At last!  The deceitful plans of political activists within social work laid bare.

Insider knowledge about the Hidden History of the Satan Scare which every parent must read.

The following is the first of two articles written for the British False Memory Society ( on the background to the Shieldfield case, looking at the ideological battleground that took shape after the Cleveland Mass Child Lifts. This column concerns a master-class in the history of SRA allegations and the coterie of Uber-Feminist Revolutionaries who set it all up.  You will find the second article on the vindication of those who were falsely accused, at the foot of this one. 

The Road to Shieldfield (part one)

by Margaret Jervis

"It sounds like Cleveland" commented perplexed media pundits in response to the Shieldfield libel victory. But there were key differences between the two scandals. In the 1987 Cleveland case parents grouped together to complain that they had been wrongly accused of sexual abuse on the basis of unsound medical evidence and fishy methods of "disclosure". Within days the revelations caused a national scandal of broad political dimensions. Over a hundred children were returned to their families without a single criminal prosecution. A year later a judicial inquiry report1 slammed the social worker and paediatrician involved and the term "Cleveland" became a by-word for the dangers of welfare zealotry.

On the face of it, Shieldfield was just the opposite to Cleveland. The accusers were parents, while the accused were welfare employees. Despite the pre-trial acquittal in 1994, the media and the council backed the parents still "baying for blood" uncritically. Four years later when the Review Team's report was published, the media joined the scrum without a blink of an eye. The false picture painted through the media campaigns around the case and the Newcastle Review Team report added momentum to the enacting of legislation that undermines the safeguards against wrongful conviction2.

But although the Review Team's report was, at the time, lauded as a victory for abused children and their families, in fact it endorsed the very types of suspect investigation that the Cleveland inquiry had criticised.

This was no mere co-incidence. The full story of the journey from Cleveland to Shieldfield is astonishing in revealing the disproportionate influence of a handful of dedicated ideologues - and exposes the fault lines in reforms that have undermined the probity of child protection and justice.

Two professionals were central to the Cleveland case. They were social worker Sue Richardson and paediatrician Marietta Higgs. In the aftermath, both women were blocked from statutory child protection work. Richardson lost her contract with the social services department and Higgs was barred from dealing with suspected child abuse cases. Consequently they turned their energies to building up a power base in the community. As members of a growing band of professionals and activists who believed that widespread undetected sexual abuse explained a panoply of individual and societal ills, they had a small but energetic band of supporters that included members of the local community health council.

Following the publication of the Cleveland Butler Sloss report in 1988, public meetings were held which included journalist Beatrix Campbell and the disgraced professionals. Campbell had taken a stand of supporting the professionals early on in the scandal in 1987. Rallying to their cause, she had monitored the inquiry and published the first edition of her book Unofficial Secrets on publication of the report.

As a feminist Marxist who frequently wrote for the Guardian, Campbell was an influential propagandist with a large following among left-leaning welfare professionals. Her platform throughout the Cleveland saga and beyond, was not the traditional class warfare but the new politics of gender. This became translated into a theory where men were substituted for the capitalist ruling class as the oppressors with women and children their captives. In this world vision sexual abuse was posited as a universal means of control of women and children (with boys as well as girls abused by their fathers as a method of induction into patriarchy).

This perversion of dogma was not new. It had begun in the 1970s and became closely aligned with what would come to be known as "repressed memory" theory. This methodology of abuse "disclosure" became linked with the family dysfunction model of child sexual abuse (criticised by radical feminists in the early days as being modelled on conservative patriarchal lines) that had taken root in the UK in the early 1980s at Great Ormond St Hospital, the Tavistock Clinic and the NSPCC.

Gathering together under the banner of "children's rights", the Cleveland activists formulated a political strategy to promote their concerns. They set out to create a cross-community alliance of professionals, voluntary workers and mothers whose children were thought to be sexually abused. Work with adult "survivor" groups and Rape Crisis centres was critical to the strategy, as was the promotion of criminal injuries compensation for past abuse. The idea was that instead of the professionals promoting their own cause, community pressure groups would become their voice - and in so doing gain a wider media and social acceptance.

The key tenet of the campaign was the breaking down of "denial". It was believed that abuse victims were locked into silence so that they were often unable to acknowledge it even to themselves. Consequently the abused child (ie the hypothetical "inner child" in either a child or adult) needed an adult professional advocate to become its voice and guide it into the external world. This was the view held by Sue Richardson, who was to become an "inner child" psychotherapist in Newcastle. In the 1991 book she edited, Child Sexual Abuse: Whose Problem?3, Richardson describes the theory as applied to the 161 children caught up in the Cleveland fiasco. She states that

 "[a] high proportion of these children had not told of the abuse before the investigation. These children were either not old enough, or in our belief, psychologically ready to tell an adult what happened to them." (italics added). Thus Richardson appears to assume that all the children jettisoned into care over two months in Cleveland were sexually abused - even though the majority eventually went home and had no further dealings with social services and no suspicion of abuse.

In 1989 the first groups were set up to support the professionals. CAUSE in Cleveland and Justice for Abused Children (JAC) both run by people who were part of a network of believers and who would promote "recovered memory claims"4. This resurgence co-incided with publicity about the Nottingham case, held to be an example of "satanic" or "ritual abuse". (see JET report - ref p. 6 of this newsletter Link to Jet Report Here )

The cases would bind the Cleveland and Nottingham protagonists and Beatrix Campbell together. Judith Dawson established contacts with the children's charity National Children's Homes (NCH). The respected Methodist children's charity was at the time restructuring its services moving away from residential child care into therapeutic services for sexual abuse victims. In 1992, Judith Jones, as she had become, took charge of the first of these centres in Sunderland, the Kite project. Sue Richardson would later head a similar project in Glasgow.

Working through the northeast branch of the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse Network (BASPCAN), links were established between the emerging pressure groups, voluntary organisations and the statutory services. For example, a child abuse helpline Child Abuse Listening Line (CALL) was set up by Sharon Gray who ran the Ashington Women's Therapy Centre. Gray also teamed up with Jane Tait at the Newcastle NCH to put together a voluntary group training resource leaflet on sexual abuse to distribute to the statutory agencies. Gray would also begin to work as a therapist with Sue Richardson using "recovered memory" and "multiple personality disorder" theories.

One of Gray's "recovered memory" clients was a woman called Lynne Richardson (no relation to Sue). In 1992 her child attended the nursery school where a male nursery nurse, Jason Dabbs, had been suspended following allegations of sexual abuse. At first it seemed only a small number of children were implicated. But anxiety spread and with Sharon Gray's help, Lynne Richardson set up a parents' pressure group, Parents Against Child Sexual Abuse (PACSA).

