Reported cases in private law where serious allegations of sexual harm are made against a father against a backdrop of separation and acrimony and disputes over the children are becoming more common. They are always extremely difficult. And these days, more and more, they may begin as private law cases but end up as public law cases.
The Court is generally left with four choices when faced with allegations of this kind
- The allegations against father are true, with all the consequences that that will mean for his relationship with the children
- The allegations are not true, but they were an honest mistake (with the hope that once the Court has given that judgment, everyone can move on)
- The allegations are not true, and they were made with the honest belief of the mother that they were true (again, with the same hope as above)
- The allegations have been fabricated by the mother with the intention of hurting father and frustrating his contact.
In this case, Hampshire County Council v Mother and Others 2014, there are two linked judgments.
The first http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCC/Fam/2013/B19.html was in December 2013 and was the finding of fact judgment.
That concluded that the allegations against father were not true, and that mother had played a part in bringing them about
My finding is that while Mother has indeed been the victim of her psychological problems, she has also consciously created some of the allegations here. I have been told that the Guardian is also of the view that there is a combined explanation for the allegations. The timing between contact re-starting and the next allegation being made is too much of a co-incidence for there not to have been some volition on her part. There are also examples of Mother embellishing stories as – the addition of the alleged threat of self harm she over-heard Child make to a nurse or doctor on the 31st August when she was questioned about it by MG is a good example.
It must be understood by Mother that her allegations that Father has sexually abused Child have been found to be totally unfounded, created by her both unconsciously and consciously. She must also understand that what she has done has been hugely emotionally damaging to Child, who will take a long time to recover her own psychological equilibrium, even with her Father’s help. She must never allow herself to make such allegations again, or she will risk never seeing her daughter.
An interim care order had been made in October 2013, placing the girl in foster care.
The second judgment http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2014/B126.html
relates to the final decisions in the case, mother having been given six months of time to reflect on the findings and move forward.
Sadly, she had not been able to do so. That led to the child being placed with the father, that mother would have seven contacts per year and that there was a s91(14) order meaning that mother would be unable to make any further applications to Court without leave.
(The Court note in that analysis that it is not lawful to attach conditions to a s91(14) order but did agree that it would help to tell mother the sort of changes that she would need to be making for such leave to be granted)
One of the difficult features in this case was that mother’s position if anything had hardened in that intervening period, probably not helped by the fact that her therapist was supportive of her belief that father had abused the child, and so were her family.
(MG was an expert in the case, who had made some recommendations as to the best way of moving mother forward after the finding of fact judgment)
MG has been cross examined as to her findings and conclusions in this hearing. She said that since the last hearing it is a great pity that her recommendations as to treatment for Mother have not been taken up. She had recommended that Mother be seen by an independent psychiatrist to formulate a treatment plan to reduce her anxieties and her medication. She said that therapy should be found for Mother in conjunction with the psychiatrist. Instead Mother has been discharged by her treating psychiatrist in the NHS mental health service with a diagnosis of “no serious mental illness,” which MG said is regular practice these days by treating mental health professionals. And instead of seeing an independent psychiatrist, she has found a psychotherapist who she consults by webcam, and who has accepted without question everything that Mother has told her about her allegations of sexual abuse against Father. MG said that it is a great pity that this treatment is not evidence based and does not challenge her at all, so the net effect is that Mother is no further forward with any form of treatment, but appears to be reinforcing her views by getting professionals on-side.
Mother’s actions since the December hearing, it should be recorded, have been to try and shore up her position that the allegations against Father were true. She has repeated them fully to her psychotherapist, who wrote a lengthy letter to the court on her behalf. A mental health professional contacted Children’s Services on her behalf in connection with the allegations. Her vicar has become involved in the case, getting up a petition with over 100 signatures from churchgoers for the return of Child to Mother’s care, and attending contact uninvited. And finally Mother has re-asserted the truth of the allegations in a document written by her for a contact planning meeting in January 2014 after a difficult contact session.
