By Christopher Booker
Using parliamentary privilege, John Hemming MP has named renowned jockey and trainer Vicky Haigh as the woman threatened with imprisonment for speaking to him, writes Christopher Booker.
Last week brought two further startling developments in a story I reported a fortnight ago, concerning a heavily pregnant mother summoned at very short notice to the London High Court to show why she should not be imprisoned. Among the charges against her were that she had spoken at a meeting in Parliament convened by the All Party Group of MPs on family law related issues.
On Tuesday, the convenor of that meeting, John Hemming MP, who has been at the centre of the much-publicised campaign against excessive court secrecy and “super-injunctions”, used parliamentary privilege to name the mother on the floor of the House, which is why it can now be reported. On a point of order, he referred to “Vicky Haigh, a horse trainer and former jockey” as the subject of “an attempt by Doncaster council to imprison her for speaking at a meeting in Parliament”.
We can still say nothing about the case which led to the increasingly controversial order Miss Haigh was alleged to have breached. But it may be added that her successes as a trainer and a jockey have made her very well-known in the racing world.
The other new twist to this story, which I can also report because it is a wholly different case, not yet the subject of legal proceedings, is that last week Miss Haigh took flight from Britain to Ireland, because she had apparently been forewarned that the social services of another local authority, Nottinghamshire, were planning to seize her baby when it is born in two weeks’ time. Her new child is by a partner with whom she has lived happily for six years, as a loved stepmother to his three children. They were all much looking forward to the new addition to the family.
It is hard to imagine the ordeals to which this prospective mother has been subjected in the final stages of her pregnancy, which, as I reported earlier, included being arrested and held for much of 65 hours in fetid police cells. Three times she had to be rushed to hospital because of complications with her pregnancy, but each time the police took her back to the cells. They finally released her, exhausted, three days after her arrest.
In escaping abroad to evade England’s “family protection” system, Miss Haigh is following the example of an increasing number of parents desperate to avoid their loved children being seized. Dozens of others have fled, often at great personal cost, to foreign jurisdictions such as Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Uganda or northern Cyprus (though councils have been known to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money trying to get the children back).
The excuse social workers increasingly favour to justify seizing newborn babies from parents is that the child might be “at risk of emotional abuse”. This is an innuendo so vague and emotive that it can be made – and too often accepted by judges – without social workers having to produce any evidence that can be proved or disproved. “Emotional abuse” is now used in more than 50 per cent of cases where children are taken into care.