The children were examined by Dr Camille San Lazaro, the paediatrician who would play a central role in the Shieldfield case. Dr Lazaro, who had trained in Newcastle with Cleveland's Dr Higgs, (who had also returned to Newcastle) took an obsessive interest in diagnosing sexual abuse and had styled herself as a "forensic paediatrician" (though curiously she claimed in the libel trial she was unable to use a colposcope to take photographs for forensic purposes). Dr Lazaro was an eccentric figure with an unshakeable confidence in her own diagnostic powers in sexual abuse. Described by one observer as "a legend in her own imagination" her characteristic speculative bias can be seen in a letter she wrote to the medical journal, the Archives of the Diseases of Childhood in 1990. In the letter she argues that a rare skin disease, lichen sclerosis, can be caused by sexual abuse5. In fact signs of the disease can be confused with, but are distinct from sexual abuse damage. It was a gross misdiagnosis of the disease by Dr Higgs in Cleveland in 1987 that laid the foundations of distrust in the police6. Dr Higgs examined a six year old child four times over a period of four months - each time she diagnosed sexual abuse and each time a new perpetrator was indicated, including a foster carer. In the meantime, the painful skin condition itself was left untreated. It was a cautionary tale that ought to have given pause to the enthusiasts. Dr Lazaro however, was clearly of a mind to fit the square peg in a round hole by claiming - without any evidence - that the disease could be caused by sexual abuse. It is a clear indication that Dr Lazaro was determined to uphold the Richardson thesis of all the children involved in the Cleveland case being sexually abused.

In 1991 Dr Lazaro had become a member of the Newcastle Area Child Protection Committee. This is the body responsible for interagency child protection training in the investigation of abuse. As a "forensic paediatrician" Dr Lazaro was able to wield enormous power. Dr Lazaro's examinations, together with the networking of information through PACSA, resulted in the numbers in the Dabbs case rising to include children at a nursery he had worked in previously. Eventually over 60 children were said to have been abused. The parents, angry that abuse had been allowed to take place under the noses of the nursery staff, were mobilised by PACSA into a powerful force able to shape the course of the social services investigation. Consequently both CALL and the Newcastle branch of the NCH were given priority in providing therapeutic "disclosure services" for the children.

On 6th April 1993 Dabbs pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting nine children. It was a plea bargain. Three other charges were taken into consideration and charges against a further eight were withdrawn. Later, in an enquiry report, Peter Hunt QC declined to speculate as to whether he was guilty of the remaining charges or whether he had abused other children. However, Mr Hunt noted, with dismay, that he was not provided with the full prosecution bundle by the police but only a summary. This was written by WPC Julie Kinghorn who worked closely with Dr Lazaro and took charge of the entire police investigation interviewing both the children and Dabbs. Mr Hunt commented that the resulting videos were so poor they would have been inadmissible as evidence had the case gone to trial8.

Dr Lazaro and Sharon Gray's comments about the Dabbs case reported in the local press indicate how allegations might be unwittingly but systematically inflated through suggestion. Sharon Gray told the The Journal in Newcastle that CALL had helped around 30 of the families affected in the Dabbs case, adding "For some, listening to their children's plight brought back memories of abuse which had long been buried." While according to Beatrix Campbell, "a paediatrician" in the Dabbs case (Dr Lazaro), "vindicated the power of medical evidence, which took such a beating during the 1987 Cleveland case". Campbell continued: "Medical signs of 'penetrative trauma' fortified the children's testimony. Children had refused to speak altogether and broke their silence only when a paediatrician murmured: 'something has hurt you up there, hasn't it.'"

The Dabbs case would consolidate the power base of Dr Lazaro and her acolytes, setting off the train of extraordinary events which would lead to the Shieldfield prosecution and, finally, the "malicious" Review Team report.

Defending "recovered memory"

Just as the Dabbs case was emerging in Newcastle, new networks were being planned by the child protection campaigners to counter an emerging concern about false allegations of sexual abuse. Of greatest concern was the newly coined term "false memory syndrome" to describe the effects of induced belief in non-existent sexual abuse histories. In the US, a coalition of scientists, falsely accused parents and retractors in the False Memory Syndrome Foundation had begun to make a powerful impact on the media and public opinion. Outing the "recovered memory" method and its inherent assumptions also threatened to decimate what remained of the satanic abuse bandwagon. Since the days of the "satanic survivor" book Michelle Remembers in the early 1980s, campaigners had invariably turned to "adult survivors" as "proof" of the secret networks. With "recovered memory" theory and practice made explicit and found wanting it was as if the workings of a brilliantly executed puppet show had been exposed.

In Britain in early 1993, "recovered memory" therapy was becoming common currency among therapists with The Courage to Heal book established as the survivor bible. But the first signs of doubt were also emerging.

In January 1993, Parents Against INjustice (PAIN), the organisation that had played a key role in exposing the Cleveland and Orkneys scandals, warned that false allegations during adult "regression" therapy would become the "mental health issue" of the decade9.

The publication of articles about Roger Scotford's experience of false accusation through "recovered memory" in the Daily Telegraph in March and the Independent in June 1993 opened the floodgates to a rush of complaints about similar problems. The helpline Adult Children Accusing Parents (ACAP) was set up, leading to the foundation of the BFMS as a registered charity later the same year.

With the puncturing of the "recovered memory" myth, the storm clouds gathered once again over the heads of the UK activists. At this time in March 1993, Sue Richardson attended an international child abuse conference in Padua, Italy. She was there to deliver a paper on the topic she had made her own since she was toppled from her perch in Cleveland social services: mobilising the troops in the battle against the "backlash", as she saw it. Already the community approach was bearing fruit through the power of PACSA set up through her co-worker Sharon Gray in the Dabbs case.

Subsequent Shieldfield Review Team members psychologist Jacqui Saradjian and Judith Jones, were also at the conference. Saradjian would present a paper on women as abusers, while Richardson would be elected the secretary of a new group - the European Network for Backlash Research (ENBAR). The "research" was aimed at preparing strategies to counter critics of the ideologically driven child abuse methodologies that had driven Cleveland, the "satanic abuse" scares and "recovered memory". A key collapse had also occurred through the discrediting of the McMartin daycare case in the US and through the newly emerging research of psychologists Stephen Ceci and Maggie Bruck which led to the successful appeal by Kelly Michaels in another "ritual abuse" nursery case.

In Europe, another discredited case involving young children was in Oude Pekela in Holland. The professionals involved in that case would also play key roles in ENBAR. Through conference networks, the professionals would learn that similar "daycare" cases were emerging in Europe, including Muenster in Germany and Bjugn in Norway. These allegations would finally result in acquittals, but they shared key similarities with the development of the US cases, most notably that of the involvement of child abuse professionals with a special interest and belief in widespread hidden and "ritual abuse" in mundane settings.

When the professionals returned to Newcastle, the Dabbs case exploded in the newspapers. The next day the first mother complained about Chris Lillie in the Shieldfield case. His suspension, prior to any charges, reached the newspapers prompting PACSA to offer their services. But links were already close, since one of the mothers at Shieldfield was a governor at the Dabbs school. Through the control of the child protection training programmes and influence of the voluntary groups, the views of Dr Lazaro and the Cleveland-Nottingham axis reverberated through the investigation as if in a vacuum. Despite the acquittal of Dawn Reed and Christopher Lillie, the seal on that closed world would hold for nearly a decade until the libel victory.

