Everyone has the right to campaign against what they perceive as injustice, but only if that does not involve trampling on the rights of others. In a case on point, a mother paid with her liberty for relentlessly publicising her complaints about the family justice system, causing immense distress to two of her children.
The mother had for years vociferously complained after a local authority obtained judicial authority to take the children into care and to restrict her contact with them. As is usual, the children’s identities were protected in the proceedings, but she had persistently named them in the context of the case on social media websites, publishing photos and sensitive information about them.
Judges had three times ordered her to desist, but she had responded by escalating her online campaign to expose what she viewed as the truth. The local authority had no wish to see her imprisoned but felt constrained to launch contempt proceedings against her in order to protect her children. Although the children had grown into young adults during the lengthy course of the proceedings, they still received support and guidance from the local authority.
In ruling on the matter, the Court found that, over a period of about 14 months, the mother had committed 13 breaches of judicial orders. In the face of the Court, she had resolutely stated that she had no intention of abandoning her campaign. In the circumstances, an immediate custodial sentence was the only means of securing her compliance. Noting that her activities had only served to further alienate the children from her, the Court imposed a nine-month jail term.