Tag Archives: Victoria Haigh

Why does Every One Hate the Family Court? Part III what narrative is gaining traction – and why should this concern us?

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore

Too long didn’t read: there is a problem what I shall call the ‘DV Sector’, for want of a better title. There are a number of individual women and organisations who garner a lot of media attention, who have books and talks to promote and apparently the ear of credible and influential law and policy makers, including serving MPs. The narrative that some of them promote I think is actively harmful to reasonable debate and the rule of law. Their reaction when challenged is alarming. More people in the sector need to have the courage to speak up about this. 

This is part 3 of what is sadly highly likely to be a continuing series. If you are interested you can read Part 1 here from January 8 2019 and Part 2 from guest blogger Emma Sutcliffe from February 6th 2019.  This is an issue which has troubled and preoccupied me for some time now. I will let my previous words speak for themselves – if you are determined to see me as a ‘shill’ for a corrupt system, or biased against men, or hateful towards women etc, etc, then no doubt you will see what you want to see and no words of mine will persuade you otherwise.

However, the fact that I have been accused of all these things simultaneously (which I suggest is unlikely to be possible) reassures me that I am succeeding in my aim to be as fair and balanced as I can. Because I make people from very different ends of the argument equally angry.

I write this post because I think it is important to share with you something that happened to me recently. I will avoid using names, unless it is central to the point I need to make, as I don’t want this to appear a ‘front’ for any kind of personal vendetta. It isn’t. What I describe here is an illustration of a much wider and general issue which has really serious implications for us all. Because I believe it strikes at the heart of the rule of law, and the trust in which we can place in our court system.

My concerns escalated over the last few days with the publication via social media of a distressing video of a child being removed. This was strongly promoted by these ‘people of prominence’ and apparently taken up immediately without question or thought by a number of influential people such as the MP Jess Phillips and Clare Waxman, the Victim’s Commissioner for London. The reasons why such knee jerk response to one video in isolation can be harmful, and the legal implications of sharing it, have been set out fairly and comprehensively by Lucy Reed on Pink Tape. 

I will go into more detail below about my concerns below.

Giving child abusers moral authority.

I wrote about this on February 4th 2019, outlining my concerns that Victoria Haigh was setting herself up to gather ‘victims’ of the family court system to investigate why so many children were ‘given’ to fathers who perpetrated abuse. Why I was worried will be immediately obvious when you read the published judgments about what she did. I called her a ‘child abuser’ because that is what she has been found to be. I wondered aloud why ‘prominent members of the DV sector’ supported her. The reaction was swift and fierce. I was immediately blocked on Twitter by a number of such members of prominence. Fair enough. You don’t have to engage with me if you don’t want.

However, I then discovered that I now had a lengthy post on a website dedicated to me and my ‘hatred’ for trans women and homosexuals, together wth a lovely photograph of me and speculation about where I got my nice big house as a legal aid lawyer. (From a massive critical illness insurance payout if you are interested, but don’t let that get in the way of insinuations about my corruption). So far, so internet. What was disappointing albeit interesting was to note that a number of Haigh’s supporters had contacted the author. I think I can reasonably assume this because the author of the website has a twitter account with only six followers last time I looked. And one of them was a women ‘prominent in the DV Sector’.

So I think it must have been a person of prominence in the DV Sector who made this comment:

She’s a bully. She was trolling a woman who’s heading a domestic violence campaign, repeating what the family court judgement said about her when the whole idea of transparency is to question these. 

And that’s a very revealing comment indeed. The ‘whole idea’ of transparency in the family court system – which I wholeheartedly agree with and campaign to achieve –  is not to question court judgments. It is rather to know that they have been made and how they have been made. If you disagree with the judgment, you must appeal against it.

There are several court judgments against Haigh. She did not appeal. These judgments stand as the truth. This is the operation of the rule of law. It is not for any person, no matter how prominent they believe themselves to be in the DV Sector, to simply declare that they will not accept or believe a court judgment and that they can rewrite history if they wish.

Then matters took an even more sinister turn.

Vivien Hobbs and The Legal UK Partnership LLP

On 8th March 2019 I received an interesting email from Ms Hobbs from ‘the Legal UK Partnership LLP’ which had an address in Hatton Garden but no web presence at all from what I could find, other than a listing at Companies House. Nor did Ms Hobbs appear registered as a practising solicitor with the Law Society when i checked their website.