In the next newsletter the second article will examine the later developments and the role of government guidelines and legal reforms in shaping Shieldfield.


1 Report of the Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland 1987, Cm 412, HMSO

2 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 s28

3 Child Sexual Abuse: Whose Problem? Venture Press , 1991.

4 CAUSE founder, Hilary Cashman, a librarian and member of the local community health council, stated in her book Christianity and Child Sexual Abuse, (SPCK, 1993) "Dorothy dealt with the trauma of her niece's rape by her father, still without remembering that she herself had been abused by him as a girl. Her body remembered before her mind - physical and psychosomatic illness were the precursor to memory, and was a long process."

5 'these changes may relate to a local immune response to the recurrent presence of substances like semen, or contraceptive lubricant, both in adults and in children'. (1990;65:1184).

6 Cleveland report op.cit.:8.8.23.

7 The Cleveland report did not come to a conclusion on the number of children correctly diagnosed. The claim, repeated in the media since 1989, that all or at least 90 per cent were correctly diagnosed has no scientific basis.

8 Given the defects in Dr Lazaro's diagnoses and panoply of suggestive influences, the safety of the Dabbs' conviction in whole or in part must now be in question since his confessions were made under the strong pressure exerted by WPC Kinghorn and the "incontrovertible" medical evidence provided by Dr Lazaro.

9 PAIN was a major target of the Cleveland abuse campaigners and was attacked in the Campbell Dabbs article for not 'offering' support to the parents making the accusations against Dabbs.

Copyright: Maggie Jervis & The BFMS, 2003.  

Click here for more background information on  so-called Recovered Memory Syndrome via

This is the second of two articles on the background to the Shieldfield false abuse accusations. The first article examined the ideological battleground after Cleveland and the effect that the false accusations there had on social work . Here, in this article, Margaret Jervis analyses the way that ideology contorted the Government's guidelines and gave us the Stalinist sex abuse pogroms and manic false accusations of today.

The Road to Shieldfield (Part 2)

by Margaret Jervis

The criminal trial of Christopher Lillie and Dawn Reed was scheduled to begin in July 1994. It was to be the first case of its kind in the UK. The alleged victims were pre-school children and their evidence was planned to be their police interviews on video-tape in accordance with the measures introduced through the Criminal Justice Act 1991i. The children were to be cross-examined through live video link and it was no longer necessary for children's unsworn evidence to be corroborated ii.

But before these arguments could be marshalled, the prosecution stalled. The quality of the evidence on the tapes was so poor, ruled trial judge Mr Justice Holland, that it could not be allowed into trial. He could have left it at that and the trial would have collapsed without any comment on the innocence of the accused. They were formally acquitted. However, he went on to stress the lack of evidence against Dawn and Chris who were still standing in the dock.

Enraged, groups of parents surged forward, grabbing hold of Chris and Dawn. After the trial concluded, the parents and their supporters marched to the city hall with banners proclaiming "WE BELIEVE THE KIDS" and with compensation solicitor Claire Routledge at the helm, the parents demanded a public inquiry.

Throughout, the image portrayed in the media was of abused children let down by the courts - and by implication the presumption that two dangerous child molesters had "got off". Council officials and politicians, while seeking to exonerate themselves from blame, eagerly joined the fray in condemning the perceived injustice to the children.

Dr Lazaro, the paediatrician who had played a leading role in the prosecution case, also spoke out. Children, she said, had a right to "tell their story" and be heard in the courts in the same way as adults, and this would be the message replayed in the media over the ensuing decade. Despite the relaxed measures allowing children to give evidence, their evidence of abuse was still not being heard, was the rehearsed mantra. That meant that thousands of paedophiles were getting away with child abuse with impunity. The collapse of the Shieldfield trial was seen as particularly grim because paedophiles who might have assaulted older children might now "target the under-fives".

Critical scrutiny of the case in the media was absent. Six years earlier, in neighbouring Cleveland, politicians and the media had led a storm of public outrage over the desecration of family life by the child abuse zealots. There had been no criminal prosecutions and the majority of the children who were claimed to have been abused, eventually returned home. In this sense, in Shieldfield, the tables were turned with professionals accused of abuse. They were not "abuse professionals", but their position as public service child carers anaesthetised popular sympathy. Even so, the similarity of this case to the well-publicised McMartin and Kelly Michaels cases in the United States, already exposed as fake, ought to have alerted more concern both in professional and media circles. The critical research on suggestibility by Stephen Ceci and Maggie Bruck had also been publishediii and publicised at this time, and the satanic ritual abuse fears had also been officially laid to restiv.

But the climate had changed - and the means by which mistakes could be made. It started with the Cleveland inquiry which reported in 1988v. While identifying key problems, the inquiry did not resolve the professional issues of accurate diagnosis. It was highly critical of play therapy methods to detect abuse and the presumptive use of the term "disclosure" in investigation. But the breakdown in the working relationship between the Police and the Social Services was to be settled by joint working and training.

Key to this was the setting up of Area Child Protection Committees. These were interagency bodies responsible for child protection investigation and training. The panels interpreted Government guidelines and produced their ownvi. The committees were coordinated by Social Services with members nominated by individual agencies which included the Police and medical services. In practice, members were chosen because of their interest in the field - which might include an ideological bias. Where the lead taken by Social Services was backed up by a powerful professional figure, such as paediatrician Dr Lazaro in Newcastle, there was a danger of creating an unaccountable, monolithic approach to training and practice.

Nor had the Government guidelines ensured safeguards against injustice with adequate checks and balances. Rather, it is arguable that they systematically fostered injustice which continues to this day.

Guidelines foster injustice

The guidelines, called Working Together, were issued by the Department of Health and the Home Office together with a Home Office Circular - thus reflecting the cross over between welfare, diagnosis and crime. The first set, published in 1988, addressed procedures in domestic child abuse allegations - the kind of problems that had littered Cleveland. When the 1989 Children Act was implemented in 1991, they were revised, and addressed the emergence of new types of cases - organised and "ritualised" abuse.

The introduction of these guidelines had two major flaws. Firstly, their purpose was hybrid because on the one hand they were driven by the Children Act which was concerned with protecting the welfare of children, and on the other, the criminal prosecution of serious crime. There was, therefore, an inbuilt bias towards regarding a child as a victim of abuse once any suspicion was raised and it followed that there was a presumption of guilt regarding the accused.

Secondly, they depended on a tainted knowledge base, ripe with rumour and misinformation. The public and social workers had contradictory perceptions as to what the measures were intended to achieve. Popular opinion at the time, horrified by the train of events in Cleveland, Rochdale and Orkney, was distrustful of social workers and the political message was that the measures were a kerb to protect innocent families.

But many social workers, on the other hand, still held an obdurate belief in the existence of widespread ritual abuse paedophile rings. They believed these shadowy organisations had been in their reach but failed their grasp through the negative publicity engendered by the "dawn raids" which had put pressure on the courts to return the children back home short of any criminal prosecutions.

