Sarah Phillimore – Troll or Trogg?

In the interests of giving my side of the story about this woman, it is my painful duty to write this post. What is a trogg? A trogg is a brutish, humanoid creature which features in the computer game, World of Warcraft. Force of will and a strong sense of cunning are the predominant driving forces in troggs, which lack high intelligence. 

Phillimore seems to be a trogg, judging by her primitive and implacable aggression. This is a woman who dubbed herself “relentlessly abhorrent” in her original Twitter bio’. When she started pestering the experienced journalist and defender of men’s rights, Martin Daubney, on 27/10/ 2017, he replied: “Are you just trawling Twitter looking for aggro?”

It’s ironic, therefore, that Phillimore has repeatedly sought publicity by pretending to be a victim of online harassment. Nothing could be further from the truth. She is an aggressor, and she knows it. Thus, she tweeted on 19/9/16, “I am often rude and unpleasant”; on 13/11/17, she proclaimed “not many women are as aggressive and frankly unpleasant as I am”, and on December 1 this year she referred to her “own aggressive personality”. 

Trolls’ best mate

As I have pointed out before (see blogs passim), for some years now Phillimore has associated with some of Twitter’s nastiest trolls, who engage in malicious communications online, as well as promoting unhinged conspiracy theories about alleged VIP paedophile “rings” in the UK; some profess a belief in Satanic ritual abuse. They are the lunatic fringe. 

Phillimore bonded with these idiots and encouraged them, for example telling one named SpasticBrienne (the clue is in the name) on 3/4/17 to: 

Have a great day @ SpasticBrienne enjoying your freedom of speech. I know I will.

Of another troll, a notorious anti-Semite based in Germany, she tweeted on 28/10/18:

I don’t care if he’s an anti-Semite or a member of the Ku Klux Klan or eats babies.

Evidently this woman is dead to all sense of shame.

Querulant behaviour

Phillimore uses her online presence (three Twitter handles, two blogs) to prosecute various obsessional vendettas against strangers, including myself.  There are many highly respected legal bloggers, but Phillimore is not one of them. She is a constant complainer, who regularly stoops to crude ad hominem (or ad feminam) attacks. 

Like all querulants, she sees herself as engaged in an heroic struggle, and claims to be standing up for herself and for “what is right”.

This involves taking out perceived critics and opponents. “I hope the end is nigh for you”, she tweeted me on 27/2/18. “I won’t delight in others’ downfall – but I’ll seek it”, she tweeted at 4.07 a.m. on 8/2/2017. Phillimore’s modus operandi is attention-seeking, para-homicidal and requires only viciousness. When asked what her favourite red wine was on 26/2/17, she replied: “the crimson blood of my enemies #onlyjoking”. Except, she wasn’t joking. There, you caught a glimmer of the beast.

Phillimore likes to post links to “motivational” utterances, such as this misspelt one, which she pinned to her Twitter feed on 28 November 2016:

People are always trying to [mess] up other people’s live’s [sic] by telling lies about ’em. You wanna really [mess] somebody’s life up? Tell the truth about ’em. They ain’t never [sic] gonna be the same.

Ask yourself this question. What kind of person would want to really mess someone’s life up – especially the life of a complete stranger?  

Let’s unpack this 

There are all manner of things I could write about this woman’s deplorable nastiness and entrenched idiocy.  It’s a pain to wade through her tedious bullshit, but I do so in the interests of accuracy, and of setting the record straight. Her gripes are often petty, but they form part of a deeply dishonest debating position.  

I’ll start with a takedown of the first of a number of petulant and stupid blogs which she has penned about me. The first was posted on 27 May 2016, pompously entitled “The woeful state of our debate about the family courts Part VII: Barbara Hewson”. It was a purported response to an article that I had written on 25 May for the libertarian online magazine spiked, a non-legal publication, about a recent Court of Appeal decision Re E (a child). That case highlighted the problems caused by the refusal of family court practitioners and judges to respect a previous Supreme Court ruling on the right of minors to be heard. My article was entitled “The family courts make a mockery of justice”. 

Re E (a child) was a deeply disturbing case where a trial judge found a minor guilty of sexual abuse, having firstly invaded his legal professional privilege, and having secondly refused to allow him or any other of the minors involved to give evidence.

Phillimore alleged that my commentary, intended for a lay audience, amounted to a “dangerous debasement of discussion about the family justice system”. That was preposterous. Possibly some family lawyers may have resented the Court of Appeal’s criticism of their failure to follow binding case-law, mentioned in para. 48 of the judgment of McFarlane LJ, who said: I make no apology for quoting so extensively from Baroness Hale’s judgment, which would seem to have gone unheeded in the five or more years since it was given. 

