Following up on yesterday’s court proceedings, Miranda Moore QC continued with her cross-examination of Sabine McNeill.
She turned to Sabine’s police interview on 11 January 2016, following her arrest for allegedly conspiring with Neelu Berry to commit witness intimidation.
The interview was conducted by PC Betsy Davey, who informed Sabine that she had been arrested for posting witness statements relating to Neelu’s charges for having caused a disturbance at Christ Church Hampstead, in March/April 2015.
One of the people whose witness statement Sabine had posted was a parent at Christ Church Primary School, Moore pointed out; the parent’s name, and the name of their child, had appeared on the 11-page “class list document” which Sabine had published on her Whistleblower Kids blog.
That parent gave evidence at the July 2016 witness intimidation trial, describing how their life had been affected by the posting of their and their child’s personal information online.
Sabine said, “They gave their evidence behind a curtain”, adding that this way of giving evidence was “entirely new to me”.
Moore pointed out that this method of giving evidence is in fact entirely normal, which the judge in the trial had explained to Sabine at the time; it did not invalidate the witness’s testimony in any way.
Moore said that during Sabine’s police interview in January 2016, she had read from a written statement:
“I, Sabine McNeill, make this statement. While I believe I published the article in question I do not remember any details at all. I am surprised that it took the witnesses 10 months to let me know of the intimidation I caused. I am very sorry and apologise. I am also surprised that the reason for arresting me requires a surprise visit at night, even though I had informed my solicitor of the two phone calls from PC Davey. My solicitor assured me that he would arrange for the interview. I am now carrying it out without him. p.s. I closed the blog Whistleblower Kids a few days ago”.
“But you didn’t close it, did you?” Moore asked. She showed the court screenshots of the blog, demonstrating that it had been online from 2015 until it was closed for non-payment of fees in 2018.
“I beg your pardon!” said Sabine. She said she had closed the blog, but had re-opened it later.
“You re-opened it”, repeated Moore.
“I’m terribly sorry, but I am extremely confused”, Sabine said. “I swore by the Bible here, but you are confusing me. I suppose I must have reopened it, but I don’t remember when or where”.
Moore said that Sabine had closed the blog down, but had then put it back up.
“Why would you put up the Whistleblower Kids blog, when you had just apologised for intimidation and harassment?” Moore asked. “You say you took it down, but you were told by the officer about the harm you had caused, and you purported to apologise. Explain this, please”.
Sabine said that she had been in “extreme shock” following her night-time arrest. Following her arrest for harassment in August 2015, she had been told that the case was “NFA” (no further action” by police).
“And now I had these new allegations!” she said. “I run too many blogs; I could not keep track of them all”.
Moore said that she had not asked Sabine when she had re-opened the blog; she had asked why.
“There was no change in my position”, Sabine said. “I was giving a voice to the children”.
“Let’s look at the interview, since you say you can’t remember”, Moore said. She noted that PC Davey had asked Sabine whether she realised that posting the witness statements on her blog would intimidate the witnesses. Sabine had answered, “No comment”.
Davey told Sabine that those whose children’s names and addresses had been shared now felt threatened when they were out in public, and experienced this as a direct attempt to intimidate them. Sabine had answered, “No comment”.
Davey told Sabine that a witness had mentioned that their child was coming to the age where they were wanting to use the internet on their own, and that they believed it would be harmful for their child to see that their family was the subject of claims that they belonged to an abuse cult. Sabine had answered, “No comment”.
“Your website was causing people to be upset, and causing them to be subject to abuse online”, Moore said. “Are you saying you didn’t know?”
“I don’t accept what PC Davey said”, Sabine said.
Turning to the actual trial for witness intimidation, which took place in July 2016, Moore said that Judge Worsley had explained to the jury why he had stopped the case. He had explained that at the end of the prosecution’s case, it had become apparent that there was not sufficient evidence to convict the defendants on charges of conspiring to commit witness intimidation.
However, Judge Worsley had said that he would put in place a “firm restraining order against each defendant to stop such appalling harassment as I am sure they have caused”.
He said that while insufficient evidence existed to show a positive intent to intimidate witnesses, “one thing we know is that this is not a normal situation”. He said the matter involves “a degree of irrationality of those who are obsessed” despite the High Court judgment which forms the background to the case.