Thus they saw the guidelines as a means of trapping the "rings" through a protracted harvesting of evidence and interagency planning. At an early stage, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was party to the meetings. So instead of the Police and the Crown providing a check on the speculative enthusiasms of the social workers, they became party to the execution of a crusade.

Influential in creating this approach had been the Department of Health Committee on Child Abuse Networks (COCAN). Formed at the height of the satanic network scares, Nottingham's Judith Dawson Jones was a member. COCAN ran a series of training workshops for Area Child Protection Committees between 1991 and 1992vii. The general message was that the networks were so powerful, that the investigating agencies had to organise and operate with stealth to break their hold on the silenced victims.viii In other words, it needed a conspiracy to break a presumed conspiracy.
The blurring of roles was further compromised by the introduction of video-taped interviews with children. Because the recordings were intended to become the child's courtroom evidence-in-chief, the junior police and social workers conducting the interviews assumed the role of crown court prosecutors

The ritual ghosts of Pembroke

Graphic evidence of the false sense of security engendered by the guidelines emerged in the Pembroke ritual abuse case which was tried in the eight months prior to the Shieldfield case in 1993 and 1994. The skeleton of the case going to trial was virtually a parody of the mythology built up around the "satanic cults" and was strongly influenced by the COCAN counter-conspiracy strategy. There were thirteen defendants - eleven men and two womenix. This was supposed to represent the make-up of a coven. Although the picture built up through the preparation for the trial included alleged ritual orgies littered with snake pits and a panoply of gruesome special effects and costumes, together with the obligatory camcorder, none of these objects were ever discovered in the barns, farms and beaches where the abuse was alleged to have occurred. However, they did bear a close resemblance to the teachings of the self-styled satanic abuse "experts", around at the time, who similarly could provide no concrete evidencex.

Instead, starting with a disturbed boy who was put into voluntary care, social workers mined what they assumed to be the hidden "memories" of abuse in a range of children and mothers. They then cross-matched the results by passing information from case workers to foster parents, children and adults implicated. The resultant "story" would prove to be a roughly-sewn patchwork full of holes. But, as with the naked emperor, it looked like a finely woven tapestry of truth to the investigators as they prepared to take the case to trial.

Indeed, at this stage in the summer of 1993, Dyfed Social Services were already trumpeting success in the social work magazine Community Care. Commending themselves on their procedural correctness following the new interagency guides they confidently asserted: "Our credibility was checked and double-checked. You have to believe the child. If you do, it has results."

The euphoria was short lived. Children and adults were shown to have been coerced into making untrue claims fed to them by the social worker interrogators. As the trial began to collapse the more extravagant prosecution claims were trimmed back and eventually only five of the thirteen were convicted. One of the convictions was overturned on appeal and the others are still widely regarded as a gross miscarriage of justice.

Moreover, when the child care cases were heard in the Family Court later in 1994, the presiding High Court judge, Mr Justice Connell, made stringent criticisms of the social workers' methods. "The children were praised when they confirmed a 'disclosure' or made a fresh one. It is very difficult for an adult to whom such information had been confided by a child to stand back and view it objectively. The understandable reaction of such an adult is invariably to believe what he or she has been told, so that when on a further occasion the child does not confirm what has been alleged earlier, the child is described as 'returning to denial' or as 'blocking'. An alternative solution, rarely considered, unhappily, is that the allegation may have been untrue or significantly exaggerated in the first place…the impression left with the court is that those involved on behalf of the local authority were too ready to accept what the various children had to say, even some time after therapy had begun, without really testing its reliability or attempting to challenge or disconfirm it."xi

Mr Justice Connell's observations echoed those of the Nottingham Joint Enquiry Teamxii (JET)whose 1990 analysis of the way in which satanic abuse allegations had been woven had been suppressed by the social workers involved. The Social Work Team Leader, Judith Dawson Jones, also a member of the COCAN working party that had shaped and implemented the guidelines, as mentioned previously, would go on to be a member of the ill-fated Shieldfield Review Team.

Misinformation about the Nottingham case caused by the suppression of the JET report had therefore a direct effect on skewing the guidelines and the code for video interviewing, called the Memorandumxiii. When employed by determined ideologues, these defective instruments accommodated the systematic prosecution of the tainted cases of Pembroke and Shieldfield among others.

The warring neighbours of Salem

Then in January 1995 a further episode of this cracked legacy occurred in Bishop Auckland, a short distance away from Newcastle in County Durham. In a bizarre inflation of a dispute between neighbours where a teenage boy admitted to abusing a child, the interagency investigation team conjured up the spectre of a satanic ring operating unseen in a middle class street.

David Robson, Queens Counsel representing the Crown, harboured severe doubts about the reliability of the evidence from an early stage. But the CPS, backed by the Police, social workers and paediatrician Dr Lazaro, insisted it go to trial. Eventually, just days after Mr Justice Connell had delivered his stinging Pembroke ruling in December 1994, there was a flurry of meetings and the CPS and joint agencies backed down.

This time it was prosecuting counsel David Robson who delivered the death knell. Describing the case as reminiscent of Salem, he too criticised the way social workers had encouraged the children to make increasingly bizarre allegations. But he went further in suggesting that the protocol for interviewing, the Memorandum, was itself flawed in dealing with multiple allegations.

With four accused couples exonerated, there was a blaze of publicity but little enduring interest within the media. The criticism of the Memorandum codes and the echoes of Pembroke and Nottingham were barely understood. In fact, they were interpreted by child abuse ideologues as a criticism of the restrictions imposed by the Memorandum and so became part of the campaign to relax the rules of evidence in relation to sexual abuse allegations.

Times had changed. Although the satanic bandwagon had been halted, the same processes and expectations had been transmuted into "organised abuse". It was a category that covered the search for "rings" operating secretly in children's homes. And it was the same Working Together guidelines, together with a diminution of the quality of evidence required to convict, which ushered in the epidemic of the compensation-linked retrospective children's home charges.

Public and media prejudice against the teachers and care workers, who were mistakenly viewed as "social workers", precluded widespread sympathy with this target group. Nor was it appreciated how the same mistakes identified in preceding key cases, were being reproduced in the interviewing protocols - though the means of production would be veiled by the method of taking written statements which obscured the forms of interviewing.

The rich seam of retrospective allegations mined from the care homes for young delinquents became the dominant application of the Working Together organised-abuse guidelines. "Cooked" criminal cases involving very young children were rare because, following Shieldfield, courts were more ready to rule out tainted video recordings.

There were though a number of cases involving multiple defendants and alleged victims woven together through strategies similar to that used in Pembroke, but with a greater reliance on adult "recovered memory" narratives. An intergenerational case in South Devon in 1998 was the most notable and resulted in ten convictions including a now septuagenarian grandmother, still in prison protesting her innocence, as do the others. By this time, many of these cases were subject to reporting blackouts until the end of the trial. Consequently embarrassing revelations of the process of production of the allegations, as had happened in the Pembroke trial, were avoided. Where there were convictions, as in the Devon case, press reports simply précised the prosecution story. If there were acquittals, press interest was minimal. And with strict bans on identifying the alleged victims, which usually precluded the identification of those accused and the whereabouts of the alleged crimes, the cases carried an air of grotesque unreality that was nigh impossible for outsiders to research.

