Paedophilia is an emotive subject; banned in ‘polite’ media circles, it has become virtually the exclusive province of the Blogosphere.
Every day – as Matt Wardman discovered when he took over my e-mail account whilst I was indisposed! – I receive long emotive e-mails, apparently addressed to half the world; Her Majesty the Queen, the Lord High Executioner and the Chief Constable of ‘x’ regularly appear as co-recipients to myself in hysterical hyperbolic e-mails naming alleged paedophiles and begging me to write blog posts and have ‘the courage’ to name and shame those alleged to be involved.
I well remember the Hollie Greig affair, when I published a list of the known ‘facts’ – as opposed to mere opinions, pertaining to the passionate campaign raging on the Internet concerning what was said to be a deliberate attempt to suppress investigation of a case of a paedophilia. It felt at the time as though half the Blogosphere had descended on my head for having the temerity to suggest that all the information circulating on-line was less than factual.
I wrote at the time:
I don’t intend to name the young woman because if there is anything which comes close to the obscenity of child abuse, it is the abuse of a child which takes place when the self righteous decide to use her name and face to publicise themselves in the name of a variation of ‘free speech’ that they would be the first to decry if it were turned on them or in the name of a demand for criminal prosecution on such flimsy evidence.
Since the facts of such cases are invariably, and correctly, shrouded in the secret cloak of Injunctions; Hyper, Super, or merely common or garden, they instantly become grist to the over excited conspiracy mill; churned, elaborated, retweeted, planted in fresh pastures – to be regurgitated as ‘fact’ in later blog posts.
A section of the Blogosphere is tempted to engage in trial by blog, with no evidence offered for the defence – and any opposition to this process is regarded as suppression of ‘free speech’ and hysterically denounced.
The e-mails pile up in my inbox, liberally sprinkled with words from the lexicon of hyperbole such as ‘tortured’, ‘held prisoner’, ‘an epidemic of judicial criminality’ ‘Masonic conspiracy’; the Pope features regularly, as does anybody who is suspected of having Jewish ancestry.
I ignore them. Stepping into these turbulent waters is to invite the courteous attentions of Messrs Carter and Ruck that I can well do without – delightful correspondents though they may well be.
Thus it has proved in the matter of Ms Vicky Haigh. Not a name I have mentioned in the past, for good reason.
I supported John Hemming MP when he raised her name under parliamentary procedure – not in respect of the underlying case, but because she had been threatened with imprisonment for speaking of it at a parliamentary meeting.
The notion that we can raise concerns with our parliamentary representatives is an important and ancient principle. Hemming was right to include this case in his list of concerns at judicial encroachment on our relationship with our parliamentary representatives. However, even he deftly steered away from championing Ms Haigh’s actual allegations of paedophilia within her family.
How can anybody be sure of the truth of allegations that circulate on the Internet, particularly when they are championed by the sort of hysterical e-mails I have described above?
The proven facts of the Haigh case are now in the public domain, following the 22nd August 2011 judgment of Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the Family Division. (Link to full case as soon as a publicly accessible transcript is available on Bailli.)
Mr Tune, the father of Ms Haigh’s daughter, is exonerated. The judge made a point of delivering his verdict in open court – and hopefully it will receive as much publicity as the original defamatory allegations.
“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.
Sir Nicholas Wall said:
“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. 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.“
Ms Elizabeth Watson, the writer of many of the e-mails I have received, has been jailed for nine months. The Judge said of her:
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”.
Elizabeth Watson had circulated emails which ‘named and shamed’ Mr Tune as a paedophile and bitterly criticised social workers who she termed ‘social disservices’ or ‘abductees who snatched children’ and ‘tortured innocent parents’ as ‘nationwide child snatching reaching epidemic proportions’.
Sir Nicholas considered his option of ruling that Elizabeth Watson was ‘mentally ill’ but concluded that he had ‘no alternative’ but to jail her for nine months for being in contempt of court.
‘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.’
Those who continue to repeat unfounded accusations of that heinous crime of paedophilia via the Internet would be well advised to take note.
I see that John Hemming is once again under fire for ‘abusing parliamentary privilege’ by so much as mentioning Ms Haigh – it is important to remember that he did not champion her underlying allegations, but merely her right to speak to parliamentarians of matters of concern to her. That is right and proper.
Peddling opinion as to who is alleged to be a paedophile without benefit of factual evidence is not. Nor does it have anything at all to do with ‘free speech’.