He also observed at para. 56:

It is of note that, despite the passage of some six years since the Supreme Court decision in Re W, this court has been told that the previous culture and practice of the family courts remains largely unchanged with the previous presumption against children giving evidence remaining intact. That state of affairs is plainly contrary to the binding decision of the Supreme Court which was that such a presumption is contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. [emphasis added]

Nine counsel – of whom were four were silks – appeared before the Court on that appeal. McFarlane LJ was therefore reflecting in his observations what he had been told by highly experienced members of the Bar.

In essence, Phillimore appears to think that: (i) she is the defender of the honour of the family courts (if she is, boy do the family courts have a problem!), and that (ii) no criticism of the family courts is allowed by anyone not in receipt of her Imprimatur. 

I forgive any reader who doesn’t care to pick through my responses to Phillimore’s foolish observations, which I have itemised below.

Skip to the end, and you can laugh at her apoplexy, after the first person to post a comment on her extended complaint about me actually dared to criticise her instead! In the world according to Phillimore, this is an outrage not to be brooked. She really is a trogg.

So here’s a quick canter through the issues.

1.Phillimore claims that I sent her numerous aggressive tweets in the small hours of a Friday morning. She does not produce any, so it is difficult to comment.

2. She then speaks of “the author [i.e. me] whose views I [i.e. Phillimore] criticised” and goes on: “Ms Hewson feels it is appropriate to deal with dissent in such an aggressive way, all the while proclaiming her status as ‘victim’ in the face of my vicious harassment i.e. my refusal to accept everything she said as true.” In fact, Phillimore’s tweets to me were dismissive and increasingly contemptuous, as these examples demonstrate:

The same family courts who have called LA to account for their failings towards families and awarded damages? 

As ever in woeful debate about family justice system, some good points drowned out in dollops of exaggerated outrage

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I appreciate Twitter not really the place but this is pretty woeful.

What -wholesale ignoring the SC? Or just ignoring some of their judgments? We must live in very different worlds.

Hmmm. I don’t think Barbara knows me very well. I don’t cry. And you appeared on my screen. So I engaged.

And I repeat. If you get upset when people call you out on your nonsense, don’t post where we can see it.

I am in bed Babs. But certainly not sleeping, not with all this exciting intellectual debate going on around me.

Don’t shout so loud Jerry, Barbara is very old. You might scare her.

I am sure I can be MUCH ‘bitchier’ after a few bottles of Buckfast.

Blocked by @Barbara Hewson and Fathers for Justice! My work truly is done.

If you want to wait, for proper debate Best avoid Hemming and Hewson A right gruesome twosome #barristerpoetry

This is not dissent, incidentally. It is simply rebarbative. I did ring her chambers’ Chief Executive to voice concern informally. I stressed that I was not making a formal complaint. I said that her comments about me were “very, very bitchy”, and requested that he ask her to “tone it down a bit”. He replied: “got it”. Evidently, Phillimore cannot stand even discreet informal concerns being raised about her own nasty online behaviour.

3. “The Department of Education does NOT cover the ‘UK’.” This is petty in the extreme. Phillimore, who rarely writes for external publication, evidently has never heard of the role of a sub-editor.  The online publication for which I was writing has a substantial international readership.  When I referred in my article to the “Department of Education”, that would mean little to an international readership, for whom the component parts of the United Kingdom also mean very little. So, a sub decided to put the qualifier “UK” in front of my reference to the “Department of Education”. So what?

4. “Ms Hewson is unable to identify the myraid ‘feminists’ who spoke of victim blaming but it seems that she is actually referring to Isabelle Trowler – who may well be a feminist (I have no idea and can’t see the relevance either way) but who is more usefully identified as the Chief Social Worker for England.” Phillimore, who cannot spell “myriad” correctly, does not seem to understand that in a comment piece, one is not expected to provide extensive references. The Independent referred to “victim-blaming” on 21 May 2016.

5. “But is Ms Hewson right to extrapolate from that and conclude that because one case was royally screwed, the entire system must therefore be rotten and that family courts routinely pay no regard to the law?” That is not what I did. I wrote:

Apparently, the practice in the family courts is that even mature teens should not give evidence.

This approach ignored a Supreme Court ruling from 2010, Re W, where the Supreme Court said that the question of whether a child should give evidence should be approached on a case-by-case basis. A blanket prohibition on children giving evidence was incompatible with the right to a fair trial. Baroness Hale stressed that focused questions, which put forward a different explanation for certain events, ‘may help the court to do justice between the parties’. That ruling went unheeded by the family courts [as McFarlane LJ confirmed in the Court of Appeal].

This is remarkable, suggesting that the family courts operate a separate system of legal rules unaffected by fundamental legal principles, such as the right to a fair trial and the supremacy of judgements of the Supreme Court (the doctrine of legal precedent). It is perhaps not surprising that many ordinary people view the family courts as inherently unfair.