A melange of anxiety

Public anxiety about sex crimes against children escalated - although there was a world of difference between genuine cases, notably those involving the murder of young children, and the investigative and therapeutic induction cases where no evidence of the crimes existed outside retrospective uncorroborated statements. So it would in fact be the Shieldfield case which would place the greatest pressure on Government to introduce reforms which would relax rather than tighten up existing loopholes. An emotive Childline conference in 1999, led by Esther Rantzen, chaired by Cherie Booth and addressed by Hillary Clinton, resulted in the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, capitulating to critical amendments of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act then going through Parliament.

These measures, which allow for pre-recorded cross examination of the child, and "intermediaries" to interpret young children, are now in the process of being implemented. Meanwhile, the reasonably compact Memorandum has been replaced by a vast sprawling document on "Best Evidence", though there is as yet little evidence that the defects in the original protocol will be cured.
As the new measures are implemented, the prospect of a new variant of bogus case construction not only cannot be ruled out, but can be reasonably predicted. All the signs are that, as with other judicial warnings and reports, the sage dissection of Shieldfield by Mr Justice Eady has been misinterpreted. In social work circles the word is simply that the team were punished for freedom of judgment. "Misguided zealots the inquiry panel may have been, but they did take up the cause of children", sympathised Community Carexiv and getting it exactly wrong. For what the long and continuing saga of empty cases and wrongful convictions tells us is that the welfare of children has been compromised by the obsessions of the interrogative adults - and sanctioned by fractured guidelines.


i. Amending Criminal Justice Act 1988 s.32A
ii. Criminal Justice Act 1988 s.34
iii. Ceci, S.J. and Bruck, M. (1993) The suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis, Psychological Bulletin, 113, 403-439
iv. La Fontaine, J. (1994) The Extent and Nature of Organised and Ritual Abuse. HMSO
v. Report of the Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland 1987, Cm 412, HMSO
vi. Some ACPCs such as Derbyshire, introduced discrete ritual abuse guidelines and others, such as Newcastle, ones concerning adult disclosure.
vii. Child Abuse Review, Winter, 1993, Editorial
viii. See for instance "Breaking the Web" by COCAN chair, Peter Bibby, Social Work Today, 3.10.91, 17-19.
ix. One of the female defendants was to be tried separately and was a coerced prosecution witness in the main trial. She was among those retracting their statements in the witness box.
x. See for instance "Satanic Cult Practices" by psychiatrist and Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support (RAINS) chair, Dr Joan Coleman in Sinason, V. (ed) Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse, Routledge, 1994.
xi. Connell, J. Re: The South Pembrokeshire Cases, 19.12.94. High Court, Family Division
xiii. Home Office with the Department of Health (1992), Memorandum of Good Practice on Video Recorded Interviews with Child Witnesses for Criminal Proceedings, HMSO
xiv. Editorial, 8-14 August 2002

Landmark decision in the High Court

Margaret Jervis writes:

The victory of the two falsely accused Newcastle nursery nurses in the High Court in London on 30th July 2002 is a landmark decision for investigative reliability in child abuse accusations. After a trial lasting 74 days, Dawn Reed and Christopher Lillie were each awarded £200,000 in maximum damages for having been maliciously libelled by a Newcastle City Council-appointed review team of three social workers and one psychologist.

"I am quite satisfied that each of the Claimants [Chris and Dawn] have merited an award at the highest permitted level",

said the trial judge, Mr Justice Eady.

 "Indeed, they have earned it several times over because of the scale, gravity and persistence of the allegations and of the aggravating factors."

In his 400 page judgment,
(available online in three parts [1], [2] & [3])

the judge highlights the intellectual dishonesty of the review team in compiling their report, Abuse in Early Years. The report, published in 1998, had branded the two innocent former nursery workers as bizarre and dangerous paedophiles who were abusing young children both in the nursery and in the local area in concert with others in an unknown 'paedophile ring'.

The full judgment is a model critique of the flawed investigative techniques and theories that arose in the 1980s in tandem with the 'recovered memory' methodology which affected so many families in the 1990s. Dawn's original solicitor contacted the British False Memory Society in 1993 as the case against her and Chris mushroomed along similar lines as the notorious McMartin and Kelly Michaels daycare cases had done in the US.

At that time, the susceptibility of young children to the creation of false narratives by virtue of the beliefs of the investigators, was already recognised in the United States. The research by Stephen Ceci and Maggie Bruck into children's suggestibility formed the basis of an authoritative amicus brief - a consensual opinion by leading psychologists to help the Court - that became the linchpin in quashing the conviction against Kelly Michaels in New Jersey.

Ceci and Bruck's research discredited the application of Roland Summit's accommodation theory which was being used as a potent and dangerous diagnostic and investigative tool in suspected cases of sexual assault. The Summit theory postulated a whole range of symptoms as evidence of 'hidden' memories of severe abuse. Even an absence of symptoms could be taken as an abuse indicator.

 Absolute denial or gradual, often contradictory, disclosure, according to Summit, needed to be nurtured through play props such as anatomically correct dolls, in order that the presumed psychological trauma could be exposed thus allowing the 'victim' to be 'healed'. The 'accommodation theory' was the therapeutic engine which drove the Shieldfield allegations way beyond the criminal pre-trial acquittal of the nurses in July 1994. New allegations were still being made as a result of therapy even as the review team, by then appointed by Newcastle City Council, started to examine the case in 1996.

Because it was aware of the damage caused by the defective methods and beliefs employed in the investigative process, the BFMS sent the review team the Kelly Michaels amicus brief and other information about the US cases, including the Ceci and Bruck research. This should, at least, have alerted the team to the similarities between the cases on both sides of the Atlantic, but when the Abuse in Early Years report appeared, not only was the tainted police and social services investigation upheld, but the key material sent by the BFMS was denigrated as being 'unsolicited' and irrelevant. This implied smear was made not only against the BFMS but included psychologist Dr Bryan Tully, a BFMS advisory board member. Dr Tully, a defence expert for the criminal case, had offered to give evidence to the review team; evidence which he maintains would have helped the team to come to entirely different conclusions, but the team deliberately chose to refuse to hear his evidence.

This biased hostility arose again at the libel trial when counsel for the review team tried to insinuate that Chris and Dawn had been pushed into bringing the case by the BFMS - an accusation which had no foundation in fact. The BFMS does however stand by its commitment to provide relevant and accurate scientific information in the interests of justice.

Through his careful judgment, which rejects the investigative methodology of both the review team and the initial police and social services inquiry, Mr Justice Eady highlights the fact that the team ignored the relevant scientific knowledge, some of which had been provided by the BFMS. But what was not revealed during the trial was why it might be predicted that certain members of the review team would take a blanket oppositional stance to both the BFMS and any other objective analysis which could have been provided to the team.

