Sabine McNeill’s trial on 17 counts of breaching a restraining order and four counts of stalking continued today at Southwark Crown Court.
Standard legal directions
HHJ Sally Cahill QC addressed the jury, noting the differing functions of judge and jury in a trial.
“I decide the law”, she said, which the jury must accept and apply to the charges before them. She said she had prepared a document which sets out what the jury must understand about the laws relevant to the case—”an aide-memoire on what the law is”.
She told the jury that as they read through the 21 charges on the indictment, they each must ask themselves, “Am I sure?” The role of the Crown here is to prove the case so that the jury is sure, she said.
To prove harassment, the jury must find that the defendant has pursued a course of conduct, that is, a series of unrelated acts, which must be related in time. The further apart these acts are, the less likely that they fulfill the definition of harassment.
The acts must be improper, oppressive, and must be calculated to cause alarm or distress, Judge Cahill said; that is, the jury must be sure that the defendant was aiming the acts at the complainants.
“To target a readily identifiable group is to target the members of that group”, she emphasised.
To find that stalking occurred, the jury must find that the actions of the defendant caused serious alarm or distress, and that the defendant “knew or ought to have known” that her actions would have such an effect. Judge Cahill said that the question to ask to determine whether Sabine “ought to have known” is, “Would a reasonable person with the same information understand this?”
If the jury finds that the defendant’s actions were undertaken to detect or prevent a crime, or that her course of conduct was reasonable, then this should lead them to acquit her on that charge. In addition, said Judge Cahill, rational behaviour is that which is undertaken in good faith, which is logical, and where there is an absence of arbitrariness.
“You must consider each charge rationally”, she said, “not taking account of characteristics such as age”.
Looking at charges 1–4 on the indictment—that is, the four charges of stalking—Judge Cahill told the jury that they must consider:
- Whether Sabine has definitely engaged in a course of conduct amounting to harassment;
- Whether this harassment amounts to stalking;
- Whether the stalking caused serious alarm or distress;
- Whether she knew or ought to have known that her behaviour would cause such alarm or distress;
- Whether it was more likely than not that her behaviour was for the purpose of detecting or preventing a crime; and
- Whether her behaviour was reasonable.
Regarding charges 5–21, said Judge Cahill, there is no dispute that HHJ Worsley had put the restraining order in place on 18 July 2016.
“We have had an explanation of why and how it was imposed”, she said, noting that there is no doubt that material was in breach of the order. “You need to consider: did she make it public?”
Regarding Count 20, she said, there is no doubt that the material Sabine shared at Synod violated the restraining order, but the jury must decide whether sharing it with the individuals she did amounts to making the allegations public.
Similarly, on Count 21, there is no doubt that Sabine mentioned a person whom she is prohibited from discussing publicly. What the jury must decide is whether contacting the helpline constituted an attempt to publicise that person’s name.
Prosecution closing speech
Miranda Moore QC told the jury, “I suspect that when you first heard the explanation of what this case was about, your jaws dropped, and you asked yourselves, ‘How can this possibly be?’….You have lived with this case for three weeks. The witnesses have lived with it for four years“.
She described Sabine as “dishonest, untrustworthy, and manipulative”, noting that she had imposed herself on the Hampstead matter: “She wants involvement, even when her involvement is not wanted; she wants followers”.
Moore expressed anger and disbelief that anyone with Sabine’s intellect could do what she has done. “Where is her compassion for the two children she claims to shed tears for?” she asked.
“The court has no room for emotion”, Moore said. “I will walk you through the evidence in a calm, rational manner”. She added that the jury faces a difficult task, as there are so many counts on the indictment. “However, it’s also an easy task, because the overwhelming evidence is that she did these things”.
While the jury has a duty to consider what Sabine said while giving her evidence, it is not difficult to reject it, Moore said.