Her emails were all headed ‘private and confidential’ but as I do not think you can assert confidentiality over a potentially criminal attempt to extort money, I am going to ignore that. If I am wrong to do so, no doubt Ms Hobbs will take legal action against me.

Dear Ms Phillimore

We represent Victoria Haigh, a racehorse trainer and former model. You will be familiar with our client from your online postings via Twitter and your blog.

We write in respect to certain false claims and allegations made against our client, those being widely published using your barrister profile via Twitter and your blog as the source of such.

Your false claims and allegations include, where you falsely state and insinuate that our client has been convicted of crimes of which she has never been convicted, including, the attempted abduction of a child and child abuse.

Our client is deeply concerned and distressed concerning these false claims. Please therefore in the first instance provide the source of your information to enable these matters to be promptly dealt with.

In the circumstances, it is only sensible that you immediately remove any claim which cannot legally be supported, where we should advise that the continued presence of these false and highly defamatory allegations is causing significant damage to our client’s reputation.

Should we not gain your co-operation by close of business today, we will immediately submit a formal complaint to your regulator and escalate matters otherwise. Please note that a copy of this correspondence is simultaneously being submitted to your regulator anyway to ensure there is no loss of time in dealing with the fallout from this defamation.

We await your urgent reply, however, in the meantime, you may wish to pass a copy of this notice to your insurer.

I found this quite an odd email and immediately doubted its provenance. However, I appreciated that I referred to Ms Haigh as having committed the offence of attempted child abduction when in fact she received a 3 year prison term (later reduced on appeal) for breach of a non molestation order. She approached her child who was sitting in a car on a petrol station forecourt despite knowing that she was prohibited from doing so. The serious nature of that breach was no doubt reflected in the initial prison term of 3 years.

I accept it is always important to be clear and accurate, so I edited my blog post to be clear about the precise nature of Ms Haigh’s criminality, and I made it clear I had done so.

Unfortunately Ms Hobbs was not happy.  She replied on March 14th to say

In the circumstances, we are providing a further twenty-four hours for you to remove all remaining offending material and for you to submit an offer of settlement with respect to the damages due to our client. Should matters proceed to court, our client has been advised that the court would consider the sum of £300,000 as just and reasonable compensation for what she has suffered and continues to suffer. This sum does not take into account any loss of licence which would bring to an end our client’s substantial racehorse training business. We further believe that you have brought your profession into disrepute and acted without integrity, where accordingly, you may be subject to disciplinary proceedings and be disbarred. It is therefore hoped that you act reasonably where we await your urgent reply.

I replied in the following terms. I had previously asked Ms Hobbs to confirm her professional status and give me details of her firm’s insurer, but received no reply to those queries.

I am disappointed but – given the bizarre tone and contents of your emails – not really surprised, to receive no information about your professional status by 4pm today as requested.

Let me be frank. I consider what you are doing is verging on a criminal attempt to extort money with menaces. Your claims and assertions are absurd.

Please do think very long and hard about what you are doing….[redacted]

I do not expect to hear any more from you but please do not doubt my willingness to engage if you do not immediately desist.

It is now April 3rd and I have yet to hear further from Ms Hobbs.  I find it very odd that any kind of venture that purports to be in a position to secure payouts of £300K for their client  has no web presence at all. I remain of the view that this was some kind of attempted extortion and I can imagine many people receiving this kind of correspondence would have been extremely frightened. As no doubt was the intent.

Conclusion

So in just a very short space of time I have seen some clear examples of really abusive and frightening behaviour from those who claim that they are speaking for the voiceless victims of the evil, secret family courts.  To claim that such people cannot be challenged because they are ‘prominent’ in their field is getting things back to front. You earn prominence and respect because of your words and deeds. Your prominence does not insulate you from reasonable criticism of your words and deeds.

To be blunt – as I know no other way to be – am very worried about what is happening in the ‘DV Sector’ and this relentless narrative that the family courts are designed as deliberate tools of oppression against women. As my experiences show, women can be every bit as abusive,  manipulative and dangerous as men. It is naive to claim otherwise. Not everyone who seeks to identify as a victim actually IS a victim.

Distinct binary divisions between ‘perp’ and ‘victim’ are rare. The truth is often much messier than that. Those who seek to deny this obvious truth should not be allowed to hijack a very necessary and serious debate about how to make the family justice system better.

However, sadly it looks as if there will be many more videos to come.

 

EDIT APRIL 4th 2019

I am pleased to note that Clare Waxman has deleted her original tweet sharing the video. What is less happy is that my various questions to her went and continued to go unanswered.

Edit April 4th 2019 a bit later 

I have had more emails from Ms Hobbs who seems even more displeased.

Despite formal notice and your legal and professional obligations, it has come to our attention that you have further fallen in default of those by committing to yet more defamation and breach of duty of confidentiality with respect to recent posts on your website. Unless all reference to our private and confidential communication and ourselves is removed with immediate effect, these further breaches will be added to the Notice of Claim which is now being prepared by counsel following receipt of your BSB disciplinary record.

We note that your past professional misconduct history falls directly line with your current demonstrating extreme recklessness and abandonment of duty in relation to family proceedings. Your behaviour is reprehensible, where it is absolutely clear you are unfit to practice let alone family law. This notice is being copied directly to your regulator which has been made aware of what is in transition, including, where we are seeking disciplinary action and draconian sanctions. We understand that you have also been reported to the police for similar breaches and acts of malice.

And Ms Haigh has begun tweeting.

I have replied to Ms Hobbs

Dear Ms Hobbs

I stand by everything I have said and will willingly repeat all and any of my allegations in any arena.

I have asked you repeatedly for confirmation of your professional status and your firm’s insurance details.

You have failed to provide those details. I draw from that certain conclusions.

Any further emails from you will be deleted unread.

I suggest you get on with issuing your claim, but maybe consider with your client how well her public attempts at intimidation and harassment of me via Twitter this afternoon will play before a court. I confess I find it rather an odd strategy but no doubt your counsel can advise.

 

I do not resile from anything I have written here. I will not remove it unless I am ordered to do so by a person or organisation with rather more authority than Ms Haigh or Ms Hobbs. I shall look forward to defending myself in an open court.

EDIT APRIL 9th 2019

I am grateful to be alerted to the following judgments on BAILII which provide further interesting insights into the operation of the ‘Legal Uk Partnership’.

First we see the case of Welch v Welch [2017] EWFC B32 (19 June 2017) which has this interesting paragraph – emphasis added. The applicant in this case is one Vivien Welch, who I shall assume is now calling herself Vivien Hobbs

It is perfectly clear that the wife’s obsessive behaviour in relation to these matters has continued, arguably worsened. Becoming aware of their identity from the sale documentation, the wife has bombarded the prospective purchaser (Mr Davis) and his solicitors (Hadfields, Butt & Bowyer) with barrages of misinformation and invective deliberately and maliciously designed to frighten them off from the transaction. In these communications she has wilfully misinterpreted the court process and mischievously misrepresented the facts. In a deliberate attempt to add authority to the bombardment she has misrepresented herself as a legal representative of herself practising under the title “Legal UK Partnership” (as far as I am aware she has no legal qualifications whatsoever). Perhaps not surprisingly, Mr Davis has been frightened off – no doubt it was easier to seek a property which did not have these conveyancing complications – and the wife has, once again, frustrated the husband’s legitimate desire to enforce my order of 9th September 2014. The wife is utterly unrepentant about all of this, believing her steps to be wholly justified. There is every reason to believe that, given the chance, she will do exactly the same thing again. One aspect of all this, which makes the wife’s behaviour all the more extraordinary, is that on completion of the sale, she will only receive 1% of the proceeds, and whatever she may receive is already subject to charges which outweigh its value.

Going back a few years to  Welch v Welch [2015] EWHC 2622 (Fam) (31 July 2015) we see the same Ms Welch, this time described at paragraph 3 of that judgment:

n judgments in the present proceedings District Judge Hess has, in a number of places, described the approach of the wife both to that litigation against her first husband and this litigation against her second husband as obsessive, or obsessional, and indeed irrational. By way of example only, District Judge Hess said at paragraph 87 of his judgment dated 9 September 2014 that ‘…in this litigation, and in the previous litigation, the wife has…been obstinate, unrealistic and obsessive’. I stress that those are his words after hearing evidence over several days. They are not my choice of words; I merely repeat as part of the background what that judge concluded.