[The Court doesn’t seem to have picked up on the point that it is unlawful for mother or others to identify that her child is the subject of ongoing Court proceedings, which someone must have done in order to sign the petition]
These cases are all really hard. For a father, to be accused of sexually harming your child when you have not done it must be one of the worst things imaginable and if the Court decide having tested the evidence that you are innocent you think that this will be an end of the nightmare, but it isn’t. And looking at it from the mother’s perspective, either the allegations are true and the Judge has got it wrong (which is not right legally, but is a human reaction) or by that point your relationship with the father is so corrosive and damaged that you have convinced yourself that he IS a risk and yet nobody will listen to you.
Looking at it from a purely forensic and legal perspective, the only thing for a mother to do in this situation is to say that the allegations were made in good faith and to protect the child, but that she now accepts the judgment.
But human beings don’t make decisions based on pure forensic legal considerations but on emotions and feelings.
I am reminded of the Blackadder lines
It is so often the way, sir, too late one thinks of what one should have said.
Sir Thomas More, for instance, burned alive for refusing to recant his Catholicism, must have been kicking himself, as the flames licked higher, that it never occurred to him to say, “I recant my Catholicism”
In a case like Hampshire, where mother is given the chance to recant her allegations and not only doesn’t do so, but proclaims them anew, it is not a very difficult decision for a Court to make.
On the ground, for a family and a child, they are some of the hardest things of all.
The mother and her side of the family are never going to accept that the child should be with father, they are always going to feel that mother has been punished for speaking out and saying the truth and that the child is in the most dangerous placement possible. What does that do to their relationship with the child? What are those contact sessions like? How will difficult questions raised by the child be answered?
I’ve got very little sympathy for mothers who perniciously fabricate such allegations about fathers (the option 4 in my original list), but what about those mothers where the allegations were made in good faith and they can’t move on from “it is my child, I KNOW in my heart that this really happened”? (options 2 and 3)
Legally and forensically it is easy – recant your Catholicism and accept the judgment. I can’t help but have some sympathy for mothers in that position though. What, they might say, if the Judge has got this wrong? People make mistakes – Courts get things wrong.
If you are in that position, how easy is it to just say “I give up, okay, it never happened”, when every fibre of your being says that it did?
What, they might say, if the Judge thinks that on the balance of probabilities, it is 55% likely that the allegations aren’t true. For the law, that proves it. But for me as a mother, what about that 45% chance? How could I, as a mother, be happy that there was a 45% chance that my child has been abused?
[None of that counts in legal and forensic terms – once the Judge has made a decision, you either accept it, or you successfully appeal it. The Court’s decision means that all of that doubt and uncertainty is removed and that what the Court say happened IS what happened]
We are hearing more and more from the Courts that it is not the job of the Court to fix people, to make them better, to solve their problems.
(for example T v S http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2013/2521.html
The court simply cannot micro-manage this very difficult relationship. If it sought to do so it would simply disempower the parents and add to the stresses on the child. Despite the force and intensity of the father’s complaints, he has said nothing in my judgment which, whether looked at individually or collectively, justifies the drastic step, so shortly after Mr. Justice Hedley refused, entirely appropriately as it seems to me, to vary the arrangements, to throw all that back into the melting pot and to embark upon the kind of investigation preparatory to the kind of fundamental change in the arrangements which it is the father’s ambition to achieve.
And Re K http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/1195.html
“In this case, the parents were both to have a meaningful relationship with their sons. That should have involved active practical and emotional steps to be taken by both parents to make it work. Instead the case is suffused with anger and arrogant position taking that has nothing to do with the children. There has undoubtedly been mutual denigration, true allegations, false allegations, irrelevant allegations, insults, wrongly perceived insults and the manipulation of the boys to an outrageous degree. The idea that the court can wave a magic wand and cure all of those ills is dangerously wrong. It cannot – its function is to make a decision. It does not have available to it a supply of experts, be they psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counsellors, drug, alcohol and domestic violence rehabilitation units, social and welfare professionals or even lawyers who can be ‘allocated’ to families. Experts that the court relies upon are either forensic experts i.e. they are specifically instructed to advise upon the evidence in a case or they are experts who are fortuitously already involved with the family through one agency or another. Their role in proceedings is to advise the court. There is no budget to employ them or anyone else to implement the court’s decision save in the most limited circumstances through the local authority, Cafcass or voluntary agencies.” )
And to an extent, that is right. The Court don’t have a magic wand to make things better, they don’t have resources to fix people.