She noted that red herrings were raised, such as the claim that the prosecution had concealed certain evidence—such as the P & Q videos—from the jury. However, had Ms Adkin wished the jury to see this material, “you would have seen it”.
Moore noted that Sabine dropped certain names—an MP, an MEP, an expert—but the jury has seen no evidence that what she has said is true. “That is for her to show”, she said.
“The prosecution is not part of a Satanic coven”, Moore said. “And nor is DC Steve Martin”. It was “unluck of the draw” that he happened to be on duty the night when P & Q were brought in to be interviewed.
“Normally I would need to ask you to consider each witness you have seen”, said Moore, “but this time I don’t have to do that. There has been little actual challenge to what the witnesses have said, so you can take it as read”.
She noted that in the jurors’ bundles, there is a blank calendar, and suggested that if the jurors were to use coloured pens to put a “blob” on each day when an action relating to a count occurred, they would find that the result would be overwhelming.
Referring to Count 1a, Moore said that Sabine had made available the videos as well as the witness’s personal contact details.
“The documents in which these were set out went through multiple additions”, she said. They were made available on Whistleblower Kids as well as on Sabine’s Google Drive in various iterations.
“We don’t have to consider whether this amounts to a course of conduct”, she said. “There is no disputing it”.
Nor, she said, is there any dispute that people suffered serious alarm and distress.
“Were they targeted? Yes. Online publications were directed at them”. Moore noted that Sabine has said she was sorry for the distress caused to “innocent parents”, but on the other hand, she has continued to state that she still believes the allegations about the Hampstead community to be true.
“She claims that she is only doing what’s right, believing the children”, Moore said. “But compare her crying in the witness box with what she has said online. For example, she said she wanted to ‘dig up dirt’ on [one of the witnesses], and she refers to [two other witnesses] as ‘abusers'”.
“She wrote an email to Neelu Berry saying she ‘wishes she’d kill [one of the witnesses]'”, and continued to blame [one witness] even when she was told that Abraham Christie had done the same thing to another family”, Moore said.
She cited a February 2015 comment on Sabine’s Victims Unite blog by a person named Chantelle:
Abraham Christie is the man who filmed these poor children as I know. (H)e was my stepdad from hell who abused me and my brothers and sisters and made my brother LIE to social services back in the nineties, saying my dad was an abuser which was a lie. (H)e destroyed our lives, took all of my mother’s money, and this disgusts me that he is doing this all over again but worse.
Sabine’s response was to brush off Chantelle’s words.
“She simply will not listen”, Moore said. “She has said that only now does she appreciate the effect of her actions on others”. However, she doesn’t feel that she should remove material from her website or her Google Drive. “When asked why she didn’t post on one of her other 70 sites, she said, ‘I see myself as a publisher with a certain obligation to my followers'”.
Moore said it’s not true that Sabine didn’t know what she was doing, and her actions were certainly not done to prevent or detect a crime: “Sabine McNeill was feeding on having followers”, she said.
The 11-page document listing the alleged cult members is revealing, said Moore: not only does it contain bizarre allegations attacking specific people, but it goes into detail about the “special parents of the 20 special children”.
“If you read for a moment”, Moore said, “what effect would you think this would have on people?”
Furthermore, Sabine had no right to this information. “The court asked her to give it up in January 2015,” she said. “By February, Ella Draper was asking her to stop. Sabine’s response? ‘I’m feeling a bit miffed'”.
She came into the material in the first place because of her “special relationship” with Ella Draper.
“McKenzie friends are meant to help people who cannot get legal aid. They assist people in getting their facts ordered and their voices heard in court”, Moore said. “They should respect their clients’ confidentiality”. She said Sabine’s excuse was that Ella wasn’t paying her: “If she’s not paying, I’ll do what I want”.
Publishing this type of material—photos of innocent children—not only breached the confidentiality of P and Q, but violated the privacy of the other children whose photos and identities were put online.
