The mother of Constance Briscoe – Britain's most prominent black judge, who was arrested for allegedy lying in a police statement during the Vicky Pryce investigation – is considering reopening her legal battle against her daughter, after failing to persuade a jury five years ago that the judge had lied about her childhood in her best-selling “misery memoir”.
Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell has been told she faces being forced to sell her home to repay more than £500,000 in legal costs to the judge and the publisher of Ugly, Hodder & Stoughton, after the 79-year-old lost her libel action against her daughter in 2008.
The family said that they would consider pushing for the original libel case to be reopened, depending on the evidence in the cases against Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce.
Mrs Briscoe-Mitchell, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, was last year able to postpone demands for her to sell her house at a High Court hearing, pending the outcome of the court case against Chris Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce.
Mrs Briscoe-Mitchell, a fiercely independent woman who has suffered a stroke and has hearing and sight difficulties, had been told to contact social services to try to find somewhere to live. Mrs Briscoe-Mitchell said: "I'm not coming out of my house. I brought up my family there. They will have to nail it up with me in there."
Constance Briscoe's profile grew with the publication of her 2006 book – a bestseller praised as an unflinching account of domestic child abuse – in which she detailed a traumatic childhood at the hands of her mother.
The book was part of a long-running feud with her mother who in 1999 had written to the Bar Council to seek to have her daughter disbarred claiming that she was unfit to practice. The council declined to take action, saying her complaint was as a result of "inter family discord".
In the book, Briscoe claimed that her mother cut her with a knife for failing to properly clean a chicken, beat her for wetting the bed and taunted her over her looks.
Backed by other members of her family, Mrs Briscoe-Mitchell, a mother of 11, sued her daughter for libel. She took out a £30,000 loan for the legal action against her daughter for what she said were lies. She claimed that she provided for her children as best she could and treated them equally.
But Ms Briscoe told a 10-day hearing at the High Court in London that her mother beat her, called her a "dirty little whore" and drove her to attempt suicide by drinking bleach. After a jury found unanimously in the judge's favour, Ms Briscoe said: "I can quite understand why my family went into collective denial, but while child abuse may be committed behind closed doors, it should never be swept under the carpet."
Mrs Mitchell was ordered to pay the legal bills of Mrs Briscoe and the publisher, that amounted to £634,000 including interest, according to legal sources. She would have to sell the family home in south-east London, valued at £450,000, to pay £15,500 to her daughter with the bulk of the rest of the money going to the publisher.
Ms Briscoe's second book detailed a series of clashes with her own profession in the early part of her career as she rose to become one of Britain's few black judges. It also recounts the plastic surgery she said she had to counter taunts from her mother about her ugliness during childhood.
Ms Briscoe, a mother-of-two, was a regular fixture on the society pages of newspapers, in part owing to her relationship and break-up with Anthony Arlidge QC, a leading barrister, 20 years her senior.
Appointed in 1996, the 55-year-old is thought of in the legal world as a hardline part-time judge with a strict sentencing stance. She appeared on Question Time last year when she criticised a "something for nothing" attitude in Britain where too many people were subsidised for not working.
In her work at the Bar, she has focused on criminal work including murder, gang-related violence and serious sexual offences. Her legal work also gave her the material for her first novel, published last year. Its title: The Accused.
Ms Briscoe's book claimed her mother cut her with a knife over failing to clean a chicken properlyReuse content