Indupitably, however, there are people who come out of Court proceedings substantially more broken than when they went in. I don’t have an answer, and I suspect we’re less likely to get one that we were pre Austerity.
If a judge find on probabilities that I assaulted someone at midnight in Glasgow yesterday when in fact I was in bed alone in London but cannot prove it; do I really have to” accept the judgement of the court”? Sounds daft to me…………….
I take your point Ian – probably fairer to express it as “If I say that someone ELSE assaulted someone at midnight in Glasgow and the Court say that it didn’t happen, do I have to accept that?” Or alternatively, after the Court have heard all the evidence and decided it, can I keep going around and saying that you did assault someone in Glasgow?
I think the last sentence is key.
If someone makes an allegation against you, the case is heard and the case goes your way because the evidence is in your favour (perhaps overwhelmingly), should the other person be allowed to continue to make the same allegation? In particular, should they be allowed to repeatedly tell a minor that the court got it wrong, or mount an online campaign against you, conveniently ignoring all the damning evidence that the allegation is false?
You often hear the phrase “you leave this court without a stain on your character”, when someone is found not guilty in a criminal trial, but the reality is generally you don’t. “No smoke without fire”, etc. etc.
This can be made much worse by third parties who express opinions on cases simply based on prejudice rather than any consideration of the evidence, or mount campaigns supporting someone without having made any attempt to judge whether the allegation holds water.
The related bizarre thing that can be even more frustrating, is that when an allegation against you is dismissed in a family court, I’ve had people say “yeah, but you were only found not guilty on the balance of probabilities”.
To be found not guilty at a criminal trial requires just a reasonable doubt. In a family or civil court you need _at_least_ 51% likelihood that you are telling the truth, yet some people judge this as a lower burden.
Finally, as the person cleared, you tend to feel bound to stick to potentially very tight restrictions on what you are allowed to say about the case. Yet the result is you often find yourself unable to publicly defend yourself when the other party starts repeating (and potentially embellishing) the original allegation in defiance of reporting restrictions.
As in this case, the court rarely intervenes…
“[The Court doesn’t seem to have picked up on the point that it is unlawful for mother or others to identify that her child is the subject of ongoing Court proceedings, which someone must have done in order to sign the petition]”
Bottom line, I’m all in favour of justice and supporting the underdog, but only if the evidence supports their case. Otherwise you risk compounding an already unjust situation.
Prejudice, what ever the situation, is still prejudice.
A useful perspective of those cases where the involved agencies play with a straight bat. However, KidsForCashUK has a number of cases where that’s not happened. In some of our cases, social workers and other public sector officers are evidenced as being complicit in withholding evidence from the court. We even have cases involving social workers farming out children in care for abuse.
When a child has made consistent allegations to third parties and the police over a period of years, one has to look beyond incompetence and consider criminal collusion between public agencies involved in protecting the alleged paedophile. Certainly, those who are so motivated and well connected appear to be able to play the justice system for their own ends. In those cases, the degree of scrutiny offered by the bench is too often sadly lacking. Given the social connections of those involved in organised paedophilia, one has to wonder whether some of their Lordships aren’t part of the problem.
I absolutely agree some very bad things are happening, and I’ve supported several people in this area against the “system”, but each case needs to be judged on its merits.
Blind support for every parent that the family court finds at fault, doesn’t help and often makes things much worse.
You’ve got to look at the evidence in each case and make an informed judgement, rather than just accepting the story of every case “loser” as fact.
More over, in this case it isn’t even parents vs system, you have parent vs parent.
Falling back on the position that “all men as bad, all mothers are good” is a recipe for injustice.