With Sabine saying, “Those children need rescuing”, it’s hardly surprising that the witnesses’ children live in fear, Moore said.
She said the jury must also look at the other documents people published, which Sabine publicised. For example, she noted the series of 20 videos made by Charlotte Ward/”Jacqui Farmer”, in which people’s online information was mined in order to create videos insinuating guilt.
“Adding ‘allegedly’ doesn’t make it all right”, Moore said. “But the defendant called this ‘excellent research’, praising this intrusive material”. She noted that teachers who went to a pub together on a Friday night were accused of belonging to a Satanic cult—as though this were abnormal behaviour.
“Look at all the times she was told of the effects of her actions”, Moore said, noting that the first to warn Sabine was Mrs Justice Pauffley in March 2015. “And after her arrest in August 2015, there was another warning. The arresting officer told Sabine that her allegations were so serious, that the witnesses felt their lives might be in danger. ‘No comment’.”
The officer pointed out that Sabine had named children, parents, teachers, priests…”‘Can you see why they are concerned?’ ‘No comment'”. Asked whether she could understand the inflammatory nature of the allegations, Sabine again responded, “No comment”.
Moore said that despite the collapse of Sabine and Neelu’s case in 2016, Judge Worsley had made his feelings about the evidence very plain: he said that while he had to acquit them on the charges brought, “I have heard what you have done, and I have seen the effects. I will do my utmost to stop it”. As he was unable to impose a sentence, he imposed a strong, clear restraining order.
In addition, it’s clear that P and Q did not go into the detail claimed in Sabine’s “class list’ document”: “Any educated person would know there is no doubt that it didn’t come from the children”, said Moore. “Sabine claimed she thought the contacts had come from the children while they were in Morocco, but the children would not have known all the details of a class list. A moment’s look will tell you that it’s a class list. The details are absolute fantasy—she must have known that a lot of the material came from adults”.
“Sabine said she ‘must protect the children'”, Moore said, “but if you feel children are being abused, you don’t put that online for pervs and paedos to pore over”.
Sabine said she had named the P and Q videos. “She could have given them neutral titles”, Moore said, “but instead she chose inflammatory ones—’Papa Kills Babies’, for example”.
Calling this Sabine’s “personal vanity project”, Moore said that when Sabine was pressed as to why she had made the videos public, her answer was, “I didn’t think”.
“And there was money out there”, Moore said, noting that when Sabine had needed to raise £20,000 for her bail security last year, she had raised £15,000 in a mere 10 days.
“Look at what she said, and look at the indictment”, Moore said. Sabine must show that on counts 1–4, the hurt she caused had a rational basis. “She has wholeheartedly failed to do so”.
“This lady with no experience of child abuse or children, knows there is no evidence of abuse”, Moore said. “Scarring on the anus was later admitted to be no more than natural artefacts. The children made ABE videos saying that the claims were not true. They couldn’t even point out the places where the abuse allegedly took place when the police took them out on a drive-round”.
On 18 December 2014, Moore said, Sabine tells someone in an email that she is “still uploading” and beginning an index of DVDs. She writes to someone called Brad saying that she would like help putting together a trailer of the videos to show John Hemming.
She was the one who organised and titled the videos. And at the end of January 2015, she published them, in an attempt to blackmail Mrs Justice Pauffley into returning the children.
“This was not for the prevention or detection of crime”, Moore said. “This was to get her own way. That blackmail attempt was not done through ‘bad people’—it was her”.
Sabine has claimed that a blogger received the videos via a blind copy; but there is no evidence in that email of any blind copy.
“It doesn’t suddenly vanish when you type the address into the bcc box”, Moore said. “And if you do bcc a blogger into something called ‘Papa Kills Babies’, what do you think will happen?”
The Change.org petitions were just a way to get more followers and do updates, Moore said, in addition to getting the videos out there.
And even after Ella told Sabine to take down the material she’d posted online, Sabine’s response was, “Never mind. She fights her battle, I fight the public one”.
