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Cite as:  EW Misc 5 (CC)
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Case No: UY12C00038
BAILII Citation Number:  EW Misc 5 (CC)
NEWCASTLE COMBINED COURT CENTRE
Combined Court Centre
The Law Courts
13TH May 2013
B E F O R E:
HER HONOUR JUDGE HUDSON
North Tyneside Council
Telephone: 01642 232324
Facsimile: 01642 244001
169-173 Stockton Street
1. I give judgement at the conclusion of a committal hearing which has taken place before me today arising out of an injunction order I made in the context of care proceedings. The background to the application can be set out in the following terms.
2. In June 2009 Anna Kornas alleged that Vincent Rutherford had sexually abused their daughter of their marriage Y, then aged just 5 years. She had separated from Vincent Rutherford at the end of the previous year, since when he has been having contact with Y and her older half brother X. As a result of these allegations contact ceased. Vincent Rutherford made an application to the County Court for contact.
3. A police investigation led to charges being brought against Vincent Rutherford, but not guilty verdicts were entered after the Crown Prosecution Service concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. A finding of fact hearing therefore took place within the family proceedings. Anna Kornas was represented at that hearing by an experienced specialist family barrister. The case was heard by a specialist family judge.
4. Following a fully contested five day hearing in February 2012, during the course of which the evidence was fully tested, the Recorder gave a full and detailed reserved judgement on 24th February 2012 in which she found, in essence, that:
i. Anna Kornas had fabricated accounts of Y speaking to her about Vincent Rutherford sexually abusing her;
ii. Anna Kornas told, encouraged or persuaded Y to fabricate accounts of her father sexually abusing her;
iii. Anna Kornas knew these accounts were false or had no good reason to believe that they were true;
iv. Anna Kornas had caused significant emotional harm to Y as a result and she had undergone unnecessary medical examinations.
5. Anna Kornas has refused to accept these findings. As a result of the emotional harm her behaviour has caused to the children, care proceedings were issued in April 2012. In September 2012 the local authority sought to remove the children from her care in the light of evidence of the harm her behaviour was causing to them.
6. Anna Kornas belatedly sought to appeal against the findings made against her in February 2012. On 5th September 2012 Lord Justice Munby (as he then was) refused her application. The findings made on 24th February 2012 therefore stand.
7. The children were duly removed from the care of Anna Kornas. Following this, she started to publish material on a range of social networking sites perpetuating her belief that Vincent Rutherford is a paedophile and that he has sexually abused Y. The way in which she published this material has made it freely available to the public and encouraged members of the public to join her cause by signing an online petition. Anna Kornas knew that the court had found that Vincent Rutherford did not sexually abuse Y and that she (Anna Kornas) had been found responsible for making false allegations against him. Anna Kornas’ behaviour led to an application being made by the local authority for an injunction to prevent this behaviour continuing. The local authority was given permission to apply for an injunction on 16th October 2012.
8. The hearing duly came before me on 9th November 2012. Anna Kornas was once again represented by specialist family counsel at that hearing before me. On 9th November 2012 I made an injunction order unlimited in time preventing Anna Kornas from publishing material relating to the proceedings. She was present in court and heard the judgment and order which I made. She was warned that she would be liable to be sent to prison if she breached the order. The terms of that order have not been challenged and remain in force.
9. Despite that, within hours Anna Kornas breached the order in a serious way. She published a photograph of the children and referred to the injunction order as protecting failures in charging and prosecuting paedophiles. She published further information on 27th November 2012.
10. As a result of the breaches, which Anna Kornas duly admitted, the local authority applied to commit her to prison. The case came before me on 13th December 2012. The order of that date records the admissions made by Anna Kornas. At that hearing she signed a document which stated that she would not breach the order again. It records that she accepts her actions have not helped her case and that she realised that she should not have posted information directly relating to the case on the internet. In those circumstances I decided to give her an opportunity of demonstrating that she would abide by the terms of the order. I gave her a week to remove material from the sites in question before I decided the appropriate punishment for the breaches. Anna Kornas was served with that order on 15th December 2012.
11. Anna Kornas duly removed the offending material. I was therefore persuaded that the custodial sentence which I considered inevitable in relation to the first breach could properly be suspended. I sentenced her to 42 days (or 6 weeks) imprisonment suspended for 1 year on condition that she complied with the terms of the injunction. I warned her in the clearest possible terms of the consequences of breaching the injunction again, both in terms of the activation of the suspended sentence and the prospect of further punishment in relation to any future breaches. Anna Kornas was served with that order on 22nd December 2012.
12. Against that background I turn to the current breaches which are alleged. It is, of course, for the Applicant to prove the alleged breaches. On a committal application, the court must be satisfied that any breach is proved to the criminal standard: so that I am sure.
13. The notice is dated 22nd March 2013 and was personally served on Anna Kornas on 28th March 2013. Anna Kornas has sworn an affidavit in reply in which she admits posting material on a range of social media sites. She admits that this breaches the order in a number of respects, which I shall set out. In relation to other alleged breaches, she either denies that she placed the relevant material on the sites or asserts that the posting does not breach the terms of the injunction. I will deal therefore with each of the allegations in turn.
