, then “coached” the child, now aged seven, to repeat the allegations.
The mother, Victoria Haigh, and an “investigator” she had used went on to put the “scandalous allegations” about ex-partner David Tune into the public domain “via email and the internet” in breach of court orders, Sir Nicholas said.
The allegations against Tune were untrue and Haigh’s actions were “wholly contrary” to her daughter’s interests, he added.
The little girl now lived with her father and was subject to a care plan organised by a local authority in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, the hearing in London was told.
The judge said Haigh, “investigator” Elizabeth Watson, Tune and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, the local authority working with the little girl, could be identified.
But the little girl – referred to as “X” in court – should not be named, he said.
Sir Nicholas said judges had previously heard evidence about the case at private hearings, but he had decided to sit in open court so that the public could be told that Tune was “not a paedophile”.
Sir Nicholas ordered that Haigh could not make any application in relation to her daughter without his permission for two years.
“Allegations of sexual abuse were first made by the mother and not by X,” said the judge. “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.”
Two judges examined the case at previous High Court hearings and both found that Tune was not a paedophile and had not sexually abused his daughter, he said, adding: “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.
“Because the mother was wholly incapable of fostering a relationship between her daughter and the child’s father, refused to accept the judge’s findings and continued to assert that the father was a paedophile, a second judge found that her mother had caused the child significant harm.”
He added: “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 e-mail 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.
“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.”
He added: “I have come to the conclusion that … I should … give a public judgment in which I explain, having read all the papers in the case, that I have reached the same conclusion as the two previous judges.”
Sir Nicholas added: “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.”
Jailed for contempt
Meanwhile, the investigator, Elizabeth Watson, was found to have breached an order preventing reporting of the case and was given a nine-month jail term after being found to be in contempt.
Watson, of Bournemouth, Dorset, sent “aggressive, intimidating” e-mails to council staff involved in the case which also found their way on to websites, and “compromised the well-being” of a child, said Sir Nicholas.
Watson defaced copies of court orders with “childish scribblings” but “knew precisely what she was doing” and “thought herself above the law”.
He jailed Watson – who gave her name as “Elizabeth of the Watson Family” and claimed to be an “investigator” and a “Montessori-trained teacher” with a background in “child psychology” – after disclosing details of the custody battle.
The court heard that Watson – who told the court yesterday that she was “most sorry” and suggested that she had been “badly advised” and “misguided” – was asked to help with the custody case by the child’s mother, Victoria Haigh.
Watson had sent emails which identified parties in the case and criticised social workers and police.
She had referred to “social disservices” and “abductees” who “snatched children” and “tortured innocent parents” and written about “nationwide child snatching reaching epidemic proportions”.
‘Worse form of terrorism’
Sir Nicholas told Watson: “You have seriously breached an order and seriously compromised the wellbeing of a child.
“You knew exactly what you were doing – writing the most aggressive, intimidating emails calling everyone in sight ‘corrupt’. You wrote on the court orders you were sent.”
He added: “She knew precisely what she was doing and thought herself above the law. That will not be tolerated.”
Haigh – who was not facing contempt proceedings – watched the hearing from the public gallery.
The judge said Watson had argued that the council in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, which has organised a care plan for the seven-year-old child, who now lives with her father, was not entitled to launch contempt proceedings.
She had also described local authority staff as “deceptive” and made a reference to the “worst form of terrorism”.
But Watson’s arguments as “simply wrong” and “absolute nonsense” – Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council was entitled to bring contempt proceedings if it felt a court order had been breached, Sir Nicholas said.
He had considered an option of ruling that Watson was “mentally ill” but had decided against that and concluded that he had “no alternative” but to jail her, he added.