Parental alienation: Universal Medicine cult – UK Court of Appeal rules to protect child

VernalThe 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.

My comments

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. [95]

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”. [55]

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. [101]

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. [92]

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.


Court of Appeal ruling S | (Parental Alienation: Cult), Re [2020] EWCA Civ 568

Mirror report

The Times report

Blog – Cults in the Court of Appeal: Re S |Law & Religion UK

14 thoughts on “Parental alienation: Universal Medicine cult – UK Court of Appeal rules to protect child

  1. This didn’t make it into my blog, but if the mother reads this, or any of her friends — she *really* needs to dump that lawyer. For the sake of herself and that poor child she urgently needs to get some sensible legal advice.

    I would also urge her to comply with the court’s ruling — get the help and make the break. UM is not worth it. Lots of people have left. They hesitate because they think they have nothing to go to, but that is the opposite of the case, and no one regrets leaving. I personally will do whatever I can to support anyone who leaves.

  2. Leaving UniMed is something I’ve feared first and never regretted afterwards. There were open arms and competent help. Life for me is worth living without an omniscient forever student. All the best for the family, something good may come out of it.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m hearing from observers that some who are still in are no longer committed to the work and are only staying with UM because they either feel ashamed, or feel that they have nowhere to go (or both). It sounds like it’s not something that’s discussed among the students. Do you or any others with first hand knowledge of what’s happening have any comment on that?

      • No, sorry. The same old story in my case: Once one enters the pranic world, UniMed “friends” leave.

        • Thank Goodness for Esther Rocket. Its not easy to stand up against a megalomaniac with nefarious intentions and his cohorts. A torrid time for her while she worked tirelessly every day to win a court case which in essence will help free many and many more to come from the grips of cultic reigns. So those looking in are less helpless as in the cases where ex spouses are taking action to protect their children against many things but especially the inevitable alienation of themselves as a parent. U M would not accept outsiders. They are after all a cult. In essence Esther Rocket has invested herself to support others , their friends and family whom find themselves sucked in to the vortex of lies and manipulation where ones freedom is shackled. Thankyou Esther. I and many others applaud you. For your incredible determination to speak the truth.

  3. Thank you Esther for your dogged perseverence to expose this exploitive cult!

    The supreme court case (initiated to silence you) spectacularly exposed ‘Leonardo’s’ lack of integrity, insecurity, lies and controlling nature.

    Many followers have since left (begrudgingly acknowledging your instrumental role) however the destructive impact continues splitting families & friends…

    There is no judgement re those caught up in the UM debacle, as like any ‘successful’ cult it met (then exploited) basic human needs of community, bonding, love, healing purpose… There are many genuine, safe, ethical groups out here or create your own recovery hroup! Many of us are waiting with arms open wide to reconcile with those trapped inside…

    • The first step is the hardest, but each one after that become gradually easier and easier. Think about having a life to live again free from crazy rules, impossible diets and fear of entities around every corner.

      But most of all, think about your kids, their health, their well-being and what they will think of you when they are grown up. Will they look back at their childhood as a happy, carefree time? Or will it be memories of endless arguments about food, questions about the strange people that seem to control every aspect of your life, and the embarrassment of inappropriate things being said in front of their friends. Every action we make has an effect on them. In years to come they can either be grateful for the way you raised them and held their hands through the start of their life, or they will loath you for ruining their childhood and never giving them chance to be children.

      The first step is the hardest… but it’s time for a lot of people to start taking it.

      • If you need evidence of how badly kids can be affected, just look at the Benhayon kids. Young adults with dad still pulling the strings. Imagine them left alone in the world on their own….

  4. Well I could see this coming almost sixteen years ago, don’t eat this don’t eat that ,you will get stomped on by the lords of form or whatever if you had a mouthful of wine , this was before “himself” had time to refine the ins and outs of fiery foods and pranic foods. Kids were a large part of his concentrated efforts even then, but more importantly, it was obvious that he needed Mums on-side so they bought the kids. There are several families I am aware of that definitely have psychologically damaged young adults due to his adversarial influence both boys and girls but particularly girls. I saw the writing on the wall early. No one had to explain to me as a medical practitioner that he was a wind-talker and had the gift of the gab. If you questioned his wisdom and teachings you were stared down and made feel your comments and knowledge was inferior to his channeling from the lords of form and that the knowledge he received was directly from heaven and being so “spiritual” superseded all current knowing on earth, so if you were easily led by the speaking in circles then you were on the “HOOK so to speak”.
    the refinement of his non food diet came later as he further developed his Manipulative, sycophantic manner of delivery and teaching.
    so to break free of this is sometimes a difficult road to travel because once you realise the manipulation trust in any alternative will need to be developed before you can move forward ie the diet.

    • Thanks for all of your comments. It’s always enlightening for readers to hear from people with first hand knowledge. We still have a lot of friends and loved ones of UM people reading who find it difficult to get a picture of what happens within the ‘community’. Congratulations to all who’ve made the escape.

    • There’s quite a few groups of people round the world in touch with each other Mary. If you go on Facebook and look at Esther’s Legal Defence page or the Benhayon vs Rockett group you’ll find a lot of people there. If you prefer to remain anon, you can post here or a any of the other blogs listed on this site. Ask any questions you have and I’m sure someone will get back to you.

      • I’m not aware of any active support group for children of Unimed followers, and the issue with forming one is security — making sure that it’s not infiltrated by the Benhayon butt kissers feeding info back to their idol. Or any other individuals or groups looking for vulnerable people to exploit.

        It’s possible to set one up I suppose, but it would have to be rigorously screened and completely confidential, or as commenter above suggested, the alternative is to discuss any issues anonymously here.

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