14. The first relates to 29th January 2013 when it is alleged that Anna Kornas shared an event on Google+ ‘Stop Making Child Abuse Easy’, an online petition disclosing information relating to the proceedings.
15. The local authority evidence is set out in the affidavit of Catharina Simpson (the social worker responsible for the children) dated 22nd March 2013. A schedule is appended to that affidavit which, as I have indicated in the course of the hearing, I found of limited use and difficult to marry with the allegations contained in the notice. A series of extracts from Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts which relate to Anna Kornas are also appended to the affidavit.
16. In relation to this first alleged breach the material relied upon by the local authority is at C228. The local authority asserts that it links to an event and also gives Vincent Rutherford’s address. Anna Kornas’ response is that disclosing the address of Vincent Rutherford does not breach the terms of the order as it is presently drafted. She does not accept that she activated the link from the Google+ account. The local authority said in response that the social worker was able to access the material set out at C233 – 237 from the Google+ account. It is clear from the postings that Anna Kornas has made otherwise, that she set up this Google+ account.
17. The second alleged breach is dated between 8th and 10th February 2013, when it is asserted that Anna Kornas posted a link on Facebook to the petition which she had earlier put on Avaaz ‘Stop Making Child Abuse Easy’. The local authority relies at C247 on a print out from a Facebook page which provides what appears to be a link to the Avaaz petition. Anna Kornas’ response is that this is an automated link which she did not activate herself. In response, Ms Giovannini (on behalf of the local authority) accepted that the local authority did not have evidence to prove that she did.
18. The third alleged breach relates to Anna Kornas’ use of Twitter on 1st March 2013 relating to the children, child abuse and including direct approaches to ITV and others. The series of tweets relied upon are set out at C260 – 262. Anna Kornas admits that she sent the tweets as alleged. She admits that the tweet which is recorded to @GuardianJoanna is in breach of the injunction, in which she says:
‘I have been given 7 days to remove Google or be jailed. Where is justice for the abused children??’
‘They propose to separate my children and place them in long term foster care. My older is son who is more …’
This then provides a link to Anna Kornas’ Facebook page. She denies - and Miss Proops on her behalf denies - that the other tweets constitute breaches of the injunction order as it was made.
19. The fourth alleged breach dates to 2nd March 2013, when it is alleged that Anna Kornas once again made a posting on Facebook making reference to the proceedings and the threat of imprisonment. Two postings on Facebook are in issue, which are set out at C241. In response to this alleged breach, Anna Kornas admits that she made the entries which are recorded against her. On her behalf, Miss Proops queries whether they are sufficient to establish a breach in the context of a committal application.
20. The fifth alleged breach relates to 2nd March 2013, when Anna Kornas is alleged to have used Twitter and made reference to the threat of imprisonment and with a link to her Facebook page. The relevant entry in the local authority’s evidence is at C259 - the tweet with a link to her Facebook page. In relation to this allegation Anna Kornas once again accepts that she tweeted as is alleged against her. She denies, however, that the tweet itself is in breach. She argues that the link to her Facebook page does not establish a breach without evidence that her Facebook page contained the offending material at that time.
21. The sixth alleged breach dates to 3rd March 2013 and relates to a Facebook posting which the local authority invites the court to consider is in breach of the injunction. The entry is in the following terms:
‘Never will be either if my innocent children are not returned to where they want to be.’
On behalf of Anna Kornas, Miss Proops admits that this is indeed a breach of the injunction.
22. The seventh alleged breach relates to the 4th March 2013 and a posting which was made by Anna Kornas on Facebook relating to the proceedings. The local authority’s evidence refers to the screenshot at C244, but the entry is set out in full at C251. As Miss Proops accepted, the screenshots of some of the entries doesn’t show the full wording of the postings. She accepted, and Anna Kornas admits, that the full wording is as follows. After referring to the local authority failing to apply in time for renewals of the interim care orders, Anna Kornas continues in the following terms:
‘My children are innocent victims. I am willing to come to see you and show you my documents which will prove my daughter was abused and the fact finding last year was unjust. It should have been adjourned. Although I should not be on Facebook or Twitter etc I have used this as my support to express my feelings and heartache. I will probably be punished for this too.’
23. In response, Anna Kornas admits that she posted this information as alleged and she further accepts that the terms of the posting are clearly in breach of the injunction order. As Miss Proops accepted in my exchanges with her, this goes to the crux of the case and the behaviour the injunction was intended to prevent. I should record that the totality of this posting is not set out in full in the committal notice. This was specifically addressed during the course of Miss Proops submissions. She accepted on behalf of Anna Kornas that she posted this information in its entirety and that it is in breach of the order. I am satisfied, in the light of the material included in the attachment to the local authority’s affidavit and Anna Kornas’ admission in relation to it, that the full extent of the posting is properly considered as representing her admitted breach of the injunction.
24. The eighth allegation relates to the same information as allegation seven but this time the posting of it on Twitter on the same day, 4th March 2013. It replicates entirely the information and material included within allegation number seven. Anna Kornas’ response in relation to this is once again the same. She admits making the disclosure of information as she does in the case of the seventh alleged breach, and she accepts that that is in breach of the injunction order.
