On Friday we reported that Belinda McKenzie had been convicted of contempt of court for having publicly identified a protected witness in Sabine McNeill’s recent trial. One of our readers attended Belinda’s trial, and was kind enough to write up this report of the proceedings:
We entered Courtroom 3 a few minutes before the start time of 10:15, and as there was no sign of McKenzie or any of her supporters, we did wonder if it was going to be another no-show.
However, word filtered through that she was indeed in the building and had asked for a few minutes with her defence counsel, Mr Davidson. They retreated to the privacy of a meeting room and court was held up for a few minutes while they consulted. Dave Conaghan arrived, and was initially her only supporter, but later another man arrived who we hadn’t seen before, and who left the building with her. Though we were not sure, we suspected that he could have been her son.
Courtroom 3 was distinctly different from Courts 11 and 2, in that the dock had opaque glass to one side, which prevented those in the public gallery for seeing those in the dock. Once McKenzie disappeared through the dock door, this was the last we would see of her until the trial was completed.
This made me realise how important it is to see the reaction of the defendant, something we were denied, but I can only assume that given her absence yesterday, the court allocation system meant that Courtroom 2 was booked, and this was the substitute venue.
So it was put to McKenzie that on 8–9 December 2018 she made a Facebook post which identified a witness in the trial of Sabine McNeill, which breached the reporting restrictions as imposed by HHJ Beddoe on 15 December 2017, and read out by HHJ Sally Cahill QC at the start of the trial.
Though we could not see McKenzie, we could just about hear her admit her guilt as she spoke those few words meekly. To those who did not know her it was hard to imagine that this was the very same woman who has spent years, often outside the Royal Courts of Justice, bellowing out with cast iron lungs through her trademark megaphone.
Defence counsel Davidson, in mitigation made reference to a ”Letter of regret” dated 10 December 2018, where McKenzie apologised for her conduct. In further mitigation she claimed in the letter that because she lacked technical skill in computing, she did not know how to delete a post, but she has since learnt how, and made assurances that if it did happen again, she now had the skills to remove any post immediately, and this would never happen again.
Davidson also said that McKenzie had carried out volunteer work for himself. This seemed a little odd—why would a barrister think it appropriate that he would need a volunteer worker, especially one who claimed she had a disabled daughter and only a pension to live on? Clearly he thought this would win some credit, even though he gave no indication as to why he needed a volunteer to do unpaid work for him.
I can only think that at this point Mr Davidson thought he was doing rather well…until, that is, prosecutor Philip Stott whipped the floor from beneath him, ably assisted, it would appear, by Belinda McKenzie herself.
Stott stated that it had come to his attention that in the past few days, McKenzie had committed a further breach of the reporting restrictions. He advised the court that on 8 January 2019, McKenzie was trying to rally supporters to attend Sabine McNeill’s sentencing phase of her trial via her Facebook page, and clearly wanted as many to attend court as possible. In the comments section, a poster mentioned a witness by name, and suggested that others should google the name.
It transpired that the author of the post knew very well who the witness was, as he had made references to the witness before the trial started. McKenzie’s response to the post was to write, ”Sorry can’t say”, rather than deleting it as she promised to do in her ”Letter of regret”.
So we had a situation that seemed to render her ”Letter of regret” null and void. If anything, it had morphed into ”A letter of no regret”. Having stated specifically that she had learnt how to delete posts, and in the future would do so immediately, within a month she had gone against her word and made a second breach of the reporting restrictions. The only solace one could take from this was that at least she lasted longer than the eight days managed by her best buddy Sabine McNeill.
This caused a conundrum for Davidson. Having just been ambushed by his own client, he metaphorically dusted himself down and like any good prizefighter, came back for more, albeit with a stutter. Belinda was feeling “stressed and unwell” at the time of the postings, he claimed.
Judge Cahill pointed out that she wasn’t too stressed to make subsequent comments in the very same thread.
Another round lost, so Davidson, not to be deterred, tried a new tack. I don’t know if he was frustrated or stumped, or both, but following a very brief consultation with McKenzie, he claimed that McKenzie thought that the poster who named the witness ”just wanted to get her into trouble.”
Now clutching at straws when there were none left to clutch, he then claimed that she had got involved with a group of zealots who wanted to undermine the law. Clearly he had not seen her back catalogue of videos, in one of which she is part of a large mob that storms a court in an attempt to “arrest” the judge. If he had, he might have concluded that she was leading the zealots, rather than the other way around.
The excuses submitted seemed puerile, more akin to what an inexperienced teenager might use, as opposed to a mature, experienced grandmother. We were expected to believe that this woman, who had spent years on social media, and had certainly learnt how to set up a donation button and a PayPal account, was claiming that she could not delete a post?
It transpired that Judge Cahill was not having a bar of it either, and she did not accept McKenzie’s ”Letter of regret” because a second breach had occurred within a month of her writing it. McKenzie handed this to the prosecution on a plate with knobs on, leaving her own defence counsel floundering.
We then moved onto the sentencing phase, and a cordial legal discussion continued between Davidson, Stott, and Cahill as to the limitation of the court in terms of a restraining order.
It is worth noting that a “contempt of court” charge is not a trial in the typical manner, as it relates to the behaviour of an individual in disrespecting the court or ignoring the rules of a particular trial. There is no jury to decide innocence or guilt, but often these offences are witnessed by the judge directly, or breaches and evidence are brought to the judge’s attention via counsel. The maximum sentence is a term of two years imprisonment.
