Surrogate mother jailed for harassing judge
A surrogate mum, who lost a legal battle to keep the child she carried, has been jailed for stalking court officials who forced her to hand the baby over.
Lian Harris, 42, was sent down for 22 weeks by magistrates in Preston for waging a campaign of harassment against a judge and a court welfare officer.
The case highlighted the legal minefield parents can face when surrogacy goes wrong. Even though a surrogate mum would usually have the legal right to change her mind and keep the child, the courts gave custody of Harris’ baby to the couple she was helping.
“It’s very sad when things go wrong,” said an official of the support group Surrogacy UK. “The overwhelming majority go really smoothly.”
The sentence was the latest chapter in a long-running battle with the family court which Harris blamed for denying her custody of the child she gave birth to on behalf of a couple.
Despite having the legal right in Britain to change her mind and keep the child she carried, Harris was forced to hand over the infant to the couple she had been helping to have a family.
The campaign she carried out for more than a year included harassing the judge who made the custody order, protesting outside the homes of politicians and legal bigwigs and also scaling Westminster Cathedral to unfurl a banner proclaiming: “Family courts do evil.”
Despite being handed a suspended prison sentence and a restraining order by a court in Manchester last June, Harris targeted senior court welfare officer Alexandra Sayer and even tried to fasten herself to the second floor balcony of the woman’s home.
Surrogacy UK say the case is the first they have come across where a mother who has carried a baby launched a legal fight to keep it after birth.
“The overwhelming majority of surrogacies go really smoothly and are a good experience for all parties,” said Kate Dobb. “It’s obviously very sad when things go wrong like this.”
Magistrates heard Harris made comments on social media concerning welfare officer Miss Sayer, found out where she lived, visited her home and also disclosed the address online.
After she was disturbed during her balcony stunt, she chained herself to the gates of the property in Lancaster in protest at what she claimed was corruption and bias within the family courts system.
Harris, of Ridge Street, Lancaster, is expected to serve only half of her 22-week sentence before being considered for release.
She hit the headlines nationally last summer when she faced charges of stalking and harassment of family court Judge Sarah Singleton at her seven-bedroom home in South Manchester.
Harris had appeared before Judge Singleton months earlier for the baby custody hearing.
The couple, who had come to an agreement with her to hand over the child after its birth, took the case to court after she changed her mind and decided to keep it.
In January 2016 Judge Singleton ruled in their favour and Harris was forced to hand over the baby.
But in June she was in court again, this time in front of Manchester Magistrates, for targeting the judge in such a way that she felt “alarmed and fearful.”
The court heard Harris confronted the judge on her front doorstep and tried to hand her a handwritten note. But the 53-year-old recognised her, slammed the door in panic and called the police.
Later Harris posted a picture of herself outside the house holding a banner which said: “Family courts corrupt to the core - complicit with child abuse.”
She also posted a sarcastic rallying call on Facebook inviting friends to turn out when the judge took part in a sponsored walk and telling them: “Bring an egg or two.”
In a statement to the court Judge Singleton said: “I was alarmed and fearful at being targeted and it has trampled over my right to a family life.
“I am concerned that it has exposed me to other people who intend to harass and molest me, or worse.”
Harris was given a suspended prison sentence and also a lifelong restraining order preventing her from approaching the judge in the future.
Her harassment of Alexandra Sayer was in breach of that suspended sentence and the court in Preston invoked the suspended sentence.
Harris was reported to be a member of the group Stop The War On Dads who well known for carrying out protests which have included a Buckingham Palace security breach and more recently a protest on the balcony at the home of the former London mayor Boris Johnson.
Harris staged a Mother’s Day protest outside the Wiltshire home of Sir James Munby, the head of the family courts, and recently she turned up at the home of children’s minister Edward Timpson in an attempt to hand him a protest letter.