“This is just another part of the campaign”, Judge Worsley said, noting that people’s personal information had been put repeatedly in the public domain, in a campaign run for months”. He agreed with Mrs Justice Pauffley’s assessment that this was “terrible and appalling”.
Judge Worsley also said there was no doubt that those whose information had been put on the Whistleblower Kids blog had experienced intimidation, fright, and terror, dating to the point when their information had been put on the blog. Given this, he expressed his intention to create a “strong, determined restraining order”, punishable by up to five years in prison, to put an end to the campaign.
Moore said Sabine had not accepted that the witnesses in that case had been harassed. However, she asked, did she accept the testimony from the witnesses in the witness box? Had they cried?
“I don’t remember”, said Sabine.
“What did you hear from those witnesses?” Moore asked.
“They were behind a curtain”, Sabine said. “They were not very audible”. She added that she had been publishing the case in the interest of public opinion and public interest. “I did not consider a small group of parents. I did not intend to intimidate anyone”.
Moore pointed out that PC Davey, Judge Worsley, and the witnesses in that case had all told Sabine about the effects of her actions. “And yet you ignored them”, she said.
Sabine said, “There was a state of mind. My first arrest was NFA, and the second was appended to that”. She said it had been stupid to publish Neelu’s witness statements, but that Neelu had been traumatised by the loss of her niece.
“At what point did you realise the effects of your actions?” Moore asked.
“At this trial”, said Sabine.
“Even when you were told by the judge?”
“Well excuse me”, Sabine said. “I am differently impacted by interactions which are face-to-face, and interactions which are online”.
“I would suggest that from the safety of Germany, you targeted the children on this list”, Moore said. “That’s what you did, isn’t it?”
“No”, said Sabine.
Moore said that the “To Do List” on the Whistleblower Kids blog included amongst its “actions” lobbying for the prosecution of parents named in the 11-page document based on the class list.
“Well, plus 20 police officers”, Sabine said.
“At the time, you were asking for the prosecution of 20 parents”, said Moore.
“It reads like that, yeah”.
Moore said that as part of the online actions suggested on that list, Sabine had included “redirecting people to your site, where the details were available”.
“Not just mine”, said Sabine.
Four million people saw the videos of P and Q, Moore said. She pointed out that on the To-Do List, Sabine had also written that people should “join groups on Facebook, even though they may get banned and deleted; promote petitions; write comments and educate the sceptics; and use your emotions to fuel your creative actions and net activities! The sky is the limit!”
“I was preaching to the converted”, said Sabine. “I was writing to those who believed the children”. She said that she had seen too many children removed from “loving parents”, and that it had never occurred to her before that this could be part of some sort of organised form of child sexual abuse.
“In the video ‘Strategising with Sabine’, you say you want to get all 20 children”, said Moore.
“No, I wanted them to be heard”, said Sabine.
“You suggested that the 20 children should be taken and examined in a full police inquiry”, Moore pointed out.
“No, I wanted them to look for distinguishing marks the children had mentioned”, Sabine said. “The petition to have this happen was set up by someone else, whereas I was concerned that children who had suffered would be heard”.
Moore said that the “To-Do List” also told offline activists to get involved in physical research and investigations of the people and places mentioned in the 11-page document, who where alleged to be abusers.
“What does this mean?” she asked. “Tell us”.
Sabine said that a person she knew who lived near the church and school in Hampstead had seen construction taking place at the church “but it was not kosher”.
“But even when it turned out that the secret rooms in the church didn’t exist, you still promoted this”, Moore said.
“I will always believe what the children said”, Sabine answered.
Moore asked Sabine why she had praised people for taking actions such as making videos about the parents of the 20 children.
“I was not alone”, said Sabine. “I was grateful for their support”.
“Never mind grateful, did you praise them?” Moore asked.
“Yes”, said Sabine.
“There was more on Whistleblower Kids“, said Moore. “‘Extreme situations require extreme actions’—that was your call to action”. She pointed out that Sabine was publishing this material from the safety of Germany, where she was safe from the UK police.
“There was a European Arrest Warrant for me”, Sabine said. “I was afraid”.
“But it didn’t exist”, Moore said.
She pointed out that Sabine had thanked others, such as Code2222’s YouTube playlist. “You said you were grateful to have a place to publish”.
“Google had taken my videos down”, Sabine said.