I absolutely agree. We should absolutely call out and draw attention to bad conduct, bad decisions, bad mistakes. But to think that all family cases are wrong on the basis of those mistakes is somewhat like believing that all family GPs should be considered to be a Harold Shipman waiting to happen.
I wonder if the Judge took into account that the oath would have been immensely important to the mother if as a Christian she took it on a Bible. She would have been so much more unlikely to lie than an atheist as she would have been lying against God not just to the .court.
That’s why people become martyrs
I am sure I am going to get denounced for this but it seems to me that men can get away with rape , abuse and appalling behaviour , in the family court provided .the women is labelled as mental . Perhaps a wider and more balanced view may be to what extent has the man’s behaviour contributed to her mental state and could she actually just be reacting to trauma in the same way that other abuse victims do..
A person who swears the oath on the bible is not necessarily a Christian. They are no more or less likely to lie on oath than a person who affirms, atheist or not.
In terms of your comment:
“I wonder if the Judge took into account that the oath would have been immensely important to the mother if as a Christian she took it on a Bible. She would have been so much more unlikely to lie than an atheist as she would have been lying against God not just to the court”
Perhaps you could provide us with an ordered list showing the extra weight you believe judges should attach to testimony from adherents to various religions?
Does a Jew get the same extra weight as a Christian? Are Catholics to be trusted as much as Protestants? What about Pagans? Or if we have a Satanist, should we discount anything they say as their leader is the “Father of Lies”. Are athiests better or worse? How do we treat devout Buddists, given that there is no central God figure? Should we factor in the number of times you attend church each week or the time since confirmation?
What about in a rape case, where we have a man swearing on the bible vs a female accuser who only affirms because she is an atheist? How do you propose we balance the fact that “men get away with rape” against “religious people are less likely to lie”?
Similarly, can you suggest where we apply extra weight if we have a Catholic priest vs a choir boy (who is now a lapsed Catholic) in a child abuse case?
Hmmm, perhaps what you really need to do is provide us with a multi-dimensional matrix, showing extra weight to be assigned given inputs of sex, age, religion, race?
But then, do we need to include hair colour, given that everyone knows gingers aren’t to be trusted? What about distance between the eyes and bumps on the head?
And how do you deal with the fact that other people might not agree with your matrix? Do we need a referendum? What about in international courts? How do we proceed if you have an Islamic mother from Turkey vs a devout Christian father from England? Would you be happy with the application of a local matrix if you were detained in say Iran? What about in a communist state which still denies religion? Would you be happy for a religious view to be held against someone?
Does all seem rather complex.
Perhaps we should just stick to making judgements based on the core evidence presented in court rather than asking judges and juries to weight testimony based on stereotype prejudices?
Dear mother whose case this is, please contact John Hemming and ask to be put in touch with me. Kind regards
Alternatively she could follow the advice to seek an independent psychiatrist who might help her, if not accept the situation, at least see the alternative view point. Given the judgement, doing so is probably her best chance of having a relationship with her child.
I know from personal experience how easy it is to get so wrapped up in the fight for justice, that you lose sight of why you were seeking justice and the best interests of the people you were trying to protect. Sometimes continuing the fight is not the best path for those you love, and sometimes you need someone not involved in anyway to show you the way out.
Coming to the book well after my personal struggle, I would always now recommend that anyone involved in legal action should read Bleak House…
You might have spotted that this whole case has touched a nerve with me.
I have no desire to reopen the wounds of my own “past” problems, but my current approach is to always consider that one’s own black and white view of the world might not match other people’s opinions, and even if you are “right” you need to think very carefully about what you are trying to achieve if any “victory” is not to be pyrrhic.
Real Person: I’m not going to “denounce” you, but would say that starting from a position that _presumes_ that the situation must at some level have been the father’s fault and the mother must at some level have been a victim of injustice, is itself a biased and unjust position.
Justice is supposed to be about hearing the details of a case without prejudice (i.e. not starting with a view already in mind) and then forming a judgement based on the evidence.