If Phillimore bothered to follow appellate court rulings (does she?), she should surely have realised that I was alluding to the damning observations of Patten LJ in the infamous divorce case of Petrodel [2012] EWCA Civ 1395. He had commented caustically on the family courts developing a separate system of legal rules, unaffected by relevant principles of English law, and said that this must cease. I did not say, as Phillimore falsely claims, “that because one case was royally screwed, the entire system must therefore be rotten and that family courts routinely pay no regard to the law.” My point was that family courts appear to inhabit a different legal universe. 

6. “It was gently suggested to Ms Hewson on Twitter by those of us who do have experience in the family courts and are able to point to examples of good practice, that it is just not true to say that the entire family court system simply turns it [sic] back on the Supreme Court and ignores legal principles wholesale.” – see sample retorts from Phillimore, which I  quoted earlier. McFarlane LJ evidently thought otherwise!

7. “Ms Hewson’s response was to rely upon her 12 years of experience (which later expanded to 31 years) as all the evidence she needed that the system was rotten to the core and the fault was the ‘corruption and collusion’ of family lawyers.” – this again is a misstatement. I made a passing remark about collusion and incompetence. That is fair comment. How else could a Supreme Court ruling be ignored for five or more years?

8. “That some cases go wrong does not mean one is entitled to conclude that the entire system is rotten and all the lawyers in it just collusive stooges.” – This is not what I said. A “straw man” argument.

9. “This nonsense takes root, infects people’s ability to understand and engage with the court process and provides a vicious cycle of withdrawal, lack of trust and disastrous consequences for the proper management of family cases.” – McFarlane LJ’s comments speak for themselves, I’m afraid. The family courts’ unpleasant reputation is a consequence of how its judges and advocates conduct themselves, year in and year out, and not a result of a single comment piece by me.

10. “But her reaction to even the gentlest of criticism has demonstrated again and horribly clearly just how debased our current discussion about the family justice system really is.” – As I have explained, Phillimore’s late-night reaction was not “criticism” in any genuine sense, but rather a series of increasingly rebarbative retorts. Her attempt to row back from this and to pretend that I am polluting public debate about the family courts is laughable.

11. “And if she wants to keep on tweeting me in the early hours of the morning, she needs to realise that I also know how to take a screen shot.” – Phillimore shows her sinister stalking side. 

Phillimore’s day of rage 

The first commentator on Phillimore’s first blog to attack me didn’t mention me at all. Instead, he went for the kill: 

Hi Sarah,

I say this as someone who has the utmost respect for your views and what you are trying to achieve. You were writing just a few weeks ago about the need for empathy. You certainly gave me hope with your stated aims and objectives regarding your forthcoming conference. I thought what you said was worth hearing, even though you kept slagging off someone who’d helped me (Ian Josephs) And yet all the while on twitter you carry on with your flaming of Hemming etc which is highly provocative. From the look of your tweets, you let yourself get provoked, but you really provoke others as well. You work in a highly adversarial environment – it may be normal for you to trade insults with others in this way. I don’t know the extent to which this is a game to you – or if not a game then a contest in which you thrive on sparring – but not everyone reading your tweets is a fellow “player in the game of child protection. […]”. 

Phillimore erupted in fury:

And now, for the FIRST TIME EVER on my blog I have just deleted two comments that I wrote.
I feel sick and disgusted with myself. I swore I would never do that.
But you have commented under the post about this malignant idiot who is planning on suing me and I suddenly doubted the courage of my own convictions about whether I should let my original comments stand. 

I find your comments deeply enraging and upsetting, not least because you have chosen to comment here.
You may view my activities on social media with distaste – but the way I conduct myself on social media is something that I am privileged to be FREE TO DO AS LONG AS I DONT BREAK THE LAW. 

Freedom of speech is a fundamentally important human right for a reason. And you chose to make your criticisms here. Well, well, well. 

I could rant on for paragraphs about what I do unpaid and unrecognised – well, I just did and I deleted it. But its never enough is it? I am only of value if I never challenge your own shibboleths – that Ian Josephs is a good kind man who helped you.

Open your eyes. Just open your eyes and your mind. You cannot possibly believe that, knowing what he does and who he hurts. If you do believe it, I can’t help you. Given that you appear to be seriously suggesting I partake in an interview with the Daily Mail I suspect that the gulf between you and I may be too wide to ever bridge. You appear to be an intelligent and educated man – can you seriously look at what the Mail does and think they would EVER be interested in responsible, accurate reporting about the CP system?

What I will certainly NOT do NOT EVER – for you or the fragrant Ms Hewson – is change the way I chose to exercise my freedom of speech. 

If you find my activities unhelpful you are very welcome not to engage with me. I would particularly ask you NOT to come onto my site, particularly under THIS post and start criticising how I chose to conduct myself on social media.

If only she would practise what she preaches.

Up-dated December 10th.

Links

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2016/473.html

https://www.spiked-online.com/2016/05/25/the-family-courts-make-a-mockery-of-justice/#.V0gjy7Ri4lI