At last! The deceitful plans of political activists within social work
Insider knowledge about the Hidden History of the Satan Scare which every
parent must read.
is the first of two articles written for the British
False Memory Society (www.bfms.org.uk) on the background to the
case, looking at the ideological battleground that took shape after the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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,
xi. Connell, J. Re: The South Pembrokeshire Cases, 19.12.94. High Court,
Home Office with the Department of Health (1992), Memorandum of Good Practice
on Video Recorded Interviews with Child Witnesses for Criminal Proceedings, HMSO
Editorial, 8-14 August 2002
Landmark decision in the High Court
Margaret Jervis writes:
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
"Indeed, they have earned it several times over because of
the scale, gravity and persistence of the allegations and of the aggravating
In his 400 page judgment,
(available online in three parts
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Anyone involved in this field should read the full judgment (links here:
(available online in three parts
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
She believes Satanic Abuse is common. So does her feminist Marxist
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
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
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.
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
'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
'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
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
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
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
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
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
Ends: (c) Copyright The Daily Mail, London.
Sunday Telegraph Page 11; 7th April 1991.
Cleveland, Rochdale and Orkney What's wrong?
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
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
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
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
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'