Barrister Denies Lying about Mother's Cruelty; Daughter Taken to Court by Parent over Claims of Abuse in Her Book

Article excerpt

Byline: Jan Colley and Cathy Gordon

A BARRISTER yesterday told the High Court she was driven to plastic surgery because her mother repeatedly taunted her for being ugly.

Constance Briscoe is being sued for libel by her mother, Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell, over allegations of sustained childhood cruelty and neglect made in her 2006 memoir, Ugly.

The 51-year-old part-time judge said that, as a student in Newcastle, she used her university grant to pay for operations on her nose, her upper and lower lip and eventually her eyes.

"I had it because my mother had for a very long time called me ugly, and I was conscious of my looks and I wanted to get rid of the ugliness."

Ms Briscoe said that she had bad acne when she was younger and, by the time she was 14, had to wear a wig to conceal hair loss.

"Mymother would callmeugly, call me a dirty little whore, call me potato head, call me Miss P***-a-bed and Scarface."

The 74-year-old mother of 11, who is also suing publisher Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, has denied her allegations and told Mr Justice Tugendhat and a London jury that her relationship with her daughter as a child was a loving one.

Ms Briscoe, of Crescent Grove, Clapham, south-west London, says the contents of the book are substantially true and not "a piece of fiction" as her mother claims.

She said that the unmanageable bed-wetting which irritated her mother began "ever since I knew myself" and continued most nights until she was 14 - leading, she claimed - to a violent response from her mother.

Ms Briscoe said that, when she was nine, her mother had deliberately cut her on the inside of her arm with a knife in a row over the preparation of a chicken.

She also described how her mother had flown a remote control toy plane into her face, leaving open pink wounds on her cheek.

She said that the scar on her face was the only remaining cosmetic surgery she still had to get.

Ms Briscoe wiped away tears as she told the court how she drank bleach after trying unsuccessfully to get taken into care. …