In various “professional” capacities I have met a large number of men and women over the years from a wide range of social and racial groups, with some really unhappy partnerships. My personal experience is that on balance men are more likely to be guilty of physical domestic abuse than women, and women are more likely to be guilty of psychological abuse. Not terribly surprising given the skew in average physical strength between the sexes.
However I have seen it work both ways, and would absolute _never_ assign “guilt” based on sex, race or any other superficial grouping.
Justice and fairness is about recognizing that we are all individuals and should be judged based on our actions, not our sex, age, race, skin colour, etc.
I’m always disappointed to see so many people judging based on stereotypes rather than the facts of a case, and it is particularly saddening when they themselves believe they have been treated unjustly.
When he can’t find a toy, my 6 year old will often claim his elder brother has taken it. When questioned, sometimes he will add details like “I saw him going into my bedroom”, “I’m sure I saw him with it”, or “he’s always taking my toys”. He can get extremely upset and will be absolutely vehement that he “knows” his brother has taken it. I honestly believe that is what he thinks.
I normally tell him to consider where he might have left it, and look under his bed, behind the bookcase, etc. Sometimes he finds it, sometimes I have to go and find it for him.
When it does turn up, he’ll often claims his brother must have put it back, rather than accept that it was his mistake.
Whilst it is possible that his elder brother is a devious toy thief, on balance of probabilities (and the fact that often his brother simply hasn’t had the opportunity to take the toy or put it back) I’m happy to accept that the youngest just doesn’t look after his toys very well.
If the toy is found, I therefore always make sure the youngest goes and apologizes to the eldest for the accusation and for not looking hard enough himself. If he doesn’t he is punished for his continued poor behaviour.
Do you think I should I instead punish his elder brother based on the youngster’s mistaken, but strongly held beliefs, perhaps including invoking the well known “fact” that “Elder brother are always mean to younger brothers”?
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There I thought I would upset someone., but more about men getting away with abuse. I forgot about the thorny religious issue. I am not saying a Christian is any better than anyone else. It just if something that is a sacred, as the Bible is to a Christian, as the Koran is to a Muslim if an oath is taken on that holy book the person will fear their God more than the court so in my opinion , could be right could be wrong, are more unlikely to lie.
Indeed the Christian church, which by the way Christian encompasses all denominations such as Catholics , Methodists ,was built on false prosecution of Jesus ,
It was only a comment I’m not a theologian .
However does anyone fancy abolishing all legislation and just going back to the 10 commandments? It may simplify matters sufficiently for litigants in person. Actually that may be the announcement Simon Hughes is going to make.
Note before I upset litigants in person I have been there got the t shirt and still retain the ability to laugh at myself. I am not belittling you , you probably can work out that you are not supposed to shred the sealed appellant notice!
I am smiling, really, just sometimes the past can be hard to ignore.
However, on the subject of the 10 commandments, I suspect a good human rights lawyer would rip them apart.
Rule 1: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Obviously conflicts with freedom of religion
Rule 2: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Where to start. Freedom of expression. Freedom of religion. Injustice of punishment without crime (3rd & 4th generation bit).
Rule 3:Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Clearly infringes freedom of expression
Rule 4: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Don’t get me started on strict observance of the sabbath, medical care, etc. And that is before we start arguing about which day this refers to.
Rule 5: Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Is this irrespective of what they might be doing to you? And what about same sex families?
Rule 6: Thou shalt not kill.
You’d think this was clear cut, but clearly issues with right to die & right to choose.
Rule 7: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Rule 8: Thou shalt not steal.
Rule 9: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
These three are probably sound, though strict application of rule 7 will require a big prison building program.
Rule 10: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
Again not bad, but there goes most of modern society.
Get out of my brain! I was just about to do a blog post on how the Ten Commandments might look if it had been Munby rather than Moses bringing them down
Sorry, but I have no doubt you can do a much better job!
I find it quite disturbing that there are those who still advocate acquiescence to flagrant miscarriages of justice for short term gain. If that path had been followed by everyone, would we really have LJ Munby and others engaged in the sweeping reforms that they now accept as being a necessity?
I’m a strident supporter of those wronged, but are you suggesting that you believe this case (based on the evidence) is a miscarriage of justice?