“She uploads the police videos, she sets up Whistleblower Kids…and then by 12 February she leaves the country and carries on her campaign”, Moore said. “She continues, she does not stop”.
Citing Sabine’s statement that “extreme situations call for extreme actions”, and her “Hampstead horror action plan” involving the painted “bloody dolls”, Moore said that Sabine’s actions had been targeted and deliberate.
Between early 2015 and late 2017, Sabine continued updating, rehashing, and reposting.
Rupert Quaintance was another aspect of her course of conduct of targeting the witnesses, Moore said. While he was arrested in September 2016, Sabine and others had been planning for a year for him to come to the UK.
Sabine’s first charges from August 2015 were NFA, but in January 2016 she was arrested in relation to the charges with Neelu Berry. The trial and restraining order took place, followed by more arrests, “and then along came Rupert Quaintance”, Moore said.
According to the agreed facts, Rupert told Sabine he was “intent on doing comedy while there, to garner support before I go home. That’s my talent: creating chaos”.
On Rupert’s GoFundMe, Sabine not only paid money, but commented, “Can’t wait to hear success stories from you”, Moore said. “The witnesses were aware of Rupert’s threats. Encouraging someone to do that was irresponsible. It was not fighting crime”.
Sabine “used him as a tool to come and target these people”, Moore said, “because she couldn’t go to certain areas because of the restraining order”.
“By March 2015 she was directing operations from Germany”, Moore said. She referred to the video with Angela Power-Disney in which Sabine said she wanted to “get the 20 children, not just P and Q”.
“She will say that she didn’t realise the video was up on YouTube”, Moore said.
She referred to “connectivity”, noting that Sabine had been a McKenzie friend in business cases prior to the Hampstead matter. She had learnt the importance of getting information out, and the value of connecting social media sites. She knew how to put connectivity into her sites—a simple matter—so why didn’t she take it out?
“Let’s say you still want to give her the benefit of the doubt”, said Moore. For example, a juror might think that Sabine might not have realised that by posting on Twitter, posts can go up elsewhere.
However, before offering the benefit of the doubt, Moore said the jury ought to consider that within a week of receiving the restraining order, Sabine was under arrest again.
“She tells Judge Shetty it was a mistake”, Moore said. “And he makes it clear what should and should not happen”. Sabine pleaded guilty to that offence, and was given another chance. “Within a week, she throws it back in his face, and she’s off again”.
“She would have you believe that she didn’t understand the meaning of ‘make public in any way'”, Moore said. “Really?”
She noted that according to the expert witness, plug-ins are easy to plug in, but more time-consuming to unplug.
“He said the quickest way is to make a blog private, or take it down. It was within her power to take it down—to make her McKenzie Friends site private”, Moore said. “You know why she didn’t? She felt her supporters needed to hear her. However, just because you have something to say doesn’t mean you can ignore the orders of the court”.
Moving on to the “analogue offences”, Moore pointed out that by the time these were committed, Sabine was under the restraining order, conditional discharge, and bail conditions.
“We don’t know how many documents Sabine took to Synod”, Moore said. However, we do know that she gave documents to five people while she was there: David Greenwood, Heather Reid, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, a person named Angela, and Julian Whiting.
The terms of the restraining order are “not to make public in any way”, Moore pointed out.
Sabine said she wanted core participant status at the IICSA; and yet the document she handed out says nothing about this, even in its preamble.
As for core participant status, Moore said, Sabine has no experience of sexual abuse, no expert knowledge, no information to put before the IICSA. Her goal was simply to make her crusade more public.
When she approached the Bishop, she told him she wanted his help, and talked about Satanic abuse; when she talked to Greenwood, she said she wanted help with her case. She told Heather that she wanted the safeguarding team to look into the Hampstead case.
“She was effectively giving out leaflets”, Moore said. “And back to court she went, this time for a breach of her bail conditions”.