On one level this is funny. I now await the writ of libel being prepared by Ms Hobbs and her mysteriously as yet unnamed counsel with anticipation boardering on the gleeful.

But on the other hand it is not funny at all. Ms Haigh is being promoted and supported by some ‘big names’ in the DV sector. And this is how she operates. Are those promoting her aware of this. I am very afraid that the answer to this question is ‘yes’. The implications for the progress of any meaningful discussion about this area of law and practice are pretty stark. If your campaign is fuelled by the obsessive and irrational – where do you think it is going to end up?

 

Victoria Haigh: When Child Abusers are given moral authority

I first became aware of the case of Victoria Haigh in about 2013, when my concern about the activities of the then MP John Hemming began to mount up.

In 2018 I noticed Victoria Haigh on Twitter. She was supported by a number of self styled campaigners who were linked by their shared belief that the family justice system was fundamentally a tool of misogynistic oppression against women, favouring the rights of violent men over the women they abused.

I have written about this before. I don’t think its true. My position simply is this: the Children Act is the statutory expression of the need to put the welfare of the child first and foremost in any decision making process. Neither sex has the monopoly on bad behaviour and my experience in practice shows a pretty equal split between emotionally abusive behaviour by both mothers and fathers. However, as is unsurprising given mens greater physical strength, they are more likely to be physically aggressive to their partners than women.

The fact that I am insulted, threatened and blocked online pretty equally by Mens Rights Activitists and Female DV campaigners suggests to me that I must be doing something right.

When I questioned the validity of Victoria Haigh as any kind of campaigner against the family courts, given the very clear findings made against her that she had subjected her own child to serious emotional harm, I was met with instant vilification and told to ‘fuck off’ as I was a ‘narc’.

So far, so internet.

I was however extremely alarmed to see this a few weeks later.

https://twitter.com/SVPhillimore/status/1091979776036950016

A lot of people saw this tweet – at least by my standards. My tweets usually get about 300 ‘impressions’ with an ‘engagement rate’ of about 2%. This one (at time of writing February 4th 2019) 2,449 people have seen it and 279 engaged. A rate of 11.3 %. So clearly a topic that attracted more attention than I usually get on line. But no comments. No one replied to say ‘well, that looks a bit worrying.’ Silence.

So I asked again. Why the silence? did no one in the DV sector see the obvious problems with affording moral authority to a woman found to be a child abuser? Who had been fairly tried and rightly punished by the legal system? Did anyone think that this was the way to work to achieve necessary change in this area?

Zoe Dronfield replied by simply posting a link to something called The Red Mother: An interview with Victoria Haigh. 

The thrust of this article is immediately apparent from the first paragraph

During the proceedings Victoria reported that her daughter had told her that her father is sexually abusing her. The response of the system was swift and cruel – the girl was taken away from Victoria and her father got sole custody of her. Victoria was accused of coaching the girl and being an emotionally abusive mother (see also this article in the UK Telegraph). Never one to buckle under, she then went public with her case and stressed further investigations. For an alledged breach of a no-contact order (no contact with her daughter that is) Victoria was eventually put on trial and sentenced to 3 years in prison. After her release she moved to France with her youngest daughter (not related to the alledged molester of her older daughter) to re-start her career as horse-trainer.

This sounds shocking. But it is not true. The truth is this. Victoria Haigh was found to have told lies about her ex sexually abusing their daughter. She was found to have tried to make contact with her on a garage forecourt and she was sent to prison for breach of a non-molestation order. She was found, on evidence, to be a child abuser.

See for example:

Doncaster MBC v Haigh, Tune and X [2011] EWHC B16 (Fam) where – very unusually – the LA asked the court to make its judgment public and to name Ms Haigh because of the amount of misleading information that she was putting out into the public domain

Family Law week summarised these proceedings in this way

This case had begun as a private law contact dispute between Victoria Haigh, who was the mother of X and the child’s father, David Tune.  Following a court hearing of this dispute in respect of which Ms Haigh was clearly unhappy, she made allegations that David Tune had sexually assaulted X.  These allegations were duly investigated and at a fact-finding hearing, HHJ Robertshaw had concluded that X had not been abused and that she had been coached by Ms Haigh.  At that hearing, the mother’s stance was not that X had been sexually abused, but rather that X had made these allegations as a reaction to the stressful relationships around her.  The judge disagreed, however, and found that the allegations were false and had originated in the mind of the mother.