“You were grateful because you knew that the videos would be taken down by people who wanted to get rid of this rubbish”, Moore said.
“For me, it was not rubbish”.
Moore pointed out that of the four million views of the P and Q videos, at least a proportion would have come from paedophiles.
“That was not in my realm of understanding”, said Sabine.
Moore noted that Sabine had praised the blog Hampstead Research for their work.
“I thought it very amazing what they had found”, Sabine said.
“Very amazing”, said Moore. “Whistleblower Kids was linking to Hampstead Research“. The linked video featured a profile of a parent from the class list, with details about that parent’s business interests, as well as images of their child. The video referenced the parent sodomising babies and dancing around with skulls.
“That was not my blog”, said Sabine.
“It was not yours, but you published the link to it”, said Moore.
“They did 21 videos, I cannot remember them all”.
“But you thought it was excellent work”, said Moore.
“I thought it was excellent, yeah, as a whole”.
Moore said that after the restraining order in July 2016, Sabine had become aware that one of the parents had reported a breach to police. Sabine said she thought this person was a police officer.
“What’s that got to do with it?” Moore asked.
“I was biased against police”, said Sabine.
Moore said that when Sabine saw that this person had been alerting police to her activities, specifically about Sabine’s post to a German blog which constituted a breach of the restraining order, Sabine’s response was to talk in an email about “finding as much dirt as you can” on them.
“Yes, I thought they were a police officer”. Sabine said that she had heard this from one of the police officers involved in her arrest.
“I would suggest that was not the case”, Moore said.
“I don’t think I picked that out of the air”, said Sabine.
Moore asked, “How did you go about finding that dirt?”
“Well I didn’t, did I?” said Sabine.
“You said you were going to”, Moore said. “What were you going to find?”
“I was going to confirm they were a police officer”.
Moore said that during the “German breach”, Sabine had made no comment to the questions put by the officer who interviewed her. “The judge took the view that because the link had come about by discussion on a forum, it was a ‘technical breach'”.
However, the judge highlighted during his sentencing remarks that technical links could cause Sabine future problems, Moore said.
Sabine responded that her understanding had evolved, and that she was no longer in touch with Ella Draper. In addition, she said, “I had been victimised and traumatised to the point where I could scream about it”. Her pension had been stopped, she said. “And once again I ask myself, who was first?”
Following a brief break, Moore read out the terms of Sabine’s restraining order, focusing on item #3:
Not to make public in any way, including on the internet by any blog or otherwise including by re-publication of material already made public before the making of this order;
(A) Anything relating to any persons set out in paragraph 1 above;
(B) Any allegations of cannibalism, sexual child abuse, or satanism, at any time at or in relation to Christ Church, or Christ Church Primary School.
“After the German problem, you took no steps to take down the Whistleblower Kids site”, Moore said.
“I was not asked to”, said Sabine.
“Did you take it down?”
“What about your Google Drive?”
“You have a good knowledge of the internet”, Moore said. And yet, she said, Sabine had decided to edit a post on the Whistleblower Kids site because of a typing error.
“That was one post”, said Sabine.
Moore pointed out that on WordPress’s guide to using the “Publicise” function, it says there is a button which shows on each post, to enable the poster to disable sharing to Twitter, Facebook, and so forth.
“You can disable it”, she said. “It would have been very easy to make sure that Whistleblower Kids didn’t publish.
“I edited one typo”, said Sabine. “I could not expect that Facebook would publish the post”.
Moore paused in mid-question. “Do you find this funny?” she asked.
“I find it funny that correcting a typo would cause publication”, Sabine said.
“You do understand what ‘not to make public in any way’ means?”
“I had not ‘made public'”, said Sabine. “That was material that was already published!”
“No, no, no”, said Moore. “That was made clear by your own barrister. “You were publishing. That’s what you were doing”.
“Not in my understanding”, said Sabine.
Moore said the judge had made it clear that publishing again was a violation of the order.
“I am sorry,” said Sabine. “That is not how I understood it”.
“Yes, sending a tweet to say ‘here, look at this'” was a violation, Moore said.
“No!” Sabine said. “You are connecting link to link to link!”
“But you know that if you post something saying, ‘Hey, look at this’…”
“‘Re-publication’ means printing a new post”, Sabine said.
Moore asked her about her arrest in November 2016.
“I don’t remember”, said Sabine.
“Oh, I can remind you”, said Moore.