25. The final alleged breach dates to 6th March 2013 when Anna Kornas is alleged to have posted letters from her solicitor on Facebook which relate to a complaint against the local authority concerning the proceedings and which contains material and information arising out of the proceedings. That documentation is set out in the appendix to the social work statement at C282-C292. Anna Kornas admits that breach and she admits that her actions in relation to this breach put a good deal of information relating to the proceedings into a public forum.
26. I have set out the alleged breaches and Anna Kornas’ response in some detail before considering the breaches I find established on the evidence. In the light of the admitted breaches I did not hear evidence either from the social worker or from Anna Kornas in relation to the outstanding matters.
27. Anna Kornas admits the breaches in relation to paragraphs six, seven, eight and nine. In relation to paragraph three, she makes a partial admission in her acceptance that the @GuardianJoanna tweet breaches the order. I have concluded that the appropriate course in the circumstances in which I have dealt with this case is to deal with Anna Kornas only for the breaches which she admits.
28. In relation to allegations one and two I am not satisfied on the evidence that I have, that the local authority has established to the requisite standard the necessary links and actions on the part of Anna Kornas to produce those links. In relation to the remaining parts of allegation number three I am not satisfied that these represent breaches of the injunction. In relation to allegations four and five I am not satisfied that these are established as breaches on the evidence before me. With regard to Anna Kornas’ actions in disclosing Vincent Rutherford’s address, I agree with the submission made on her behalf, that this behaviour is not presently covered by the injunction order as it stands.
29. On 7th March 2013 Anna Kornas once again closed the accounts that she had been using. That followed correspondence from the local authority in relation to her behaviour. Two separate letters were sent by the local authority via Miss Kornas’ solicitor advising her that the material that she had published should be removed. The first was sent on 27th February 2013 when the local authority wrote in relation to the Google+ material. The second letter was sent on 4th March 2013, when the local authority wrote regarding material on Facebook and concerning the Avaaz petition. The content of the social media postings I have seen establish that Anna Kornas was aware of those letters. She does not dispute that.
30. Miss Proops has mitigated in relation to the breaches which were admitted or any which were otherwise found to be proved by the court. Miss Proops has sought to persuade me that Anna Kornas remains firm in her belief about the case and uses the social media avenues as a means of obtaining support. She invites me to accept that Anna Kornas is a woman who lacks support in other directions and is vulnerable in terms of her own circumstances, seeking support as she does from those who she meets through social media.
31. Miss Proops argued that Anna Kornas has not realised the full import of her actions until the committal hearing today. She asks me to hold off from taking any step which would result in an immediate custodial sentence. Mr Proops accepted that this is not the first committal application and that the earlier committal application came before the court on two separate occasions, resulting in a suspended committal order being made in the circumstances I have already outlined. Miss Proops also recognised that Anna Kornas’ attitude has become completely uncompromising. Her position was set out very clearly in the final hearing of the care proceedings - that she would not stop this behaviour, which she considers to be justified and reasonable. Miss Proops accepted that this remains Anna Kornas’ stance.
32. At each hearing the import of the injunction order has been spelled out to Anna Kornas, as have the potential consequences of breaching the order. On 20th December 2012 Anna Kornas was clearly told that, if she breached the suspended sentence order, she would be liable to serve that sentence together with any further sentence imposed.
33. The postings which have been made by Anna Kornas on social media sites are done in a very public way without restricting access. It is clear from the postings that she has made that she is aware of the likely consequences of her actions, but has continued with this behaviour despite that.
34. Individually each of these proven allegations represents a further breach of the order made by me on 9th November 2012. Taken together, they are in my judgment repeated, serious and flagrant breaches of orders of the court. They reflect Anna Kornas’ continuing campaign against Vincent Rutherford, perpetuating allegations which have been found to be false in court proceedings.
35. Miss Proops argued that Anna Kornas’ actions have not caused harm for the children, directed as they are at Vincent Rutherford. I do not accept this submission. The false allegations she has continued to make against Vincent Rutherford are, in my judgment, harmful to the children.
36. Miss Proops argues that the children will suffer if Anna Kornas is sent to prison. I am very mindful of that. She asked me to give Anna Kornas one further chance and reminds me of the options I have which would avoid an immediate custodial sentence. I take no pleasure in sending any party to proceedings concerning children to prison. I have given Anna Kornas every opportunity to avoid such a course. She has chosen deliberately to disregard these warnings.
37. In light of this course of behaviour I have found myself with no alternative. In determining the appropriate punishment for these breaches, I have had regard to the totality of the sentence that is imposed. I see no proper alternative but to activate the suspended sentence. In relation to each of the other breaches I have found proved, I also consider an immediate custodial sentence to be warranted. I sentence Anna Kornas to a further 42 days in relation to each breach to run concurrently with each other. The sentences that I impose in relation to the new breaches will run consecutively to the 42 days (or 6 week) sentence I have activated, making a total of 12 weeks imprisonment.
End of judgment.
We hereby certify that this Judgment has been approved by Her Honour Judge Hudson.