One of the social work experts appointed to the team was Judith Jones. Ms Jones, together with her partner, journalist Beatrix Campbell, has been a longstanding opponent of the BFMS. As part of a campaign to uphold 'recovered memory' theory, both Campbell and Jones have sought to blacken the name of the BFMS over many years. The most flagrant example of this was in their 1999 co-written book Stolen Voices which sought to portray, through misinformation and misrepresentation, the BFMS and other critics, as part of a 'paedophile's lobby'. Unsurprisingly, the totally unfounded slurs in the book resulted in a queue of people intending to take legal action. Responding to the first of many potential claims, the publishers withdrew the book the day before publication.

One facet of Ms Jones' campaign against the BFMS was the setting up of a group of therapists and 'recovered memory' clients, Daughters and Their Allies (DATA). Based in Newcastle, the group's specific object was to discredit the BFMS and promote 'recovered memory' claims. However, very little is known about this shadowy organisation.

Ms Jones was also, under her married name Judith Dawson, an instigator of the 'satanic abuse' scare in Nottingham in 1989. Her pivotal role in disseminating false information fuelled the Rochdale and Orkneys abuse fiascos. The reckless approach adopted by Judith Dawson/Jones in investigating these cases was identified by a joint police social services inquiry in the JET report (full text here) . However, having been accepted by the police, and social services director, David White, planned publication of the summary final report was successfully blocked by Ms Dawson and her team who waged a campaign of slur and innuendo against the authors of the report. The upshot was that belief in satanic abuse and the unsound methods of investigation continued to permeate the world of welfare professionals and activists, with Ms Dawson retaining unjustified influence for many years.

The one psychologist on the Newcastle panel, Dr Jacqui Saradjian, also had an ideological axe to grind. A former teacher, she studied under psychologist Helga Hanks at Leeds University. Dr Hanks was a supporter of 'satanic abuse' and a member of the Leeds team that included Drs Jane Wynne and Christopher Hobbs. Their promotion of the now discredited 'anal dilatation' diagnosis of sexual abuse created havoc and injustice in Cleveland in 1987 when it was applied by Dr Marietta Higgs and others. Ms Saradjian, who has specialised in women as abusers, is also a believer in the 'recovered memory' method of accessing narratives that reinforce her ideology, including her belief in 'satanic abuse.'

All that was required to promote the production of a report which would, in the words of the judge, include

"fundamental claims [the Review team] must have known to be untrue"

was for Newcastle City Council to appoint Dr Richard Barker, a social work lecturer, as leader of the team. The judge stated that Dr Barker was a man who

 "eschewed rational analysis in the approach to his task from the outset". His evidence was so poor that the judge said he "was unable to place reliance upon anything said by Professor Barker, for any significant purpose, unless it was independently corroborated".

 Acting as "a law unto himself" Barker and the team were to "promulgate to the Council and to the wider public what was recognised within days … to be a specious and disreputable document".

Now that the Shieldfield Nursery abuse fiasco has finally been laid to rest, questions must be asked as to how it came to develop from the outset. Close critical scrutiny needs to be paid to a wide range of welfare services and the professionals involved, not least Dr Camille San Lazaro, the consultant paediatrician who falsely diagnosed so many children as having been abused. Mr Justice Eady said,

 "The truth is that where physical findings were negative or equivocal, Dr San Lazaro [who had trained with Dr Marietta Higgs] was prepared to make up the deficiencies by throwing objectivity and scientific rigour to the winds in a highly emotional misrepresentation of the facts."

The fact is that many of the key personnel in the Shieldfield case are part of an ideological axis stretching back through Nottingham to Cleveland. That it has taken nine years to nail the myth of Shieldfield indicates that the misinformation this faction continues to promulgate within the welfare, police and criminal justice systems continues to cloud professional judgment.

Unfortunately the media, as was seen in the trial with the Newcastle Evening Chronicle and other mainstream newspapers, all too often follows suit. It is therefore all the more remarkable and gratifying that Mr Justice Eady has been able to cut a swathe through their emotive, pseudo-scientific claims.

Anyone involved in this field should read the full judgment (links here:

(available online in three parts [1], [2] & [3]).

 not only does it endorse sound theory and practice in child abuse investigations, but it calls for a return to the fundamental principles of natural justice, reason and humanity.

Copyright Maggie Jervis and
The British False Memory Society

Daily Mail, Saturday, August 3, 2002

Two Line-Dancing lovers and the truth about the most shocking story of the week.


She believes Satanic Abuse is common. So does her feminist Marxist lover.  

Was she really, then, the right person to sit in judgment on two nursery nurses falsely accused of paedophilia?

                       Left, Judith Dawson (nee Jones)
dances with partner Bea Campbell

By Geoffrey Levy

BIZARRE is a word that hardly begins to describe the horrendous story which unfolded this week In the High Court. Two nursery nurses - Christopher Lillie, 37. and Dawn Reed, 31 - had had their lives ruined by wrongly being branded paedophiles, in a report commissioned by their local council.

On Tuesday they left the court without a stain on their character, having been awarded the maximum possible libel damages of £200.000 each in compensation. The Judge suggested that if he'd had the power to give them more, he would have done so.

Newcastle Nursery Crimes Fiasco

Were Key pro-SRAMists trying to create another McMartin?

The story that emerged was thoroughly shocking. For nine years they had fought to eradicate a smear that they were sexual Perverts abusing children in care at the council-run Shieldfield nursery.

The nightmare began in 1993 when the mother of a two-year-old boy who attended the nursery went  to the police with her suspicions.

The following year they were cleared at Newcastle Crown Court of sex crimes against children in their care -  but instead of this being the end of their nightmare  it was only the beginning.

First they were sacked for gross misconduct. and then, in 1995, a four member team was set up by Newcastle upon Tyne City Council to investigate-complaints about the nursery.

Their report, published in 1998, could hardly have been more explosive or more shattering for the two nurses. It said that Mr Lillie  'took every opportunity to abuse the children' and that his female colleague was party to that abuse, Including  filming them.

'We find that ....Christopher Lillie and Dawn Reed were procuring   children at the nursery for porno graphic purposes as well as their own motivation-'

  Incredibly, none of this was true.   Indeed, according to the judge. Mr Justice Eady, summing up at the end of the £6 million Action, the council report was

'malicious in a way which cannot be explained on the basis of incompetence or mere carelessness'.

What the court was not told, however was that one figure central to the report had already been totally discredited through her involvement in a child abuse report - and had made a crusade of supposed 'satanic abuse'   which verges on the obsessional.

They would not. have known that Judith Jones, one of the inquiry team of four in Newcastle, led a similar enquiry some 13 years ago in Nottingham under her married name, Judith Dawson.

That report was later condemned after a detailed investigation involving senior social workers and police as inflammatory rubbish, as we shall see.  

So how did Judith Jones, who markets herself as a child abuse counsellor, come to be engaged by left.-wing Newcastle Council as one of the four members on the panel of this sensitive and volatile inquiry?

Ms JONES, 51, Is a Woman with a chequered and controversial history. A mother of two sons from her marriage at 21 to a computer programmer she has lived for some years with the feminist Marxist author Bea Campbell in a two-bedroom terrace in the Byker area of Newcastle.