The mother refused to accept the findings, despite her stance at the fact-finding hearing.  Her views about the alleged abuse hardened to become a certainty which she expressed dogmatically.  At a subsequent hearing, HHJ Jones concluded that the mother had continued to influence X and to manipulate her feelings whilst in fact ‘placing her own as the priority’.  HHJ Jones concluded that it would be contrary to X’s best interest to live with her mother.  A decision was made that X should reside with her father.  The local authority offered supervised contact between the mother and X but Ms Haigh felt unable to attend and decided she would not see X at all.

The mother’s attention then turned towards a media and internet-based campaign designed to remedy what she claimed was a miscarriage of justice.  Assisted by an Elizabeth Watson, who described herself as a private case investigator, she put a large number of highly critical comments and information about the case and all of the professionals involved into the public domain.  She also contacted the father’s employers and colleagues and parents of children who attended X’s school and falsely alleged to them that Mr Tune was a paedophile.  This was in breach of orders made by the High Court prohibiting the publication of any information that would lead to the identity of the child or any other family members.  On 25 February 2011 Baker J made an order prohibiting the mother and Ms Watson from communicating via the internet, media or otherwise “any information relating to the proceedings under the Children Act concerning X”.

The author of the interview asks

Why are a mother and child punished so severly for simply talking about sexual abuse and saying that it has occured? Why is a woman sentenced to 3 years in prison for saying hello to her own child? And to what extent was this mother surveillanced, by whom and why?

The answers to these questions would have been found easily in the judgment cited above. But she clearly doesn’t think it worth checking any other source than the narrative offered to her by Victoria Haigh.

Victoria Haigh goes on to expressly assert that the findings against her were the result of deliberate corruption, a campaign ‘to cover up the truth’.

They do what they do. The police do not investigate the crimes. If one complains, the complaints are investigated by those one lays the complaint against and one is sent in a spin cycle of chaos. Then it is the complainant or victim or associate of the victim who begins to have court orders put on them! An innocent person can soon become a criminal, just like me! It was all a complete smoke screen to avoid achieving any kind of justice…

My retrial was an overall tactic by the judiciary, police, ministry of justice at the highest level, to shut me down once and for all with their utmost effort of propaganda, blackmail and whatever else they threw at me. I was not going to stay silent therefore they used their well trodden tactic of pulling my reputation to pieces. To discredit a witness is how the criminals defendthemselves. I was the mouthpiece for my child so by shutting me down, my child was shut down too.

I am quite prepared to accept that miscarriages of justice occur. That wrong decisions are made. It is certainly not impossible that Victoria Haigh has been a victim of such a miscarriage of justice, although I note she has not chose to appeal against any of the court judgments made against her. However, when asked WHY she thinks the family court system acted against her in the way it did, she gives this answer. I find this shocking. There is absolutely no evidence from any credible source that this is happening. This is delusional conspiracy theorising of the worst kind.

There is evidence through MOSAC (Mothers of Sexually Abused Children, a Charity) that women are being groomed to have babies and the babies are being ‘won’ in a ‘custody battle’ by the peodophile father. If a paodophile father uses this as a template which according to the patterns we have seen, these men are using, very successfully, the length and breadth of the UK the same tactic applying for contact through these secret courts accusing the mother of alienating them from their child, in most cases they win custody, never get prosecuted and have freedom and the law on their side to rape their own children under complete protection of the State through the court orders they achieve. The mothers in all of these cases are gagged and prevented from having any contact with their children, knowing at the same time their children are not safe from child sexual abuse. It is torture for the child and the mother.

She goes on to describe family lawyers as ‘cowards or paedophiles’.

This is deeply worrying and depressing. I do not doubt that some men sexually abuse children and women. I do not doubt some men are violent. I do not doubt the family court system could do a better job of dealing with such cases quickly and fairly. I do not doubt that many women find it hard to provide the evidence a court will insist on to prove that they are the victims of coercive or controlling behaviour. I do not doubt that many women fear the family court system I do not doubt that many do not understand what is going on. I do not doubt that many criticisms are well made, and I have made many myself.