As for Sabine’s contact with the helpline, the witness she spoke to said that she mentioned the name of a person who is protected under the restraining order.
“Don’t be fooled by ‘I just wanted pastoral care'”, Moore said. Why would Sabine bother to get her friend Julian to call the helpline and get them to call her back? It was a clumsy attempt to evade detection, Moore contended.
“She will not stop. She will not take on board any information about those she hurts”, Moore said. “These children will never be able to Google their own names without finding intensely personal material” such as videos and even their medical records.
“It’s difficult to remain impartial when you see this sort of material”, Moore said, noting that what goes on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites is effectively there forever.
“Parents have been targeted by Sabine McNeill based on information from two people who brainwashed the children”, Moore said. “This case is all about context: you cannot take each event out and look at it on its own; it cannot be divorced from its context”.
“Unfortunately for Mrs McNeill”, she said, “we hope that your verdict will be ‘guilty’ on each and every count”.
Defence closing speech
Tana Adkin QC told the jury that while they might think that the four counts of stalking on the indictment were different from the restraining order violations, they must apply the same care and attention to all the counts.
“This is not a time for scoffing or making fun of the defendant”, Adkin said, adding that the jury should not adopt a “broad brush-stroke” approach to their decisions.
She emphasised that it is up to the prosecution to prove each and every element of each offence.
“Is there evidence that makes you doubt whether you are sure?” she asked. “What does ‘sure’ mean? Not ‘probably’, not ‘more than likely’, not ‘it’s all very suspicious’…you must be sure at all times”.
Adkin said that while it is natural to sympathise with the parents in their anger, fear, and concern for their children, this is “not a court of emotion”. While this case might seem to contain elements of “false news”, she said, “there are other places for contemplation of those things….Anger is not for this place”.
The further one is drawn into emotion, she said, the further one is drawn away from the truth.
“By suspending emotion, we can focus on judgement”, Adkin said. “We must consider the evidence in a cool, calm way, and reach a just decision”.
Adkin contended that the prosecution had “altered course” during the trial: “The parents were watching [Sabine’s] every move, and they were led back to the original information that was always there; this is now used as a suggestion that she ought to have known”.
Whatever Sabine did prior to the restraining order was “not stalking”, Adkin said. “You cannot republish something by publishing an innocuous document and then tracing the link back” to damaging material.
Adkin stated that the parents were “not targeted deliberately, but these were the actions of a misguided, suggestible woman who was misled over time”. She said that Sabine was “not on some sort of escapade”.
The case falls into two parts, Adkin said: Sabine’s behaviour prior to the restraining order, and her behaviour afterward.
“The restraining order was a point in time when her behaviour did change”, Adkin said. However, the “witnesses were hypervigilant, going back and finding old evidence”.
In considering the evidence, Adkin said the jury must consider Sabine alone, and nobody else. “Don’t allow to creep in what happens with other people”, she said. “What was she thinking? What was her aim?”
“We submit there was alarm and distress, but looking at the overall picture, was it stalking?”
Noting that the witnesses had received emails and phone calls, Adkin asked whether Sabine was “deliberately acting to do that to them”. “The consequences could not have been contemplated”, she said.
Stating, “This is no ordinary case. It is exceptional and extreme”, Adkin said that the defence contends that no breaches of the restraining order occurred. “Posting articles on Twitter and Facebook which go back to old links is not republishing; that material was already public”.
Referring to Sabine’s Google Drive, Adkin said that making it public via a link was not a breach. She cited Sabine’s reaction when she put her own charges, which contained personal information about the witnesses, on her Google Drive: “She didn’t want them online. She was ashamed and embarrassed”.
Adkin said that two pieces of material caused alarm and distress in the beginning: the P and Q videos, and Ella Draper’s 11-page document. She said it’s important to look at how these were made public, and noted that it appears some dissemination had already taken place prior to the publication on Change.org.