The two women share a passionate - some would say obsessive - belief that there is widespread satanic. or ritual, child abuse in this country.

They have continued to proclaim this belief over many years, despite a curious lack of evidence.

Ms Campbell, indeed, was said during a debate in the House of Commons to

'subscribe to the view that one in four of the population are abused as children'.

Everyone, of course, is-entitled to their beliefs and no one would doubt the two women's genuine desire to save children from abuse. But in the case of Judith Jones. there is strong evidence to suggest that her personal approach to what  is believable and what is not is somewhat eccentric. And one is entitled to think that in the case of two nurses alleged to be paedophiles feeding their lust and offering children to others. you would not want eccentricity but caution and sensible judgment.

When the then Judith Dawson led her team of social workers investigating child abuse in Nottingham, where she was then working. there had indeed been a revolting case of incest. But her team claimed to have unearthed a satanic frenzy that involved ritualistic murder. An inquiry   into their report found the satanic claims to be utter nonsense, and Judith Dawson's reputation should have been in tatters.

John Gwatkins was joint chairman of the Nottingham inquiry carried out together with police and yesterday he explained just why he was  'totally appalled' when he learned that Judith Jones was sitting on the Newcastle panel.  

He says:

'In MY opinion she is totally unsuited to do this kind of work. As soon as we started out inquiry we began to feel that she was totally ignoring any evidence that contradicted her preconceived ideas.

,For example, she believed a ten year-old girl who said her stomach had been cut open in the front room of a council house. We learned that the girl had previously been in hospital for an appendix operation. and her surgeon was contacted. He identified his scar and told us the girl was otherwise untouched

'When we informed Judith Dawson of this, she replied that satanists were clever people and would cut along the same scar so that it wouldn't be noticed. 'We put this to the surgeon, who said   it was medically impossible as scar tissue heals poorly. But when we told her what he had said. she was dismissive. She didn't want to know and refused to accept it. It was quite astonishing.'

Even more astonishing he says was some months later when he read an article about satanism by her in the New Statesman. She wrote about a girl who had described 'how she was laid on a table and had her stomach ritually cut open'.

'It was as though the evidence we  had presented to her never existed'. says Mr Gwatkin, who was director of social services at Newark Notts, but has since retired to Lincolnshire.

'It beggars belief that someone with such a closed mind should be appointed to sit on a panel investigating alleged child abuse at a nursery school in Newcastle.'

Retired detective superintendent Peter Coles, who was involved in ritual abuse investigations in Nottingham, also remembers Judith Dawson and her team- and a particular incident involving a child who had allegedly been microwaved.  

I was slightly mischievous and said to one of Judith's team that I had checked this out and it couldn't be right - because experts had told me if you did that, the baby's eyes would explode and the door of the microwave would come off.  I was just kidding, but before long one of the team came back and said disclosures had now been made about babies' eyes being taken out before they were microwaved.  These claims were pure invention.'     (SAFF Ed:  Click here for more background on how Peter Coles took Team 4's supporters to court for defamation and won an apology)

One is surely entitled to recall these bizarre incidents in relation to the libel judge's comments about claims of the Newcastle panel that they 'must have known to be untrue'

And yet , as we know, Judith Dawson's career did not plummet. On the contrary, she lectures widely and is on the Law Society's list of expert witnesses for 'family child issues' , including child abuse and lesbian or gay families.

John Gwatkin believes her career was saved because his inquiry report was never published by Nottingham council.  Judith Dawson is understood to have complained that it was sexist, because her team of four were all women.

Two years ago, when it (the JET report), suddenly appeared on the internet, she was no longer using her married name, but her maiden name of Jones - and he says 'many people didn't realise it was the same person'.

Old colleagues in Nottinghamshire remember Judith Dawson as one says 'a rather sloppy person dashing about with files under one arm and shopping bag in the other'  At that time Judith seemed to be a typically busy, ordinary working woman with children ' with too much on her mind to be very jolly'.

Then suddenly, ritual or satanic abuse became a talking point; and says one former social worker colleague, 'it seemed to take her over and she became quite obsessive about it. She became a very different person'./

More different, perhaps than colleagues realised. For at about that time journalist Bea Campbell who had been writing about the alleged satanic abuse in the Orkneys - where social workers arriving at dawn had taken children away from innocent parents- arrived to write about what was happening in Nottingham.  Judith was able to tell her. (SAFF Ed: Click here to see background on Bea Campbell's media campaign to try and convince the public that Satanic Ritual Abuse exists)

Precisely at what point Judith Dawson left her husband Brendan whom she married in 1972 is not clear. But before very long the two women were not only fuelling each other's fixation with ritual abuse - and collaborating to produce articles discussing its presence in Nottingham as proven fact - but were being talked of as an 'item'.

In 1992 Judith moved to work in Sunderland - Bea, who has describe herself  as a 'horrible queer Marxist'; lived in nearby Newcastle - and in 1997 they decided to cement their relationship by deciding to live together after discovering line-dancing.

Bea 57, a visiting professor in women's studies at Newcastle University  'dragged' my lover along' as she was to write, for line dancing at a local church hall , and at least once to the Powerhouse Club, Newcastle's only gay club.

By this time Judith Jones and her appointed colleagues at Newcastle were well into their three-year investigation (at around £25,000 a year each) into alleged serial child abuse by Christopher Lillie and Dawn Reed.  

Those two people's lives were about to be torn apart, as the libel judge said, in a manner that was more than 'incompetence or mere carelessness.'

The report that the libel judge has just demolished was published in 1998 and the following year Jones and Campbell co-wrote a book. Stolen Voices,  which excoricated people who doubted the extent of Satanic child abuse.   One reviewer called it 'a sad case of  false ideology syndrome' and  Jean La Fontaine, the emeritus professor of social anthropology at the LSE found 'facts which are not true'.  The book she said was 'long on rhetoric, short on fact'.  

The book , however, never arrived in the shops.  Many threatened legal action and one engaged the late George Carman to write to the publishers.  The Women's Press.  'We never distributed the book because of a legal warning' it recalls ' They could still be sitting in a warehouse somewhere.'  

So why was Judith Jones on the report team?  Newcastle Council advertised for independent experts and drew up a short-list.   Ms Jones stood out as someone ' who had been working in Newcastle for many years and has strong links with the region' and she was appointed 'because of her expertise and experience in child protection and family work'.   So much for what happened in Nottingham.  

This week, as the two nursery nurses stepped outside the shadow that has dimmed their lives for nine years. Judith Jones and Bea Campbell were away on holiday apparently soaking up the sun.  

Unbelievably with the judge's condemnation still ringing in her ears Judith is said to be considering writing another book with Bea about the Newcastle fiasco.

Ends:  (c) Copyright  The Daily Mail, London.

Sunday Telegraph Page 11; 7th April 1991.

Cleveland, Rochdale and Orkney What's wrong?

Anthea Hall examines the Trail of Misery
that follows when social workers abandon 'do-gooding' to take up campaigning against evil.