It was thus decided that under these circumstances, a restraining order could not be imposed, but Stott did suggest a compromise via a somewhat novel idea: McKenzie would agree to sign an undertaking as to her future conduct, so rather than have an order imposed upon her, she was agreeing to accept one which would be legally binding. All parties agreed, as did McKenzie, and court was adjourned briefly while the document was drafted by Stott.
When we returned, the undertaking McKenzie was to agree to was read out by Judge Cahill. The official document and the conditions imposed on her will be published shortly, but in effect it meant that McKenzie agreed to take down all reference she had made to the case by the 25th of January 2019, and she was never to refer to them again. In effect, this was a life ban from commenting or publishing anything again about the case or the people involved in it. She had already volunteered to close her Facebook account.
Having read the document to her, Judge Cahill asked her if she would comply to the conditions and sign same. To the surprise of most, if not all, she said she would agree to the terms ”to the best of my ability”.
Those in court were momentarily stunned.
As we could not see her, we can only guess that even she realised that her eel-type behaviour wasn’t going to wash, so she added, ”I’m not technical”, and said she would comply if she were able to. She didn’t seem to grasp the fact that this was all designed to keep her out of prison, because to most it was clear that if she did not agree to the undertaking, then that is where she was going.
Judge Cahill’s tone suggested that she had had enough, and she directed defence counsel Davidson to “have a word with her”. It seemed Davidson felt the same, as McKenzie had somewhat sabotaged his defence of her.
It was his turn to demonstrate that he, too, had had enough. He walked with urgency to the dock, and in a stern loud voice, audible to all in the public gallery, said tersely, ”Just say yes”, and walked back to his seat. It seemed that he had given up taking instructions from her, and he was taking charge.
McKenzie was asked again by Judge Cahill if she agreed, and she did say, “Yes” this time. The formalities on this part of the case were concluded, which just left sentencing to be carried out.
Judge Cahill made it clear that she did not accept McKenzie’s ”Letter of Regret”, and said that a custodial sentence was appropriate. She reminded McKenzie that on the first day of the trial she had warned all present of the reporting restrictions, had mentioned them to everybody again during the trial, and had had notices posted at the entry doors to the court so nobody could claim they were unaware of them.
She noted that McKenzie had attended most days of the trial, and therefore must have been aware of the restrictions. With this in mind, the sentence she imposed was 6 months imprisonment. However, she said she would suspend that sentence for a period of two years. Then followed a warning that was crystal clear: if McKenzie came back to court again for any more breaches she would go to prison.
Judge Cahill then made special mention of Davidson, noting that he had been of great help to his client. She might have sensed there were times when he was made to look foolish, through no fault of his own. McKenzie had made him seem like an incompetent buffoon when he was far from it, and had taken the case at short notice.
When one first meets McKenzie, she does come across as intelligent, so how was he to know that he was dealing with a pathological liar?
Time will tell if McKenzie is able to abide by the document she signed. Some think that this is like asking a long-term crackhead to quit drugs overnight and take up Morris dancing the very next morning.
I’m not sure if anybody knows what drives McKenzie to do what she does. It’s really not easy inventing crimes that do not exist, but like Sabine McNeill, she seems to get an orgasmic buzz out of it. One can somewhat understand the fraudster, the gangster, the thief and what motivates them, but inventing crimes that don’t exist is unfathomable.
McKenzie and McNeill are to child abuse victims what Inspector Clouseau was to Interpol: worse than useless. And as for the motley crew that came to the court in “support” of McNeill, based on their appearance not one should be left alone with a child. If any one of them turned up on my doorstep from the child-minding agency to look after my kids, I’d phone the police immediately.
Here endeth the lesson…or so we thought, until another kind individual pointed out that Cat Scot had just posted the full contents of one of Belinda McKenzie’s mass-emailed encyclicals, which told another tale entirely:
Hmm. Which version rings true to you?
While we’re on the topic of the undertaking (or as Belinda would call it, the “wretched undertaking”), we thought our readers might like to see it:
I, Belinda McKenzie, hereby formally undertake to the Court the following:
By 5 pm on 25 January 2019, I will ensure that any website, blog, social media or any other form of online media (including any online or ‘cloud’ based storage) over which I have sole or joint control contains no information, regardless of when that information was uploaded, posted or published, about the following matters:
(i) Christchurch Primary School, Hampstead,
(ii) The church known as Christ Church, Hampstead
(iii) Any of the complainants, witnesses or their families in the case of R v Sabine McNeill.
(iv) Any of the people previously alleged to be connected to abuse at Christ Church or Christchurch Primary School, or
(v) Allegations of organised sexual and/or physical abuse of children taking place in and around the Hampstead area.
This also includes, but is not limited to, publishing or posting links or hyperlinks to any other website, blog, social media or any other form of online media (including any online or ‘cloud’ based storage) which contains the said material, or itself links, directly or indirectly, to other content containing such material, and includes any ‘comments’, links or other material regarding those matters placed online by others over which I have sufficient control to remove or render inaccessible.
I will not in future post, publish or in any way publicise or disseminate in any way available to the public, or to a section of the public, any information about the matters listed at (i) to (v) above and I will immediately remove as soon as reasonably practicable any ‘comments’, links or other material placed online by others regarding those matters over which I have sufficient control to remove them or render them inaccessible. This will apply for an indefinite period.
I understand that any breach of this undertaking is liable to be punished as a criminal contempt of court.
Now really, how hard can that be?