By: David Bloomberg
Re: UK social workers exonerated
The following is being posted for informational purposes only.
May 17, 1995, Wednesday
Social workers in 'ritual abuse' case exonerated
By Jojo Moyes
Four families whose lives were devastated by false charges of
ritual child abuse have accused Durham social services of a
"whitewash" after a report cleared social workers involved.
The eight adults faced a 17-month investigation and, in some cases
spent time in jail, after six children accused them of sexual and
In January, neighbours John and Patricia Staines, Brian and
Pauline Marsh, Robert and Vivienne Crosby and David and Victoria
Thomas from Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, were cleared at Newcastle upon
Tyne Crown Court.
The case was dropped after David Robson QC, for the prosecution,
offered no evidence and spoke of the children making "palpably false"
allegations. He suggested that they named the couples because they
were afraid of identifying whoever really had abused them.
The parents' bitterness deepened with yesterday's publication of a
Durham county area child protection committee report that cleared the
social workers whose interviews with the children formed the basis of
the case. It said their actions were "neither precipitate nor
draconian but . . . in the best interests of the children and
families", but did not refer to the effects on the families, or to the
fact that, if the children were abused, the social workers failed to
find the real perpetrators.
Dr Edwin Pugh, chairman of the inquiry team, admitted there were
minor lapses or errors in procedure but said they did not harm the
youngsters at the centre of the controversy.
"It was not our remit to question whether the children were
actually abused or not," he said. "We were only here to check whether
the professionals involved in the child abuse investigation acted
Last night Mrs Staines, 46, condemned the report and said someone
should answer for what the families had been through. "We think the
investigation was a whitewash. Our children were taken away from us
and given to foster parents when we had done nothing and we have
Mr and Mrs Staines, the first couple to be accused, had been
particularly badly affected as they spent five months in jail during
"While they were in custody their home was repossessed, their
business folded, one was assaulted and the other threatened. They have
since had to leave the area and are on state benefit and living in a
rented flat," John Turner, their solicitor, said. "Their lives were
absolutely ruined but no one has said 'sorry' for what happened".
They were now in the process of taking civil action to sue for
May 17, 1995
Families' fury over child abuse case 'whitewash'
OFFICIALS were accused of a whitewash yesterday after saying they
could find no serious fault with an investigation into allegations of
satanic child sex abuse.
Four couples accused of ritually abusing five children aged
between seven and 12 were cleared by a court when the case was dropped
without any evidence being offered.
But the eight, who all lived in the same street in Bishop
Auckland, County Durham, complained that their lives had been ruined
by the episode. They were verbally and physically assaulted and their
homes were attacked.
Now, an inquiry by the Durham child protection committee into the
way the case was handled insists that social workers, police and other
professionals 'acted in the best interests of children and
families'. A third of the inquiry report's 27 recommendations say the
good work and procedural correctness of the investigators should be
One of the wives involved, however, angrily dismissed the findings
as 'a series of pats on the back'.
Mrs Victoria Thomas, 44, said: 'It is depressing to read so many
congratulations of the professionals when you know they were wasting a
huge amount of time and resources barking up the wrong tree. A public
apology to those who were falsely accused would be more appropriate.'
Mrs Patricia Staines, 46, said: 'They split our family up and sent
our children to foster parents, when there was no evidence we had done
anything wrong. The whole inquiry is a whitewash.'
But there was no apology or acknowledgment of the couples'
innocence when officials held a press conference after the report was
released. Dr Edwin Pugh, director of public health for County Durham
Heath Commission, said: 'The committee was not there to make a
judgment about guilt or the legal aspects of this.'
Asked why an investigation which they judged to have been
correctly carried out had resulted in eight innocent people being
charged, he insisted: 'It was not our remit.'
The couples are expected to sue police and social services,
alleging false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and negligence.
--- msgedsq 2.0.5
* Origin: The Temples of Syrinx! (1:2430/2112)