NOTHING symbolises Better the helpless pain felt by parents whose children are snatched: into care than the candle-lit church service held one summer night at the height of the Cleveland child abuse crisis. The candles at St Cuthbert's, Middlesbrough, burned for the missing children whose parents could reach them only by prayer.

Cleveland and the Butler-Sloss report did not stop Rochdale; Rochdale did not stop the Orkneys. Struggling to describe the situation at Cleveland four years ago, we grasped at the word "Kafkaesque" the kind of trial in which every plea of innocence confirm bureaucracy's insistence on guilt. Now the word is wearing thin. The most distressing aspect of the crises is what they have in common.

Only three years after the publication of the Butler-Sloss report, we ask why such horrendous injustices take place again and again? "Haven't they read Butler-Sloss” the incredulous question is repeatedly asked.

In Orkney it was claimed that Butler-Sloss was not relevant. Social workers in the Rochdale case had not read it. An Islington social worker, newly arrived from abroad, asked during the Rochdale inquiry for a copy of the report and got the reply: "Butler-Sloss? You'd be lucky to flnd a copy here."

lt is clear that the Butler. Sloss report and its derivatives have not become the infallibly followed text to set social work back on to the right lines. The chief reason for this is the Butler-Sloss report itself an impenetrable volume of detail and guarded observations, which was criticised at the time in The Sunday Telegraph.

Bruce Anderson wrote that Lord Justice Butler-Sloss had failed to grasp the central facts, the crucial issue and the "magnitude of the evil" she was confronted with, though “in a haphazard anecdotal fashion without any sign of comprehending the agony it is describing, the Butler-Sloss report does tend to suggest that there was a large-scale miscarriage of justice."

The Butler-Sloss report went to enormous lengths to avoid apportioning guilt and blame, concentrating instead on the importance of inter-department co-operation and correct procedures.

It was Mr Justice Holdings in Manchester last December who called a spade a spade during wardship proceedings, with his reference to social workers "obsessed with the belief” that they had uncovered a network of abusers.

Mr Justice Douglas Brown went further in Rochdale this March, not only making it quite clear what he considered had gone wrong but adding a sense of his own pain at the injustices, pain remarkably absent from Butler-Sloss. He referred to the "sobbing and distressed girl" interviewed on one of the videos as "one of the most abiding memories of this case".

Whereas at the end of the Cleveland inquiry, the reader was no wiser as to which abuses had or had not taken place, Mr Justice Douglas Brown was unequivocal. After 47 days, he condemned gross breaches of good practice "on the excuse of lack of resources", leading questions and interviewing techniques which resulted in "exaggeration and fabrication" and concluded there was no evidence of ritual abuse and no evidence of sex abuse in all but one case.

lt took Sheriff David Kelbie less than two days to dismiss the "flawed, incompetent" Orkney case. The children, had been coached into giving statements. He ridiculed the alleged use of ritualistic music, it could have been anything from Kylie Minogue to Strip the Willow and demanded that the children be returned home without delay.

Now it is becoming as clear to the public as it was to such politicians as MP Stuart Bell in Cleveland and Councillor Peter Thomson in Rochdale and the entire population of South Ronaldsay that the social services can no longer be relied upon as kind do-gooders working with individual deprived families to help them lead reasonable lives.

Many, of course, still are. But the danger that the Butler-Sloss report did not spell out is that trouble starts when a fashionable theory tempts social workers to go out and seek to prove it.

Reflex anal dilation, it is true, was a medical, not a social, theory and it was Dr Marietta Higgs who sought (on one memorable occasion late at night in a hospital ward) to demonstrate such dilation in a number of sleeping children and from this to conclude they had been sexually abused.

But it was the ready co-operation of the social services to use their absolute powers and take the children into care that turned Dr Higgs's obsession into a genuine crisis.

One of the most misleading aspects of Butler-Sloss report was her assumption that inter-department co-operation is necessarily good. The extraordinary scenario of the dawn raid in the Orkneys, with a flashing police car escort and a chartered plane to take the children to the mainland, could not have been the work of one or two individuals. These were decisions involving many people, carefully coordinated action and considerable expense. Group co-operation has the great advantage that responsibility, and therefore blame, are shared.

Any sex abuse conference, social workers say, is far better attended than some humdrum matter of taking a name off a register. It is easy to imagine the appeal to social workers, whose daily drudge is looking after the poor and underprivileged, of being involved in anything as exciting as the Orkneys fiasco.

Child abuse may have a certain fascination but is also frightening and sordid. The dangers of making an error of judgement are enormous, At the Jasmine Beckford end of the scale, when failure to protect a child results in death, public outcry is enormous and blame falls on one overworked individual who failed to insist on going into a hostile household, or believed parents who said the child was away in the country with friends.

To argue, as is often done, that fear of blame for a tragedy caused by neglect gives some sort of excuse for errors of judgement on a Cleveland, a Rochdale or Orkneys scale (" We're blamed if we do too much, blamed if we do too little") is a phrase which has given a sense of licence to the new breed of politically motivated ideologues to pursue the latest child abuse theory.

It is much more attractive to believe that some terrible new form of abuse is rife in the land and must be exterminated, than seek and sift evidence and carefully act within the letter of complex procedural details. What has proved disastrous is that the enormous powers of social workers have to remove children in grave physical danger are available also to those convinced that the world seethes with satanic abusers.

It is painful to reflect that the social workers blamed for the deaths of Kimberley Carlisle, Maria Colwell and Jasmine Beckford treated this ultimate power with restraint and withheld it. Whereas to those involved in Cleveland, Rochdale and the Orkneys, it was an essential tool to their strategy which they counted on from the outset.

A month ago I asked Paul Lee, Orkney's social services director, whether the dawn-raid families were already known to the social services in the sense of being "clients", he said they were not. To an old-style social worker, or indeed any conscientious social worker, the notion that the first contact with a family could be a dawn raid forcibly to remove children not in any way visibly harmed sounds like madness.

What has become increasingly clear since Cleveland is that inter-departmental cooperation, far from providing checks and balances, may create an unstoppable snowball which gathers size and momentum as it progresses. There is little room for conmon sense or a change of heart in such a complex operation. It becomes less and less possible for someone to say: "Hold on. Are we doing the right thing?"

At least one policeman involved in the Orkney raids was known to have grave misgivings about what was going on, but did not dare object. In Middlesbrough, nurses on night duty who watched Marietta Higgs and Geoffrey Wyatt apparently touring wards to examine children, expressed the view that the doctors had taken leave of their senses, but it did not save the children.

The Children's Act which comes into force this autumn will tackle the problem of children being seized and detained. Place of safety orders in the first instance will be an emergency protection order for a maximum of eight days, renewable once only for no more than seven days at a full hearing. It is hard to see, however, how there can be a scaling down of operations, a neutralising of political zeal, a return to a more modest approach.

As one social worker said thoughtfully: ''When we became social workers in the Sixties we thought we were going to be able to do good. Now they're joining to campaign." What was that? Hold on. Are we doing the right thing'?

'the doctors who began the controversy'

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