The UK Court of Appeal has published a landmark ruling to protect a child from the harmful effects of Universal Medicine, which include alienation from her father. Her mother, a UM follower, has been ordered to break from the cult to be able to retain shared custody. The decision has been reported in UK’s Mirror and The Times.
The case in short
The proceedings are complex, but in outline, proceedings to protect the child, ‘Lara’* from Universal Medicine have been underway since 2015. In 2017, the Family Court ruled that the mother must explicitly avoid exposing the child to any aspect of or engagement with UM if she wished to continue shared custody of her young daughter. However, the mother failed to do so, and it became clear that the child was being influenced by UM in ways that were damaging her health and wellbeing.
Early 2019, the girl’s father sought a new order for full-time custody. The court heard evidence of UM’s activities, including a large amount of incriminating material published by the cult and its leader, Serge Benhayon. The court also considered the Supreme Court of NSW’s findings in Benhayon v Rockett and evidence used at that trial that substantiated UM’s risks to the public, including children.
The Family Court judge made his decision early 2020, acknowledging the Supreme Court of NSW’s findings, ruling that UM is a sinister and harmful cult, and that the influence of UM is harmful to the child, and that she is at risk of developing an eating disorder caused by the Esoteric diet. The judge found that the mother had effectively alienated the father from his daughter by instilling the girl with beliefs that undermined his role as a parent. However, the judge did not award full custody to the father. The father then took an appeal to the High Court, where its appeals tribunal of three senior justices examined the history of the proceedings and all of the evidence.
On 29 April 2020, the Lords and Lady Justices ruled that the Family Court judge had in fact been in error in dismissing the father’s application for full-time custody. In effect the judge had not issued orders that protected the child. However, the Appeals Court decided to allow the mother one last chance to break from the cult and has referred the final decision to the President of the Family Court, with a recommendation that if she does not leave UM, she’ll lose custody.
An outline of the judgment
This might be upsetting reading for the many families who are dealing with similar difficulties. Please be careful about taking or quoting certain parts of the judgment out of context.
Para 76 to 80 document serious allegations that were made by the mother and her lawyer to smear the father. They were not supported by any evidence whatsoever. They are published in the ruling to document each side’s argument only and are condemned by the Lord Justice later in his reasons, eg. at para 84: ‘We agree that this submission is an unjustified slur that should never have appeared in professionally drafted documents.’
The first 13 paragraphs examine the applicable law, including the law on freedom of religion.
The facts, or narrative of the dispute starts at para 14. Excerpts from an expert report supplied by Rev Dr David Millikan are found at paras 16 – 18.
At para 24 are the conditions of access both parents agreed to:
a shared care arrangement as recommended by the Cafcass officer, together with a prohibited steps order barring the mother from:
- Taking Lara to any Universal Medicine workshops and courses before the age of 16
- Imposing Universal Medicine teachings and doctrines on Lara
- Initiating discussions about Universal Medicine with Lara, and limiting themappropriately if Lara raised the subject
- Taking Lara to any premises at which Universal Medicine events are occurring
There’s an error in para 30. The trial of Benhayon v Rockett lasted six weeks, not six days.
The family court judge’s conclusions are at para 55 – 57. Only the judge’s refusal to award full custody was disputed, the rest of his findings will not alter.
From paras 61 – 68 is a summary of the mother’s lack of insight and lack of co-operation with the process up to the most recent hearing in January 2020.
The Justices’ final decision from para 81 is definitely worth reading to the end.
I read the judgment with mixed feelings. The proceeding isn’t over, but the ruling is a robust legal document. It was made possible because a bunch of us fought tooth and nail to protect kids from UM. The judgment is likely to protect at least some kids from Unimed’s pernicious psychological influence and its predatory and exploitative activities. It will become a precedent for future cases well beyond UM where there is parental alienation and/or cult involvement. It is likely to be cited internationally.
It’s gratifying that more courts are affirming the same concerns that I was harassed and publicly tarred a false accuser over four years for publishing. It’s particularly gratifying to see three High Court Justices drive home the same point that I was lambasted for:
We also consider that the judge would have done well to have addressed the insinuation of sexual impropriety that was a feature of the mother’s presentation. She had been bringing the matter up on and off since May 2015. It is particularly striking that she should promote suspicions about the father, despite the lack of any evidence, when she is at the same time impervious to proven allegations against Benhayon. 
On the other hand, I read the document with a heavy heart, having heard variations on the overall narrative far too many times – relationships ground into the dirt by zealous adherents of a grubby, life-sucking cult, and everyone suffering, most of all, children. The courts have shown great patience and compassion to the mother. They acknowledge that she is, in most respects, a capable and loving mother. Her mindless slurs against the father, and her blindness to her own destructive behaviour notwithstanding, she is not an evil person.
In reality, even though the mother does not see herself as alienating Lara from the father, that has started to occur. It is the result of what Lara, whose predominant loyalty is to the mother, has come to think about the father as someone who does not follow the “Way of the Livingness”. 
The courts have acknowledged the difficulties the mother faces in removing herself from UM. However, the Justices also recognised the high level of confusion and distress in Lara that is directly connected to her mother’s UM allegiance, and made it clear that the child’s welfare takes precedence over all other considerations. Those include the mother’s professed right to believe in what she’s convinced is a religion. The Lord Justice stated at para 85 that regardless of whatever rights she professes to have, she did not have a right to harm others.
The ruling also indicates a clear insight on the mindset of people who believe they’re above the law and all of the principles that underpin it.
She now approaches the arrangements for Lara on the basis that she knows best and that the father is someone from whom Lara is to be protected. She views Universal Medicine as a vital and benign entity. She has not begun to understand the substance of the judge’s findings and the concerns expressed by others. That is how cults work. 
I was exhausted by the time I read to the end, so I can only imagine how the father must feel after nine years of dealing with this. In his remarks, Lord Justice Jackson wrote that the mother has no
time for the fears of the father, with whom she shares parental responsibility: her response has been to attack him for taking action to protect their daughter, something that any responsible parent would want to do, though not all parents would have the determination to see it through. 
I have nothing but admiration for this father’s commitment. Unfortunately his little girl isn’t old enough to understand that he’s doing his best to prevent her from becoming, like her mother, a hostage to UM’s psychological hold.
While I understand what it’s like to fight a lengthy legal battle, there were no such personal stakes for me. This Dad is looking out for his vulnerable child. To me, it’s tragic that this family has endured years of angst and expense for nothing more than the mother’s blind allegiance to a proven charlatan and pervert, who she worships like a God.
The Court of Appeal, a branch of the High Court, is permitted to publish its ruling, however, the details of family law proceedings are otherwise not made public. The ruling has been anonymised to protect the child. Any person who publicly identifies the family involved may be liable for contempt of court.