B e f o r e :
Sir Nicholas Wall
B E T W E E N :
|DONCASTER METROPOLITAN BOROUGH COUNCIL||Applicant|
|VICTORIA HAIGH||1st Respondent|
|DAVID TUNE||2nd Respondent|
|X (A child|
|By her Children's Guardian)||3rd Respondent|
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"Put shortly, the learned judge found that the father had not sexually abused X at all, nor had he behaved in a sexually inappropriate way towards her, but 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. In 2009, X was coached by the mother to make a false allegation of sexual abuse against the father, which originated in the mind of the mother. As a result of inappropriate pressures and prompting, X came to make and believe the allegations. The mother used allegations of sexual abuse manipulatively as part of her irrational and longstanding hostility to contact which she sought to obstruct."
"Those who are charged with the task of advising the court as to orders necessary to promote X's welfare in the future bear a burden more onerous than I have had to discharge at this hearing. The weapon of last resort, changing X's residence, will obviously need to be considered and a balance struck between the risks involved in that course against the risk of mother continuing to frustrate and impede contact in a way that will inevitably be emotionally damaging to X. Frustration at her past deplorable conduct must not be allowed to obscure the fact that the issue is welfare and that there are undoubtedly risks in employing the weapon of last resort.
Direct contact will now need to be reinstated in some form. It will have to be regulated, not because of any risk posed by the father but simply because of the time that has elapsed since it last took place and, for the time being at least, to safeguard him from further allegations of abuse. Time alone will tell whether the mother is now able to embrace the letter and spirit of the principle that contact with a non-residential parent promotes the well-being of a child of separated parents. Any indication that she has not must involve the case being returned to me on short notice so that whatever steps may be appropriate, however draconian, can be taken."
"The mother's stance has, of course, severely circumscribed the arguments which could be deployed on her behalf, and counsel, who has put the case fully and in a measured and realistic fashion on her behalf, conceded as much in argument, accepting that the mother had to grasp at any straw in presenting her case … This is a mother who has been found to have caused her daughter emotional harm by the making of repeated, false allegations of sexual abuse which she knew to be false at the time she made them and, subsequently, to have coached X into making a false allegation which she knew to be untrue. She has also used those allegations manipulatively in the course of the family proceedings …
Over several years the mother has made a number of allegations against the father, with the result X has been subjected to four medical examinations, police interviews and has had numerous contacts with professionals. Despite the court's findings, the mother accepts no responsibility for this state of affairs, complaining instead of the local authority's 'negligence' and that her treatment has been incredibly harsh 'with no-one really explaining the reasons why'. I am quite satisfied that this intelligent woman knows exactly why X was removed from her care in January 2010 and why the professionals continue to take the view that X would suffer further emotional harm if rehabilitated to her. In addition, sadly, while professing her concern for X's well-being, the mother consistently prioritises her own needs over those of her daughter …
I have carefully considered all the papers. They make for rather depressing reading. The mother appears to be convinced that she is the only person in the right and everyone else involved with her and her family are wrong. As recently as 6th September 2010, she wrote in an email that she had made her decision and no amount of therapy would change her opinion of something she did not believe in. She accuses the guardian of bias and the local authority of negligence and, as recently as 8th November, of 'tyranny, scare tactics and bullying methods'……
I am satisfied it would not be in the best interests of X to delay making a final decision in this case for further work to be done with the mother or with X and her father. In the light of the findings of Judge Robertshaw and all the evidence before this court, there are no good reasons why there should be any further delay in X moving to live permanently with her father, who I am satisfied is fully capable of meeting all her needs, including that for ongoing contact with her mother. I am equally satisfied that it would be contrary to X's best interests to move either now or in the foreseeable future to the full-time care of her mother, given the harm that she has already caused her daughter and the harm she will be likely to cause if X were placed in her care. I believe the mother does need help and she would be well advised to seek it out …
I invite the mother to consider my judgment carefully with her legal advisors. I do not believe that my decision will come as any surprise to her, though I ask her to take time to reflect on the reasoning behind it. Her intransigent response to the court's findings in January 2010 and her intemperate reaction to the local authority's involvement provided her with little room for manoeuvre in the context of these proceedings. I have no doubt that she cares for X deeply, but she is demonstrating little insight into X's real needs and is failing to prioritise those needs over her own. If she continues on her present course, she runs the risk of alienating her daughter and permanently damaging their relationship. This would be a great loss for X, as everyone, including the father, acknowledges, and I hope it is a consequence which the mother, on further reflection, will seek to avoid."
"Doncaster shares parental responsibility with the mother and father in respect of their daughter X. At eight years of age X has lived virtually all her life in the centre of litigation and conflict. For the past 18 months, her mother, Victoria Haigh, has conducted an internet and media-based campaign designed to highlight what she now contends is a miscarriage of justice, namely, the court approved decision to place X in her father's care. In consequence of the mother's campaign the local community in which X lives has been made aware that Victoria Haigh accuses David Tune of being a paedophile, a rapist and of sexually abusing his daughter …
For X and her father the present situation is intolerable: (1) the police have been called to X's school to protect her; (2) parents at [the school] are concerned about the information they have been sent by the mother and its significance in terms of the protection of their own children; (3) David Tune has been accosted in the street and called a 'paedophile'; (4) David Tune's work colleagues have had material sent to them both in a public forum and on their own Facebook pages, the contents of which have been to render David Tune's livelihood vulnerable and therefore his capacity to provide for his daughter.
Though the allegations are all false, neither David Tune nor Doncaster have felt able to respond publically to them. The local authority is pursuing the mother and her fanatical campaigners by way of injunction and committal proceedings. It has not been possible, despite Doncaster's best efforts, to persuade the domain holders, voluntarily, to take the offending sites down or to close the relevant email accounts.
The present situation is self-evidently damaging to X and her father. The local authority, however, is also extremely concerned about the future. It will not be long before X and her school friends uncover the material which is presently on the internet. X's school, her social worker, if we may say so, and her father has all worked tirelessly and sensitively to shelter X from the allegations her mother makes. They have been broadly successful to date. However, it is beyond any doubt that if, and, perhaps now inevitably, when, that information comes to X's attention it will be extremely distressing to her. The repercussions are easy to predict. It is likely to impact on X's relationship with her peers and adults. It may destabilise her security at home with her father. It will be emotionally very confusing to her.
Even if the local authority was ultimately to remove the information from the internet, the fact remains that the mother's accounts have already been widely circulated and in a manner targeted to cause most damage to X and her father. This is a situation the local authority finds very difficult to manage. On the one hand, it seems clear that the false and tendentious material in the public domain must at least be counterbalanced by accurate and truthful information being made available to those who receive the mother's account. On the other hand, it must be recognised that information placed in the public domain cannot easily be regulated thereafter. There is a risk of widespread media interest that may have the consequence of making life for X and her father even more uncomfortable, particularly in the short term. Any course the court takes must, in our submission, contemplate both these possibilities.
Accordingly, the local authority has tried to evaluate the utility of taking no action at all on the issues and responding as best it can to events as they unfold, supporting X and her father with access to counselling services and practical help. Ultimately, the local authority has concluded that it would be failing in its obligations to X not to correct the false allegations and rumours that surround her. The real harm from the mother's actions, we would respectfully reiterate, has been to target her campaign, and so specifically, to those directly involved in her child's life."
"The local authority would propose that its information document, a document it has prepared, is incorporated into a public judgment which addresses the reasons for the release. It may be that the court will wish to vary the contents of the document perhaps, even to expand its ambit. The contemplated judgment would be a document in the public domain, and, as such, the local authority recognises it will have no control over its dissemination. It is proposed, however, that the social worker, the head teacher and Mr. Tune's employer should work together in managing the release of the judgment to those concerned locally in a way that would be most sensitive to X. This, of course, can only be a strategy."
"… from communicating to any media outlet, including to the makers of any television programme or radio programme or the publishers of any newspaper or magazine, or representatives of the same, or any digital media or via the internet, any information relating to any proceedings under the Children Act concerning X, namely, proceedings [and the number is then given] …"
"A member of parliament has, on the basis of inaccurate and misleading information supplied to him, deployed parliamentary privilege to highlight the case. We would respectfully encourage the court to deprecate the use of parliamentary privilege in that way in circumstances where there is inevitably incomplete material available and the privacy of a child is threatened. It is perhaps helpful to emphasise that s.97 (2) of the Children Act 1989, which protects the privacy of children in the currency of proceedings, was enacted by parliament itself, not by judges. Indeed, it may be apt to observe here that the 2010 Act (Children, Schools and Families Act 2010) appears to impose a tightening of privacy principles in children cases, reversing the progress towards transparency made in the case of Clayton v Clayton  EWCA Civ 878,  ` FLR 11."
"[The children's guardian] is instinctively opposed to the release of information regarding X into the public domain. He has, throughout this case, supported the local authority in fighting to preserve her anonymity by way of injunctive measures and committal proceedings. He feels strongly that a child's interests are best met by her identity being kept confidential and likewise information which would tend to identify her as being the subject of proceedings, as it is enshrined within the Children Act 1989.
The guardian feels, however, that this case is exceptional. The campaign conducted by Ms. Haigh and her supporters has put an erroneous view of the court proceedings regarding X into the public domain. The impact of that has been immense on X, impacting on her day-to-day life and making her fearful. It is not clear whether, at the present time, she has any understanding that people in her school have knowledge of her situation, albeit knowledge of incorrect facts, but this could only be harmful to her as she grows up. The impact of the campaign being run by Ms. Haigh and her supporters is affecting Mr. Tune, and X is conscious of that.
The guardian is also conscious that, in addition to the internet campaign waged by Ms. Haigh and her supporters, there is evidence that the more mainstream press has shown interest in X's case. A Member of Parliament has chosen to assist Ms. Haigh by speaking of this case in the House of Commons, having alerted X's solicitor to his intentions and to the fact that he could not be prevented from this action. Again, this makes X's case very different from any other case the guardian has encountered.
Due to the very specific circumstances of this case, the guardian has reluctantly come to the position there should be disclosure of the true facts of X's case into the public domain. He has read the document prepared by leading counsel for the local authority and, whilst he would make some amendments to it, as shown in the attached document, he agrees to there being disclosure. He very strongly argues, however, that X should not be named. It could be argued that X can be easily identified because the parents are named and that refusing to name the child is therefore illogical. The guardian would argue that there is no necessity to name the child because clarity is achieved by naming the parents. Whilst for those familiar with this case it would be simple to identify X, the principle of a child's confidentiality should be maintained by those in the family justice system. Research evidence strongly suggests that children do not wish for their identities to become known, or indeed for their family details to be disclosed. The guardian would submit that X should not be named so that the document, if it is released by the court in its current form or an amended version, should not, in itself, come back to haunt X in the future.
The guardian will not support release of the document, therefore, as drafted by the local authority, and if the court were to countenance its release he would wish it to be clear that he has opposed it. The guardian believes that were X's name to appear publically it is important that the local authority takes immediate action to pursue an immediate remedy through the court. The guardian reaches this position after much thought. He remains concerned this case could open the floodgates to other breaches of children's confidentiality. He is clear that requests for release of information, as being considered here, should remain the exception, rather than the rule."
"I am the teaching head at the local school. I have been head teacher at the school for a year. I have been the head teacher for the last year and, prior to that, I was employed as a class teacher for the previous six years at the same school. I make this statement based on my knowledge of X, who has attended the school since March 2008 to the current date. I also make the statement based on discussions with X's class teachers, teaching assistants and from referring to school records in relation to X……
This is a small local school with [a number less than 200] pupils, [a number less than 10] class teachers and [a number less than 10] teaching assistants. It is located in the heart of a village. The village consists of two pubs, a hairdressers, a church and no other local amenities. Children attending the school come from throughout the local geographical area. It is a closely knit community, with many of the families of children attending at school knowing each other extremely well, including knowing X and her parents, Ms. Haigh and Mr. Tune. Ms. Haigh is known in the local area …..
In terms of X's educational attainments her assessment scores show that she is currently meeting age-appropriate milestones for a child her age. However, X presents as a child who is extremely bright and, in my opinion, should be achieving over and above her age-appropriate milestones. X has many friends within her school and is a popular child with her peer groups. X has plenty of friends within school, but I am unsure as to what friends she has contact with outside of school hours……
With regard to X's emotional presentation at school, in my opinion, X is quieter this year than she has been in previous years, though she does not present at school as an unhappy child. In terms of her demeanour, she appears to be a more reserved child than in previous years and gives the impression she is capable of masking any emotional difficulties or concerns that she may have to professionals…..
