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Judge opts not to jail clergyman’s ex-wife over false child abuse allegations

by Press Association

A High Court judge has decided against jailing a 60-year-old woman who conducted an “obsessive campaign” against her clergyman ex-husband.

But Mrs Justice Lieven has ordered the sale of Jean Gibbs’ house so that Methodist minister the Rev Charles Gibbs can raise money to pay legal bills he has run up.

Mr Gibbs, 70, who in recent years has lived in the Isles of Scilly, said his ex-wife had repeatedly falsely accused him of abusing their now grown-up son.

He said she had breached judges’ orders not to make such allegations and wanted her to be jailed for contempt of court.

Mrs Justice Lieven, who analysed the case at recent hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London, has ruled in his favour.

But she has concluded that jailing Gibbs, of Attleborough, Norfolk, would not halt the “vendetta”.

Another judge had imposed a nine-month jail term, following an earlier application by Mr Gibbs, three years ago.

Mrs Justice Lieven said Gibbs had spent four-and-a-half months in jail and had “recommenced” sending emails as soon as she came out.

The judge said she had decided that the best way to protect Mr Gibbs was to publish a ruling which showed “the truth”.

Gibbs had publicised “the most lurid allegations” to as “wide an audience as possible”, said the judge.

Her behaviour had a “devastating impact” on Mr Gibbs’ quality of life and his ministry, she added.

“Mr Gibbs applied to commit his ex-wife Mrs Gibbs to prison for breaching two orders of the court that she should not publish allegations that he had abused their son 20 years ago,” said Mr Justice Lieven in her ruling, which was published on Wednesday.

“Mrs Gibbs applied to discharge those orders. Mrs Gibbs accepted that she had breached the orders on very many occasions but said that she had a reasonable excuse for doing so, arguing that the allegations are all true.”

The judge added: “I have come to the clear conclusion that Mrs Gibbs’ allegations are not true. She has for many years been convinced of the truth of the allegations and has been conducting an obsessive campaign against her ex-husband. She frequently distorts the truth and alleges that various people have believed her when on examination this is not true.”

Mrs Justice Lieven said jailing Gibbs would not persuade her to end the campaign.

“I am confident that if I send her to prison, for however long, when she comes out she will continue her vendetta against Mr Gibbs,” said the judge.

“I therefore consider the more effective remedy for Mr Gibbs is for me to publish a full and detailed judgment, with an executive summary, so that he can distribute this to anyone who has been sent Mrs Gibbs’ allegations.”

She added: “I have also ordered the sale of Mrs Gibbs’ house to pay the costs of the various proceedings Mr Gibbs has been forced to bring.”

Mrs Justice Lieven said Mr Gibbs had run up more than £30,000 in lawyers’ bills taking legal action against his ex-wife.

Gibbs said she had “no intention” of paying those bills.

The judge said a sale of Gibbs’ house, thought to be worth more than £200,000, was the only way Mr Gibbs would recover his costs.

She said there was no evidence of “any other resources”.

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