Not everything Haigh says in this interview sounds insane. What she says, for example about the women she met in prison strikes a chord. 

The women in prison ALL had crimes committed against them that were much worse than the crimes they had committed to be imprisoned including myself. This again sums up the terrible treatment of women in the UK. “It truly is a terrible country to live in. I looked around at these women and realised instantly that these women needed help and certainly not locking up. Many were products of the UK care system and it goes without saying were sexually abused in care. I was very saddened by what I saw in that place.

But I reject any allegation that the family court system is deliberately set up to oppress women or is part of some ‘baby farm’ for paedophile fathers.

Either lawyers don’t do a good enough job of explaining or the removal  of legal aid has left more and more floundering as litigants in person. When I engage with those who criticise the family justice system and ask them what processes they would have in place other than the testing of allegations by a Judge, I get no answer.

Victoria Haigh is a mother who was found by a variety of judges over the years to have lied and manipulated her daughter into reporting abuse about her father that never happened. She did not appeal against those judgments. They stand as the truth. This is the operation of the rule of law.

So I put the question again to those in the ‘DV Sector’ who stand behind those such as Haigh and promote such narratives that women are being groomed to have babies who will be ‘won’ by a paedophile, that family lawyers are ‘cowards or paedophiles’

  • do you think this is true?
  • If so, where is your evidence that this is true?
  • If you accept you have no evidence, what real or lasting change do you think you will secure by campaigning in this way?
  • To what degree does financial self interest motivate your promotion of such lurid fantasies about the family justice system?

I am sorry to be so cynical as I offer the last question. But when I dare to raise polite inquiry a to the wisdom of promoting Victoria Haigh as a campaigner against the family justice system and I am told to ‘fuck off narc’ by prominent campaigners who have a link to their book or their agent in their Twitter bio, I do wonder. I wonder quite a lot.

EDIT February 5th 2019

I had a conversation with Zoe Dronfield on Twitter. I asked her a number of times if she agreed with Haigh’s narrative that the family courts facilitate the rape of children by handing them over to obvious abusers. She wouldn’t answer. This is a great shame. There is clearly something worthy of discussion here. What has gone so wrong with the system that such delusional beliefs can take such deep roots? Haigh isn’t the only person who thinks and says this, not by a long shot. I have to accept that something ‘feels right’ about this narrative to a significant minority of people and that is very troubling. What can we do about this – if anything?

Maybe nothing. But the answer cannot be to ignore it. Its an inexorable rule of of life that ignoring a problem very rarely makes it go away but it will make others seriously question your motives and your good faith.

EDIT March 9th 2019

This article originally referred to Ms Haigh being found guilty of attempting to abduct her child from the garage forecourt. On Friday 6th March I received an email from Ms Haigh’s lawyers at 10.24am accusing me of making ‘false’ allegations about Ms Haigh and threatening action in defamation. I have agreed to amend ‘attempt to abduct’ for ‘breach of a non molestation order’ as I agree it is important to be accurate about such serious and important matters. However, I assert that to call Ms Haigh a ‘child abuser’ is true and accurate and I do not resile from that description.  I will await with interest any summons to the High Court to defend my position which I shall very happily do.

EDIT July 26th 2021

I make this further edit after Ms Haigh pointed out the existence of an article in The Times in May 2021 that confirms that her daughters father was found to have sent “inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old female athlete in 2015”. He asked her to send him photographs of her without her clothing and made references to parts of her anatomy. The police took no action and he was allowed to return to coaching but his licence was restricted to allow training only of adult athletes.

This is clearly reprehensible behaviour, particularly as this man was in a position of power over the 17 year old girl. But it is not evidence that the man sexually assaulted his own daughter or that he is a paedophile. I do not see how this article ‘exonerates’ Haigh as is claimed. But I appreciate its important information that would be relevant in court proceedings when allegations about sexual misconduct are made.

Further reading

Judgment of Sir Nicholas Wall August 2011

A note on the Vicky Haigh Case Stowe Family Law August 2011

A cautionary lesson: The Vicky Haigh and Liz Watson judgments Carl Gardener Head of Legal September 2011

When children are pawns: Vicky Haigh and Hampstead 2015 Hoaxstead Research

Links between Victoria Haigh and Sabine McNeill Hoaxstead Research video May 2019