Secret court jails father for sending son 21st birthday greeting on Facebook after he was gagged from naming him
- Garry Johnson breached gagging order stopping him publicly naming son
- 46-year-old brought up his son and still lives with him
- Judge sent father to prison for contempt at a closed-doors family court
- Case certain to fuel concerns about Britain’s network of secret courts
By SUE REID
Controversial: Father Garry Johnson has been jailed at a secret court hearing for sending a Facebook message to his grown-up son on his 21st birthday. His sons Sam, then 9 and Adam, then 6, are pictured in 2001
A father has been jailed at a secret court hearing for sending a Facebook message to his grown-up son on his 21st birthday.
Garry Johnson, 46, breached a draconian gagging order which stops him publicly naming his son, Sam, whom he has brought up and who still lives with him.
In a case which is certain to fuel concerns about Britain’s shadowy network of secret courts, a judge sent the former music executive to prison for contempt at a closed-doors family court hearing in Essex at the beginning of last month.
He was not arrested by police or even represented by a lawyer.
The order silencing Mr Johnson – which follows an acrimonious divorce eight years ago – means he cannot mention either of his boys, 21-year-old Sam and Adam, 18, in public, even by congratulating them in a local newspaper announcement when they get engaged, married or have children in the future.
The extraordinary gag is set to last until the end of his life, although his boys are now adults. Last night they condemned their father’s jailing as ‘cruel and ludicrous’.
After their parents’ divorce, the two boys chose to live with their father, following a series of rows with their mother over her new boyfriend.
But within a year of the divorce, Mr Johnson’s ex-wife made allegations to Essex social workers that he was neglecting the children and not feeding them properly at his smart family home.
An investigation by social workers cleared him of any wrongdoing and said the boys were fine.
A year later, in 2006, she made further allegations to social workers that he was mentally unfit to care for the boys.
Medical documents shown to the Mail by Sam and Adam reveal that Mr Johnson was examined three times by a local psychiatrist hired by social workers. The doctor wrote to social workers saying:
‘There is no evidence of mental illness. I cannot understand why there are concerns about Mr Johnson’s mental health.’
Social services refused, as a result, to get involved.
In 2007, the ex-wife started private care proceedings to remove the boys from their father. A judge put the boys under a ‘living at home with parent’ care order.
Locked up: Garry Johnson, 46, breached a draconian gagging order which stops him publicly naming his son, Sam, whom he has brought up and who still lives with him. He sent his son a message on Facebook
It meant they would continue to live with their father, but under supervision by social services.
This care order was accompanied by the gagging order to stop an increasingly anguished Mr Johnson talking about the case publicly.
Even naming his sons in the most innocuous circumstances – such as on Facebook – became a contempt of court.
Much-loved: Gary Johnson wished his son, Sam a happy birthday on Facebook. Sam is pictured when he was 15 in 2007
The care order on Sam expired on his 18th birthday three years ago. The one on Adam in October last year when he reached 18. Normally, a gagging order imposed by a family court judge on a parent expires at the same time as a care order on the child. This one did not.
Mr Johnson was imprisoned at the height of the Mail’s campaign against jailings by this country’s network of secret courts.
The secretive family court system, which jailed Mr Johnson, deals with custody wrangles, children’s care orders and adoption.
Mr Johnson received a letter in late April from Chelmsford County Court officials ordering him to go to Basildon Magistrates’ Court building on May 2 for a hearing regarding his children.
He was not warned he might face imprisonment or that the hearing was about his Facebook message, posted on Sam’s birthday a few days earlier on April 23.
On arrival, he was escorted by court security guards to a private room in the building for a half hour hearing under family court rules before His Honour Judge Damien Lochrane.
He was not warned that he might need a lawyer.
At the private hearing, Mr Johnson learned he had breached a gagging order, imposed by the family courts in 2007, by sending the Facebook message.
He informed the judge that he had had four heart attacks and was awaiting a triple by-pass operation. But he was sentenced to 28 days’ jail and sent down to a court cell to await transport to Chelmsford prison.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2334123/Secret-court-jails-father-sending-son-21st-birthday-greeting-Facebook-gagged-naming-him.html#ixzz2V8MG0V7b
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook