As you’ll likely recall from Monday’s post, Belinda McKenzie and Sabine McNeill are due in court on Tuesday, but not to answer charges about Hoaxtead. They’ll be facing charges related to yet another botched case, concerning a lady named Melissa Laird.
Sabine and I have to be in the High Court/Admin Court on Tuesday 1st December in connection our McKenzie Friend work on behalf Melissa Laird, another fighting mum whose son was seized by Barnet Council in 2012…We face a £2000 fine for incurring excessive legal costs. But we fear those could have been compounded by now, if the hand of a certain other judge is in the case by now. So anything could happen, including our being arrested and carted off at the end of the hearing. It will be an open hearing so if anyone can be with us in the public gallery that will be much appreciated – if you email me I’ll let you know the court and time.
According to supporter Christopher Booker, columnist for The Telegraph, Ms Laird’s child was stolen from her by an uncaring state, following which she was deported, then “dumped in a wheelchair at Washington airport by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), after serving 21 months in Holloway Prison for “abducting” her son to Spain to prevent him being seized on the flimsiest excuse by Barnet social workers”.
This version leaves out a great deal of detail, including the fact that Ms Laird had gone by at least 4 aliases by the time her case reached Her Honour Judge Mayer in March 2012:
Although throughout the proceedings she claimed to have been Irish and brought up on a farm in Ireland, it is now formally confirmed through the American Embassy that she was born in the USA and is therefore an American citizen….The name and identity of (one of her identities) came from stolen documents of a lady by that name.
But the mother’s habitual lying and confabulation was just the beginning. Ms Laird’s son was undernourished, had unexplained bruising, and showed signs of serious problems including lack of affection and neglect. He had a severe speech disorder, though his mother insisted he could speak 4 languages fluently. Having promised to attend speech therapy, the mother failed to do so after one session. The little boy was also bitten by the dogs his mother kept, despite an order dating back to 2005 that prohibited her from owning animals.
Following a long history of attempted interventions by Social Services and the Family Court, Ms Laird fled the country for Spain on the date she was meant to be in court. She was eventually tracked down living with her son and several dogs in a caravan attached to a car. She was arrested and extradited back to the UK on charges of kidnapping, and her son was taken into care.
The situation went from weird to weirder, with Ms Laird denying that she was who the court said she was, and refusing to appear in court when ordered to do so. She also insisted that her son was not the person the court thought he was, and that this was all a case of mistaken identity, and nothing to do with her.
Ultimately, Ms Laird was imprisoned at HMP Holloway, then deported to the U.S. Here’s how Sabine describes the issue of the £2,000 fine for ‘excessive legal costs’:
The possibility of having to pay ‘costs’ incurred by a private barrister employed by the Treasury Solicitor’s Office had NOT occurred to me when I began visiting Melissa Laird in HMP Holloway and listened to her horrific experiences – thanks to Gloria Musa who had been taken there in December 2011.
Just pointing out: Ms Laird was referred to Belinda and Sabine by Gloria Musa, who was imprisoned for subjecting her own children to what amounted to torture. ‘Nuff said.
At some stage a ‘form of authority’ was required before lawyers would talk to us.
When a barrister brought in by CPT Solicitors who had advised Melissa to plead ‘guilty’ for abducting her own child, I paid the fee to lodge a Judicial Review which, however, was refused.
At that point, the barrister did not want to go any further. I guess he knew about the risk of ‘costs’ which I did not.
Excuse us, but isn’t one of the jobs of a McKenzie Friend to be knowledgeable about points of procedure like this? Just saying.
The Treasury Solicitors Office supposedly incurred ‘wasted costs’ to defend their reasons for deporting Melissa Laird on 12 September 2013 – without her having had an oral hearing:
*advised by John Hemming MP, she did not have the opportunity to exercise her rights of appeal, given the appallingly restrictive conditions in HMP Holloway;
*advised by the Senior Legal Manager Martyn Cowlin in the Administrative Court Office, she needed “the substance of her case” to be heard – in accordance with case law.
…aaaaaaand John Hemming was involved. Somehow we knew that was going to happen.
‘Costs’ incurred now cover supposedly £4, of which we are ordered to pay £2,000 – only because the Admin Court insisted in antiquated ISDN technology that Melissa couldn’t find in the US to represent herself.
If anyone happens to know what Sabine is talking about here, could they please let us know?
Now, we should point out here that we’re not in favour of the current practice of imposing penalties for excessive court fees, as we feel it can prevent innocent people from pursuing justice, and creates a two-tiered brand of justice that can only lead to a deterioration of the system.
That said, in this particular case, it couldn’t happen to two lovelier women. Next Tuesday should be most interesting indeed.