July 14 2024
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Mother who used trial to ‘expose failures’ in justice system sent back to jail

Mother who used trial to ‘expose failures’ in justice system sent back to jail

Old Bailey: the central criminal court of England and Wales

A mother who claimed she got herself arrested so she could use the forum of a public trial to expose failures in the justice system has been found guilty of 12 counts of breaching a restraining order without a reasonable excuse. Hannah Summers reports

The woman was convicted after repeatedly making posts on social media which alluded to allegations that her ex husband had sexually abused their daughter.  She claimed she breached the order so she could tell a jury the family court had been wrong to remove her children a decade earlier and instead place them with her ex husband who she alleged had been inappropriately touching their then five-year-old.

During a three-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court her daughter, now 18,  was called to give evidence and told the jury she was sexually abused by her father.

But prosecuting the case Joe Hedworth said she had been brainwashed by her vindictive mother who had made the “wicked posts” as part of a campaign to destroy the father. Judge Christopher Prince told the jury: “In this case the defendant was made subject to a restraining order not to do certain things. She did do certain things and the defence in this case was that she had a reasonable excuse to do so.”

The court heard the woman’s ex-husband was alerted in November 2021 to a post she’d made on Twitter four months earlier which read: “My children are being abused right now. Nobody would help.” Attached were images of pencil drawings, shown to the jury.

Hedworth told the court: “The post was forwarded to [her ex] and he immediately recognised the pictures that had been used in earlier legal proceedings in 2009 to allege that he had sexually abused their daughter. He was never convicted of any criminal offence in relation to their daughter. The prosecution offered no evidence at an early stage after the initial investigation.”

The defendant was arrested in December 2021 and questioned over the post and other comments she’d made in breach of a restraining order prohibiting her from referencing the allegations. In one of 12 posts highlighted to the court she wrote: “Why are my children still living with our abuser and I’ve been alienated for years?” And on Facebook she posted: “Strange there is no outrage when abused, innocent, protective mothers are locked up and the abusers get custody of their victims.”

Hedworth told the court: “She held no genuine belief or otherwise that her ex was a paedophile. She made those posts in an utterly spiteful and vindictive manner.”

In a witness statement the man said he was a long-standing victim of domestic abuse at the hands of the defendant – a claim she later told the court was “a lie”.

Giving evidence she said that in June 2009, six months after her husband left her, her daughter made accusations that he had been inappropriately touching her. The daughter repeated the allegations to a GP and was referred for counselling, the court heard. The defence barrister Matthew Hopkins led the jury through drawings by the child and submitted as evidence. One read: “Dad upset me. I am sad.” While her father was subsequently charged in relation to the allegations, the CPS offered no evidence and not guilty verdicts were entered by the court.

Following a fact-finding hearing in the family court, the daughter was removed from her mother’s care and transferred to live with her father along with her half-brother. It was after that, Hedworth told the jury that “the defendant commenced a campaign to destroy [the man’s] life.” She went on to be repeatedly convicted and imprisoned for breaching court orders that prohibited her from posting material online about or alluding to him.

Asked by Hopkins why she posted the messages she said: “Because I was fearful and terrified of my children being hurt and worried about their safety.” She said she had been “striving for years” to expose the failures of the child protection system adding: “I have been imprisoned and punished for daring to speak out. I’ve been put on remand in prison for up to six months. I had to plead guilty to get out,”

Judge Prince asked her: “So in the past you have plead guilty to doing things without a reasonable excuse.”

“Yes, as a last resort,” she replied. “ Mothers are accused of lying by the abuser and a court order is used to control and silence. Instead of being protected we are further abused, victim-blamed, threatened and ignored.”

“The question was how each of those breaches was going to achieve those aims,” asked the judge. The mother replied: “It’s got me back in court today so I could tell you everything. It was my only way of having a voice.” Asked if she posted the material with the intention of being arrested and put on trial she said “yes”.

She explained she had made the posts prior to August 2021 when her daughter, at the age of 17, returned to live with her.  “I was looking for somebody to reopen my case and for my children to come back home to me,” she told the court. She added she hoped to expose “injustices in the family court and criminal court”.

Giving evidence, the woman’s daughter wiped away tears as she told the court her father had sexually abused her. The teenager added that she left her father’s in August 2001  because she “wasn’t happy there”.

She said she remembered drawing the illustrations and denied under cross-examination -that her mother had brainwashed her or put her up to making the pictures.

In his closing argument Hedworth said: “The defendant is simply not capable of telling the truth… her police interview contained one lie after another and her evidence, similarly said the Crown, was a pack of lies. Does the defendant essentially have carte blanche to breach the orders of this court because she disagrees with the decision of another court?”

However Hopkins asked: “If the Crown, the police had found evidence that [she] had put her daughter up to it, why not show it to you in this trial? Do you really think that this woman for the last decade has been repeatedly breaching this order, getting sent to prison over and over again just out of spite because she doesn’t like this man? Is it not more likely the reason she is willing to keep coming back to court is because she genuinely believes that what her daughter told her is the truth?”

Closing his speech, he added: “Since 2009 [she] has been dismissed and turned down – by courts, professionals and by the authorities. What I’m asking you to do is something different… to believe her.”

But after just one hour of deliberation the jury returned verdicts of guilty on all 12 counts. The woman was refused bail and will be sentenced in June. She shouted, “I love you, darling” to her sobbing daughter as she was led away.

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