At the time the allegations were made by X there were several remarks that she made to teaching staff recorded in the concerns book. The concerns book is a document that is held within the school in which members of staff note their concerns in respect of any particular child at any one time so that I may consider the same to assess what is required or actually needed, or whether or not any support is required …
I do have some concerns with regard to X's ability to keep things to herself, which may cause her some emotional difficulty. For example, I was informed at a recent Looked After Child's review that X had begun to build herself a hiding place in the family home in the event that her mother attempted to come and remove her from home, from her father's care. I was concerned to learn that a child of X's age had the forethought to be able to formulate such a plan, which clearly had been given consideration for some considerable period of time……
I am of the opinion that if X did have some significant difficulties or concerns at a particular time she would report the same to one of the teaching assistants, and, as a result, they would bring it to my attention, but that, of late, no such discussions have taken place between X and any members of staff. I am clear that X is under a significant amount of pressure at this time. She appears to be a child who has the weight of the world on her shoulders. In the light of this, her educational attainments at this stage are not of any particular surprise to me, and I think she is coping extremely well with her current circumstances involving her mother……"
"I am aware that Mr. Tune or his mother would be responsible for dropping off and collecting the child on a daily basis. I regularly meet with Mr. Tune with regards to concerns and anxieties that he express in relation to X and the ongoing situation with X and Ms. Haigh. Mr. Tune himself appears to be under an extreme amount of pressure at the present time and … struggling to come to terms with the nature and extent of the material which is presently on the internet about him, which I have observed first hand by looking at the same on the internet. Mr. Tune always presents at school as extremely concerned for X's emotional welfare and relies on the school for a significant amount of support in protecting her whilst he is at work and X is at school. Mr. Tune does talk to me about discussions he has had with X and her views with regard to having contact with her mother, although it has to be said that X herself has not spoken with regard to any of these issues. I am aware that a member of the public has recently approached Mr. Tune and asked him whether or not he is a paedophile, which the internet reports refer. I am aware that such contact with Mr. Tune further places more stress and anxiety upon him."
"I have known her since the summer of 2010. Following the orders having been made by the court in November/December 2010, I was, of course, informed by the children's services in Doncaster that Ms. Haigh was not to have direct or indirect contact with the child unless authorised by the local authority and such an order was in place to keep Ms. Haigh away from the school, away from X and away from her family home. Since that time Ms. Haigh has sent presents for X at Christmas, has sent a school magazine with letters written inside, has emailed me photographs of her new baby directly to my email address at school, and packages of clothes, DVDs, CDs have also sent by Ms. Haigh to be passed on to X. None of the above had been passed on to X by the school. They have been passed to children's services to assess how and when, if at all, the same could be forwarded to X for her attention. I have historically received emails from Ms. Haigh via her iPhone, making requests for contact between herself and X, contact between her family members and X and making requests to attend school at the various school events, including the nativity play and, more recently, the sports day.
"Ms. Haigh has recently emailed requesting a thorough report with regard to X. I confirmed that her report would be provided, as it would be provided to any non-resident parent, and that her emails concerning contact, or attempting to contact X via the school, should be forwarded to children's services for them to consider."
"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."
"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."
"On disposing of any application for an order under this Act, the court may (whether or not it makes any other order in response to the application) order that no application for an order under this Act of any specified kind may be made with respect to the child concerned by any person named in the order without the leave of the court."
Addendum: the local authority's "information document
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
THE FAMILY DIVISION
B E T W E E N:
Below I have set out the core information regarding this case which, in my judgment, should now be placed into the public domain. Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council and the other parties are to be free to use the document in whatever manner they think appropriate, provided, in particular, the injunction which I have made is obeyed, and the child in particular is not identified.
5 September 2011
"I am famous again darling, but this time it is not because I am a model or racehorse trainer. It is because I have fought my way to the top people in the country, to give me my daughter back and I will not stop until they do … when I see you I will keep all of the newspapers that I have been in and if you want to look at them you can. I have been in over 7 newspapers and I am going to be doing television programmes very soon".
That e-mail may illuminate something of the mother's true motivation.
"It is fortunate that at this time X is not yet of an age were 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 that material. There will, however, become a time when that material will be available to X, which I am of the opinion is extremely damaging".