“I’m terribly sorry, the experience of the arrest was such that…”
“On 4 November 2016 you were arrested for two breaches of the restraining order”, Moore said. “PC Davey reminded you of the terms of the order”.
At the interview, Sabine had read a statement in which she said she had tried to keep to the terms of the restraining order. Following this, she had given a “no comment” interview.
Once again, Moore read through the questions asked, including:
- Are you aware that there are links from your blog to other pages regarding Christ Church Hampstead?’
- Are you aware that this is in breach of your restraining order?
“Let’s see if you accept this”, Moore said. “Everything on the Whistleblower Kids blog was in breach of the restraining order”.
“No!” said Sabine. “It was all published before!” She said that when she had edited that previous post, it had only published to Facebook because it was a new Facebook page.
“You had 70 blogs”, Moore said. “Why not publish on one of them?”
“I am a publisher”, said Sabine. “I wanted people to see”.
“You wanted them to see it again”, said Moore.
“No, it had already been seen”.
“You don’t think that’s a breach, even though you were told by a police officer and the courts?”
“Even though when you do it, you are arrested?”
“Even though you end up in prison? That should have been a clue”.
“I don’t remember why it first happened”, Sabine said. “It was the trauma. And hearing from [the witness in this trial] made more impact now than hearing from [the witness in the previous trial] behind the curtain”.
“By the time you attended Synod, you had your computer”, Moore said.
“Yes, but no internet”.
“But you had access to information somewhere”, Moore said. “Was it on a hard drive?”
“If you are trying to imply that I was online…”
“No”, said Moore. “I’m not saying that….You typed that document out. Do you accept that if you had published it, the material in that document would have been in breach of the restraining order?”
“No, it was not public”, said Sabine. “It was private”.
“I am asking whether the contents of the document, if they had been made public, would have been a breach”.
“But the restraining order prevented me from re-publishing”.
“No”, said Moore. “It makes it clear: publishing or re-publishing. It is very plain. So, knowing that, do you agree that the contents of that document offend the restraining order?”
“I’m feeling like what the police said, it was strange”, Sabine said. “You have no idea what’s in my head. You don’t understand how I think”.
“You had solicitors at your police interviews”, said Moore. “You had a barrister at court. Did he take the time to explain what the restraining order meant? He was very very worried”.
“I understood it there and then”, said Sabine. “After that experience that was very very unfamiliar to me—what could I do? Where could I go? To turn and twist that into a breach of the restraining order I find difficult to accept”.
“‘Making public’ means ‘handing that document to five people at Synod'”, Moore said.
“That’s making it public! After speaking in private?”
“But you don’t know Julian Whiting”, Moore pointed out.
“We had a conversation”.
“You don’t know Heather Reed”.
“We had a conversation”.
“You don’t know the Bishop of Bath and Wells”.
“We had a very important conversation…”
“The Bishop said that you gave him an A5 document, which you said had been given out only by Jake Clarke”.
“I am trying to remember”, said Sabine. “I don’t believe I gave him a document”.
“What I would like to know is why you took so many copies”, said Moore.
“I went into my office. I didn’t count them, I just put them in my rucksack”, said Sabine. “I didn’t prepare anything”.
“You told the jury you wanted core participant status at the IICSA”, said Moore.
Sabine said that the person who had suggested she go to Synod had said she could meet two solicitors who might be able to help her.
“You applied to the IICSA after the restraining order”, said Moore.
Sabine said that this had nothing to do with the order.
Pointing out that Sabine had not registered with the IICSA until September 2017, Moore said, “What did you think you could do to help the IICSA? You have no children, and no experience with children’s evidence. You have no professional training in the area of child sexual abuse. You were going to talk about Hampstead”.
“I was going to talk about being a whistleblower!” Sabine said she had been registered with the Inquiry for some time before she applied for core status.
“There is absolutely nothing saying that you registered prior to September”, Moore said.
“I can’t help that”, said Sabine. “Take it up with the IICSA!”
“You are very good on the computer”, said Moore. “You could have asked them about your status. I am challenging your suggestion that you had a legitimate reason for publishing about Hampstead”.
“Ab-so-lute-ly not!” said Sabine. “My question was only about my whistleblower status. It was an online form, I don’t have any copy”.
“You were refused, but you didn’t get the notice”, said Moore. “Was that before Synod?”
