The so-called ‘investigator’ who breached an order preventing reporting of a High Court case involving the care of a South Yorkshire child has been given a nine-month jail term by a senior judge after being found to be in contempt of court.
Elizabeth Watson had sent ‘aggressive, intimidating’ emails to council staff involved in the case which had found their way on to websites and ‘compromised the well-being’ of a child, said Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the High Court Family Division.
Sir Nicholas, sitting at a High Court hearing in London, said Watson had defaced copies of court orders with ‘childish scribblings’, ‘knew precisely what she was doing’ and ‘thought herself above the law’.
He jailed Watson - who gave her name as ‘Elizabeth of the Watson Family’ and described herself as an ‘investigator’ who was a ‘Montessori-trained teacher’ with a background in ‘child psychology’ - after revealing details of the custody battle over the child, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Watson, from Bournemouth, Dorset, told the court that she was ‘most sorry’ and suggested she had been ‘badly advised’ and ‘misguided’ after being asked to help with the custody case by the child’s mother, Victoria Haigh.
Sir Nicholas said Ms Haigh, with Watson’s ‘misguided assistance’, had then breached court orders by putting ‘unwarranted and scandalous’ allegations into the public domain via email and the internet.
Watson had sent emails which identified parties in the case and criticised social workers and police.
She had referred to ‘social disservices’ and ‘abductees’ who ‘snatched children’ and ‘tortured innocent parents’ and written about ‘nationwide child snatching reaching epidemic proportions’.
“You have seriously breached an order and seriously compromised the well-being of a child,” said the judge.
“There is no question of ‘misunderstood’. 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. That is not someone who misunderstood.”
“She knew precisely what she was doing and thought herself above the law. That will not be tolerated.”
Ms Haigh, who was not facing contempt proceedings watched proceedings from the public gallery.
The judge said Watson had argued that Doncaster Council, which has organised a care plan for the seven-year-old child, who now lives with her father - was not entitled to launch contempt proceedings.
He said she had described local authority staff as ‘deceptive’ and made a reference to the ‘worst form of terrorism’.
Sir Nicholas described her arguments as ‘simply wrong’ and ‘absolute nonsense’ and said Doncaster Council had been entitled to bring contempt proceedings if it felt a court order had been breached.
He said he had considered an option of ruling that Watson was ‘mentally ill’ but had decided against that and concluded that he had ‘no alternative’ but to jail her.