Jun 26 2004

Love-tug teenager launches legal fight

By Paula Murray

A SCHOOLGIRL at the centre of a bitter custody battle is preparing to sue
Jack McConnell for 10million.

Jacqueline Shields, 14, claims the First Minister has failed to protect her
basic human rights to be brought up in a stable environment.

Since her parents divorced 10 years ago, she has pleaded to be allowed to
live with her dad Duncan.

But despite this, the courts have ordered her to stay with mum June.

In desperation, Jacqueline has repeatedly run away from her mum's home in
Greenock, Renfrewshire, and returned to her dad's in nearby Gourock.

Now she is beginning a court battle, saying the legal system has ignored her
civil rights to 'peace and stability which a custodial parent should be able
to provide for a child'.

Jacqueline claims all her requests for legal help in the custody case have
been refused or ignored.

The initial writ against McConnell was lodged at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

It seeks the massive damages 'for the years of avoidable psychological
distress due to his failure to prevent major abuses of Scottish law and
failure to protect children which the defender has a duty to ensure but
instead did nothing'.

Jacqueline claims the First Minister's failure in his duty to protect minors
has caused her severe distress and unhappiness.

She says he should have used his position to ensure she was 'properly
represented in the court process'.

Jacqueline has already appeared before MSPs and petitioned the parliament
over her fight.

She appeared before the public petitions committee in December 2002 with her
sister Karen and brother Mark.

She told MSPs: 'I have been fighting for years to stay with my dad.While
that has been happening, I have felt that wrong decisions have been made on
my behalf.

'They have been made when I have hadno counsel acting for me.

'I have had to stand up in court and give hurtful and upsetting reasons why
I wish to stay with my dad. Even then, it was still granted that I should
return to my mother's.'

Since addressing the MSPs, she and her dad have suffered further setbacks.

Earlier this year, Mr Shields was ordered to repay thousands of pounds in
legal aid for failing to disclose information on a BT redundancy payment.

The family could face eviction from their home.

Jacqueline's dad refused to comment, saying: 'We're under immense pressure
and this is really not the time to talk about it.'

Her mum was also unavailable for a comment.

Though Jacqueline's writ was formally lodged with the court, the papers were
returned for amendment and they have yet to be served on McConnell.

A spokeswoman for the Executive said: 'When a writ is served it will be
dealt with by the Scottish Executive's solicitors.

'It would be inappropriate to comment further at present.'