“Yes!” said Sabine. “Oh wait…was it?”
“So before you went to Synod…”
“No, it couldn’t have been”, said Sabine. “The police have my phone. They could check when I talked to my solicitor”.
“After Synod, your bail restrictions were more stringent”, said Moore, moving on to discussion of the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) helpline. “You said you wanted pastoral care, but then you said you wanted an investigation into a particular priest at a particular church”.
“After Synod?” asked Sabine.
“After Synod. This was on 3 March, after your new bail conditions”.
Sabine said she had rung Julian Whiting.
“Yes, you rang Whiting, and he rang Stevens”, Moore said.
“It was Julian who said ‘You need pastoral care'”, Sabine said.
“Susan Stevens gave evidence about your phone call”, Moore said. “You did not say anything about pastoral care, did you?”
“No, Julian did that”.
“You did not say you needed pastoral counselling”, said Moore. “You discussed a church and a priest”.
“Not at all!”
Moore said that Stevens testified that she had received a call on the helpline from Sabine, who was ‘happy for me to share this information with you’. “You had shared some information, and you had named a priest”, she said.
“She asked me for that information”, said Sabine. “I was giving some context for pastoral care”.
“Did you ask for pastoral care at all?”
Sabine said Stevens already knew that this was the purpose of her call.
“So why didn’t you talk about it?”
“Because my one concern was how does this one church relate to the 3,300 churches in the Church of England”, Sabine said.
“You called her deliberately to tell her about a particular priest”, said Moore.
“You already knew you had no core status with the IICSA”.
“I am extremely sorry to completely disagree with that”, Sabine said.
“When you were putting up medical evidence about P and Q, how was that helping them?” Moore asked.
“Because it was proof that they were right!”
“They will never be able to escape the filth you put online”.
“I did not put up filth!” said Sabine.
“Really?” said Moore. “I have no further questions”.
Tana Adkin QC asked Sabine to clarify whether she had put up the Change.org site on 21 January 2015. Sabine said she had.
Adkin asked about the nature of Sabine’s contact with Ella Draper. Sabine said Ella had phoned and that they had met in person.
“Was this daily? By email and phone?” Adkin asked. Sabine confirmed this.
“It has been suggested that on 8 February 2015, Ella sent you a letter to ask for her material back, and cutting contact with you. Did she give you that material?”
Sabine said Ella had given it to her on 26 January.
“You responded saying you were miffed, and that she didn’t appreciate your efforts”, Adkin said. “By 8 February had the material begun to make a viral reaction online?”
“Yes”, said Sabine.
“Was this your last contact with Ella?”
“No, that was on 8 June”, said Sabine.
“What was her attitude then?”
“She was very happy”, said Sabine. “I wanted her to have my solicitor”.
Adkin asked Sabine whether she remembered being upset by a nasty comment regarding the Barbie doll plan.
“I don’t remember”, said Sabine.
“Was there one comment? More than one?”
Sabine said that this was a person who had had his 12-year-old child removed from his care.
“You took down the post?”
“I took down the whole site”.
Moore interrupted, stating that this was not a re-examination or clarification in any way. The jury was sent out while the barristers and judge discussed a point of procedure.
When the jury returned, Adkin resumed her re-examination.
“Was your NFA in 2015 or 2016?” she asked. Sabine said that it had been in 2015.
“On 11 January 2016 at your police interview, you were asked about the Neelu Berry evidence”, Adkin said. “Where was this stored on your computer?”
“It was a two-page PDF”, Sabine said. “It would be on the hard drive or possibly the Google Drive. Neelu Berry sent it to me. I would save it to the library of the blog, and access it through Whistleblower Kids“.
“When you were arrested, were the statements till on the Whistleblower Kids site?”
“I think I took them off, but I don’t remember exactly when”.
“The ‘To-Do List'”, Adkin said. “When was that created?”
“In the beginning”, Sabine said. “I had a campaign in mind quite early”.
“Where on the site is it located?”
“It’s on the menu of pages”, Sabine said.
“Is that the banner at the top?”
Adkin said she had no further questions.
Court adjourned for the day. Tomorrow, the barristers and judge will meet to consider legal questions, in preparation for Monday, when prosecution and defence will make their closing statements. While the public is permitted to attend tomorrow’s session, in the absence of the jury no reporting will be permitted.