Why do you believe the mother’s position, not the father’s, despite the evidence supporting his position?
Any case is heard on the basis of the evidence presented. We have examples where evidence of sexual abuse has been withheld from the court by agencies including Children’s Services. We have numerous examples where parents have been silenced by barristers’ advice, “that continuing to report sexual abuse will likely result in losing the child”, even where those allegations have been made direct by the child to the police (As a lay advisor, I’ve seen the transcripts and there is little doubt that they’re genuine). We even have an example of a judge, with the support of Children’s Services, CAFCASS, police and independent witnesses, ordering that a father must not have unsupervised access to a child, setting a date for a finding of fact hearing, only for every involved participant to be taken off the case before the next hearing and the tables turned. Perhaps, it won’t surprise you to learn that this was in South Yorkshire. Of course, that doesn’t happen all of the time but even the soundest judgement can only be made on the basis of the presented evidence. It’s quite possible that the above case is as straightforward as it’s presented but we simply don’t know enough to make a personal judgement.
Having re-read my response, I realise that I might be taking too much for granted because of our direct involvement in cases. The media hasn’t yet exposed the collusion of other agencies in cases like those in South Yorkshire. K4CUK is maybe some way ahead of the public outrage that will result when the true depth and breadth of what’s been happening come to light. Apologies.
I would be interested in you opinion on what fraction of family cases (across the country) are flawed in the way you suggest, ideally with a split between parent/state cases and parent/parent.
I have seen various miscarriages, but based on my personal experience tend to support the authors comment:
“I absolutely agree. We should absolutely call out and draw attention to bad conduct, bad decisions, bad mistakes. But to think that all family cases are wrong on the basis of those mistakes is somewhat like believing that all family GPs should be considered to be a Harold Shipman waiting to happen.”
There are many well conducted cases but how would you put a percentage on them? In my other campaign activity, I’m seeing every court abused by various players, corruption within the court system itself, and favours being facilitated for the Great and the Good. We even exposed industrial scale legal aid fraud between solicitors and the old Legal Services Commission.
To return to the family court, there’s one recent example that I can give you that doesn’t impinge on anyone’s confidentiality: K4CUK reported a sitting family court judge who was simultaneously a company director of an organisation that directly profited from his care orders… and you thought that it only happened in the States? We reported him in anticipation of a huge public scandal. Instead, His Honour was allowed to quietly resign his directorship.
There are numerous, now documented, social workers simultaneously working for local authorities whilst using other (maiden / hyphenated) names registered as directors of social care companies. Admitting fault in such circumstances presents an immediate conflict of interest. The same goes for a number of solicitors and barristers representing local authorities in the family court whilst being directors of social care companies that directly benefit from care placements. Don’t expect the mainstream media to cover this anytime soon…
It’s time people woke up!
Maybe its a Yorkshire phenomena. I recognise what you are saying with the joint agency working in East Yorkshire but then Pam Allen Head of Children’s Services in Rotherham (2005-2009) and two of her senior managers are in similar positions within East Riding Council. I wish you all the best with your campaign.
Sadly, K4CUK has discovered pockets of similar activity across much of the UK. The worst of the lot are a small number of social workers who have been farming out children in care for paedophile abuse by the Great and the Good. Not just Elm guest house but serious volumes all over the UK, coordinated by a national ring with significant establishment credentials. This includes video production of violent sexual abuse and even snuff movies, mostly Amsterdam based. Too often, related evidence has ‘been mislaid’.
To get back to topic, ‘coaching’ by a parent is extremely difficult to prove or disprove. Often the subtlest evidence isn’t presented. Often major threads of evidence are dismissed in court on nothing more than the opinion of a social worker. Often they’re right but once positions are fixed it is incredibly difficult to get a social worker to admit error.
One last comment (sorry for being a pedant).
Whilst I love Blackadder, and the quote is wonderfully apt, Thomas More was actually executed by beheading.
I will forward your complaint to Ben Elton and Richard Curtis (I could actually tell Richard Curtis, because he sometimes drinks in my local…)