“Some limited material was out there”, she said, “but Change.org opened the door to it going viral”.
Regarding the bcc on the Theresa May email, Adkin said that while it was not certain whether the bcc field could disappear, if the prosecution was right that the bcc had never happened, then all Sabine did was sent an email to the Home Secretary and some councillors.
“She said she’d bcc’d it to a blogger, because she thought he’d be interested”, Adkin said. “It would go to the ‘court of public opinion'”. In addition, “the Change.org petition said ‘return the children to their mother and family’. This was never about the other 20 children”.
The petition which demanded that Hampstead “alleged abusers” show their tattoos and distinguishing marks had not come from Sabine, Adkin said. “That belonged to Araya Soma; don’t lump everyone together”.
Adkin said that the floodgates had opened when the material was published on Aangirfan, and noted that the statement which contained the class list was “hard to track when it was put online”. Later, she said, “all the information that could be damaging was on there”.
Adkin said there was a difference between the position statement, which was intended for a family court hearing, and Ella Draper’s statement, which contained the class list material.
“The prosecution can’t have it both ways”, she said. “Either it was a threat to go public, or it was targeted at the other parents”.
As disgraceful as it may have been for Sabine to threaten a judge, the purpose of Sabine’s actions was not to cause harm to the parents, Adkin said. To fit the criteria for harassment, it “needs to be an act she committed, which was directed at the parents, and calculated to cause harm”.
“There are lots of jumps to go through on each count”, she said. “It is not sufficient to say that two or three are proved.
For example, she said, one of the witnesses stated they believed that the painted dolls were to be sent to the parents; in fact, the plan had been to send them to businesses in Hampstead, and a bench on Parliament Hill.
“This had nothing to do with the parents”, Adkin said. “It was not targeted at them”. In any event, the plan was never carried out. “It was an idea, not a call to action”.
Adkin referred to the Vid.me video with the altered voice. “It was an investigative video using material from Facebook”, she said. “If inclined to do so, anyone could do this at any time. As upsetting and unnerving as it was, by publishing the link was Sabine really causing alarm and distress?”
Referring to Sabine’s actions prior to the Hampstead matter, Adkin said that it is perfectly legitimate to question things like the secrecy of the family courts.
“Don’t fall into the error of thinking that it’s all completely ludicrous”, she said.
Adkin stated that Jacqui Farmer/Charlotte Ward’s research had not been carried out by Sabine. “Approval is not the same as production”, she said.
Referring to the flyers which were intended to go on people’s windscreens, Adkin said that Sabine had “undoubtedly posted details that would upset the witness, but was it targeted?”
As to the video in which Sabine said that she “wanted to get all 20 children”, Adkin said that this was also the subject of another video. The video in evidence at this trial was posted by Angela Power-Disney, who made “some sort of introduction”. Sabine was not aware that the video would be published on YouTube.
Adkin said that other people had an effect on Sabine: “She takes their word as gospel”. For example, when Angela was talking about children being adopted for the purpose of being abused, Adkin said, this could have been influencing Sabine.
Adkin said that Sabine had said in evidence that she wanted to get all 20 children “heard”—was that really a call to cause harm to the parents?
Looking at the material made public via Sabine’s Google Drive, Adkin said it would be important to consider what Sabine said about the Google Drive.
Adkin said that Rupert Quaintance is the “relevant action for several counts”. Were his actions knowingly directed at the parents? Looking at the evidence, Adkin said, Sabine said that she didn’t know about his threats and threatening behaviour. She pointed out that he was acquitted on three charges, and only convicted on two.
Is it possible to say that Sabine “knew or ought to have known” that Rupert planned to kick down doors and take blood? After all, Adkin said, the parents were following Rupert’s actions on Facebook; Sabine had not been aware of his activities.
Adkin will conclude her closing speech tomorrow, following which we will hear the judge’s instructions to the jury.