‘Evasive and prevaricative’ perjuress mother who ‘relished all of the attention’ held in contempt of court

A sheriff in Edinburgh Sheriff Court has found that the mother of an eight-year-old child acted in contempt of court in wilfully refusing to comply with a contact order awarded to the child’s father.

The pursuer and minuter, B, argued that the defender, A, had along with her husband adopted the stance that they would not facilitate direct contact. Alasdair Docwra, the curator ad litem to the child, appeared as a party minuter in support of the pursuer’s position.

The minute for contempt was heard by Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC. The pursuer was represented by Fairgrieve, the defender by Wild, and the party minuter by Cheyne, advocate.

Refused to arrange

The parties were in a relationship for around nine months in 2012, which ended in or around November of that year. The child of that relationship, D, was born in 2013 after their separation, and had resided with the defender since birth. The pursuer was noted as having diagnoses of recurrent depression and Asperger’s Syndrome, and the defender as having Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Following a five-day proof in January 2019, a sheriff made a contact order in respect of D. The pursuer subsequently sought interdict against the defender removing D from the sheriffdom, which was granted in interim. Mr Docwra was appointed as D’s curator ad litem in November 2019 to facilitate contact between the pursuer and the child. At around the same time, a psychiatric report was presented to the court confirming the defender’s incapacity to retain the services of a solicitor.

After the February 2019 judgment, the pursuer’s father, P, contacted the defender’s husband, M, to arrange contact. During a telephone conversation between them, which P secretly recorded, M said that he and the defender would refuse to arrange direct contact between the pursuer and D, a position in which the defender was complicit.

The defender denied being in wilful contempt of the contact order and said that both she and her husband had encouraged D to go for contact meetings but that she refused to go. Several aborted or short attempts at contact had been attempted, sometimes involving the pursuer’s grandparents, with many of them aborted at the last minute.

Counsel for the pursuer and the party minuter submitted that the evidence of the pursuer indicating wilful non-compliance should be preferred over that of the defender. The defender’s position was that the evidence did not prove wilful contempt beyond reasonable doubt, and it was further submitted that an order to vary the final contact order made in July 2019 was irregular and thus she was incapable of being in contempt of it.

Relished the attention

In his opinion, Sheriff Welsh said of the pursuer’s father’s evidence: “I found P to be honest credible and reliable. He answered all the questions he was asked, thoughtfully and with care and deliberation. He was cautious and measured in the evidence he gave. I am sure he is profoundly exasperated by the length of this process in D’s case. I also thought he was severely shocked by what M suggested in the telephone call of 1 March 2019.”

Assessing the curator, he said: “The curator ad litem also impressed me. He came over as deeply thoughtful and caring in the responsibility he had undertaken towards D. He was greatly experienced and clearly desperately anxious to secure a good and lasting positive result for D from the litigation. He gave his evidence in a sincere and compelling manner even to the extent of illustrating what he meant with practical examples.”

In contrast, Sheriff Welsh said of the defender’s evidence: “She came across as evasive and prevaricative. I think she relished all of the attention this case has given her. I think she is selfish and lacks insight into what is in the best interests of D. She accused P of perjury but in truth she was the perjuress.”

Ulterior motive 

Considering the evidence as a whole to determine whether the defender was in contempt, Sheriff Welsh said: “I find it inconceivable that M was not articulating a joint position between himself and A in the telephone call. The inference to be drawn from the facts established in this case is not only reasonable but irresistible. I am completely satisfied A was fully complicit in the joint intention to frustrate the final order.”

He continued: “Hatred, selfishness, obdurate stubbornness on the part of A, wilful blindness and an ulterior motive on the part of M to adopt D and rid himself of the B problem, in his new family, have all combined to drive this contempt.”

For these reasons, Sheriff Welsh found the defender to be in contempt of court. Addressing counsel for the pursuer’s decision not to move for further punishment, he concluded: “I am satisfied that A (and M) have been sufficiently punished by the stress of the contempt process, for now. Mr Fairgrieve and Mr Cheyne are free to use the finding of contempt in future proceedings with regard to contact by B to D.”

Share icon
Share this article: