Victory: mum not guilty of contempt of court

Westminster council urged judge to imprison woman for contempt of court

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent @owenbowcott

Mon 14 Jan 2019 18.12 GMTLast modified on Mon 14 Jan 2019 19.07 GMT

A woman under orders not to contact her son has been spared jail for accepting an invitation to attend a parents’ evening at his London school.

Westminster city council had urged Mr Justice Hayden to imprison the woman, who cannot currently be identified, for contempt of court in the latest twist in a long-running, contentious care case.

Christopher Poole, counsel for Westminster, told the court that the boy’s mother and father had gone to the sixth former’s parents’ evening last September in breach of the earlier court ruling.

But giving evidence to the family court, the woman pointed out there was an exemption in the order allowing her to “attend parents’ evening at the request of the school”.Advertisement

Hayden has presided over earlier hearings in the case during which he accused the mother of “bullying and bombastic” behaviour towards medical staff who were treating her son at Great Ormond Street hospital. He ruled that the parents had misreported and exaggerated the child’s medical symptoms.

The judge, who rejected an application from the mother that he recuse himself from the case because of his earlier comments, repeated the phrase “bullying and bombastic” several times during the course of the hearing on Monday.

“We were pleased to be invited [to my son’s] school,” the woman told the court. “We had not received any educational information from social services. We were thrilled that we would find out from the school how [he] is doing.”

The woman said that she was banned from contacting social services about her son’s case and could not therefore inquire whether she had been properly invited to the parent’s evening.

Asked by Poole how she felt about the fact that her husband could have contact with her son but she could not, she declined to answer.

The barrister said she had arrived at the school, “armed with a generic invite” addressed to “parent(s), carer(s)” of the child. The mother responded: “I had no doubt that this was an invitation within the order.”

But the judge ruled that the invitation from the school was “sent in error” and had been passed on by the father to his wife. The judge ordered that the clause that allowed her to accept invitations from her son’s school be removed.

The mother was supported by the organisation Legal Action for Women, which had called for a different judge to be assigned to the case.