Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Mother denies judge's abuse claim

Constance Briscoe
Ms Briscoe is among the first black women judges in Britain

A mother accused of cruelty by her barrister daughter has told the High Court her family are her pride and joy.

Constance Briscoe's memoir, called Ugly, said she was punched, kicked and beaten with a stick by her mother.

Ms Briscoe, 51, who is also a part-time London judge, is being sued for libel by her mother, who claims the work is "a piece of fiction".

Her mother Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell, 74, said the book was "nonsense" and is suing Ms Briscoe and her publishers.

Mrs Briscoe-Mitchell, of Southwark, south-east London, told Mr Justice Tugendhat and a jury: "I never had any problems with my children.

"My children were my pride and joy."

She was a beautiful baby and she still is anyway
Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell

Asked about Ms Briscoe's claim in her book that she had described her as "ugly" and a "swine", she said: "No, none of my children are ugly. Constance isn't ugly."

She added: "She was a beautiful baby and she still is anyway - she still is a beautiful girl, but she didn't like her colour."

Mr Justice Tugendhat has instructed the jury to read the memoir as part of their duties.

He told the jury that it was up to Ms Briscoe and publishers Hodder and Stoughton Ltd to establish that the abuse detailed in the book was true.

'Worked hard'

Mrs Briscoe-Mitchell, a mother of 11, maintained she worked hard to raise her family, often without their father, working as a dressmaker.

Her counsel told the jury Ms Briscoe's siblings would support her assertion that she provided for her children as best she could and treated them equally.

He told the jury that despite the severity of the allegations made in the book, Ms Briscoe did not complain to police, social services or teachers.

Ms Briscoe's counsel, Andrew Caldecott, told the jury to remember his client was a child at the time.

He said: "Constance Briscoe says she was the victim of sustained cruelty when she was a child and she says she was the victim of serious neglect when she was a child. She chose to say it. She has to prove it."

Ms Briscoe, one of Britain's first black female judges, has since written a second book, called Beyond Ugly.

The court case continues.

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