ANALYSIS THE ATTACK ON INNOCENCE Venom has driven social workers and police apart The Mail

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ANALYSIS THE ATTACK ON INNOCENCE Venom has driven social workers and police apart The Mail On Sunday 21.10.90 p8,9,10,11 By IAIN WALKER, JOHN QUINN and PETER DAY The time has come for all those who care about the welfare of children - judges, social workers, police, the NSPCC, indeed everyone - to ask themselves one vitally important question: Does something called Ritual Abuse exist - or doesn't it? It is vital because on the weight on that one phrase, up and down the country at this moment, children are being taken from grieving parents and families being split, in a way from which they may never emotionally recover. It is happening because of the fervent - some would say primitive - belief by some social workers that children can be relied on to tell the truth. The NSPCC is running just such a campaign at the moment. It's theme is Listen to Children. The society announced, eight months ago, that its protection teams had discovered evidence of a "secretive and well-organised network" of adults who were using masks and costumes and the invocation of supernatural powers to sexually abuse children. That was the first time the expression Ritual, or Satanic, Abuse - until then largely restricted to the academic journals - became known to a wider public. Since then, it has scarcely been out of the headlines and has become, for the professionals, a litmus test of integrity. You either believe in what one High Court judge described as a "vortex of evil". Or you believe something else is lose in this country: A wild hysteria in which social workers, however well meaning, have been responsible for some very serious miscarriages of justice. There is no half-way house between these two points of view. Everyone is polarised. ***** The Mail On Sunday has spent many weeks investigating these counter-claims. We have little doubt where the truth lies. While there may be some individuals who cloak their disgusting activities with Satanic overtones, the concept of a highly organised network is nonsense - and dangerous nonsense at that. We have been virtually alone among the national press in saying so - with the praiseworthy exception of Rosie Waterhouse in our rival newspaper the Independent on Sunday. today we make no apology for devoting four more pages to examining the evidence so far. Because we do so for one urgent reason. Child abuse does exist in this country. Only a fool or a blind man would pretend otherwise. It exists on a scale which may be exaggerated, but no one can know for certain. It can only be fought and its perpetrators sent to prison for a long, long time, if the responsible professionals can work together to detect it. These include the police, local authority social services departments and the NSPCC, a self-governing charitable body which has been given very special responsibilities and powers by Parliament. Because of the Satanic Abuse controversy, the relationship between them has totally broken down. We have discovered cities and towns where there is not only professional jealousy between police and social workers, but also sheer hatred and venom. Does Satan exist? Who knows? But if he does, then he has achieved no greater victory than in the past eight months when vulnerable children have been put even further at risk. ***** We concentrate today on a case which has become a symbol for many others throughout the country. It began, as the others inevitably have, in a deprived area - in this case Broxtowe, a rundown estate of red-brick council houses on the outskirts of Nottingham. In 1988, social workers and police officers celebrated together after the successful climax to the biggest-ever paedophilia investigation in Britain. Nine adults - eight from the same Broxtowe family - were imprisoned for up to ten years on 53 charges of incest. It had been and extremely difficult and emotionally draining case which had taken three years to bring to court. At one stage 25 children had been taken into care. The abuse of the children by their extended family had been horrendous. Multiple rape of both young boys and girls while other children looked on was commonplace. The team were right to feel jubilant. Terrible evil had been severely punished, and perhaps now the children could, with the help of caring foster parents, begin to forget. Alas, it was not to be. About a year later, a five-year-old boy began to tell his foster mother stories about snakes and monsters. She passed on the information to Nottingham Social Services Department. At this time the first mentions of Satanic Abuse had begun to filter across the Atlantic. We have already reported on its germination - the publication of the book Michelle Remembers, in which a young woman recounts to her psychiatrist how she was tortured by Satanists as a young child. Our investigation subsequently destroyed the book's credibility. But at the time social workers took Satanic Abuse at face value and suspected that it could be involved in what they were discovering in Nottingham. As social workers have come under increasing pressure, both from the media and the courts, to justify their severe action in taking children into care, the term Satanic Abuse has been quietly replaced with the less emotive Ritual Abuse. In fact the two are indistinguishable. This is the definition given by a leading American expert, Detective Jerry Simandl, of the Chicago Police Department, at an important conference at Reading University in September last year: "Repeated physical, emotional, mental and spiritual assaults on children, combined with a systemised use of symbols and ceremonies and the use of evil designed and orchestrated to attain harmful effects - to turn the victims against themselves, society, and God." It was precisely this which the Nottingham team believed they had identified at Broxtowe. It was not a unanimous conclusion. One social worker, who disagreed, has since been isolated. She said: "There as a buzz of excitement around. There was no doubt some people realised that if they could prove Ritual Abuse existed in Britain, they could publish, give lectures, and generally become eminent in their field." ***** Ten social workers - all women, many mothers themselves - were formed into a unit, which they called Team 4. It was headed by the Principle Professional Officer (Child Protection) Judith Dawson. We have made repeated efforts to talk to Mrs Dawson, but she has always declined. It is an unfortunate fact that once a newspaper expresses scepticism about Satanism, there is an instant slamming of doors. For instance, we approached one academic about a paper he had written describing babies being eaten alive, limbs being sawn off and goats sacrificed, and he said he would not speak to the Mail on Sunday because we were "too sensationalistic". But from an article written by Mrs Dawson in the New Statesman and other evidence, we have managed to piece together what happened next. Team 4 felt that "it was not appropriate to hold formal disclosure interviews with very young traumatised children". Instead they decided to leave the detective work to the foster mothers. This was, to say the least, extremely unusual because of the large body of academic research which shows how leading questions can contaminate evidence. The mothers met regularly on Wednesday evenings to discuss progress. Even more controversially (and this has not been revealed before) Team 4 arranged for some of the foster mothers to be briefed by AMerican expert and Chicago psychiatrist Pam Klein, who works with Officer Simandl. They are fervent evangelists in the fight against Satan, believing they have been given that role by God. Team 4 asked - indeed pleaded - with Nottingham police to re-open the case. In particular they wanted other adults, allegedly involved in abusing children at cemeteries in Nottingham, to be arrested. They gave the names of "important people". After investigating, the police refused to take any further action. To say that Team 4 were angry would be a considerable understatement. For the past six months, the department has seethed with resentment. Mrs Dawson wrote: "Our personal and professional reputations have been eroded, the patient care and testimony of foster parents has been discredited, and the children's own accounts of their experiences have been almost totally disbelieved." That, she wrote, constituted "a kind of holocaust". This extreme view was backed in a controversial Channel 4 TV programme which claimed to find concrete evidence which the police has deliberately ignored. One family is taking legal action after their house was identified as a center of Satanism. Team 4 and their supporters' arguments can be summarised thus: "We listen to children. We believe what they say. But the police will not support us. They are not putting enough resources into it. They are also afraid that if they bring such unusual evidence to a court, they might lose." ***** Just such a situation has arisen in Rochdale, where 17 children were taken into care. When Manchester Chief Constable James Anderton announced there would be no prosecutions, Rochdale Social Services Department issued a long statement pointing out the different standards of proof involved in criminal and wardship cases. The serious charge that police have deliberately obstructed the investigations because of what the News Statesman describes as "police culture" can be absolutely refuted in Nottingham. We have been given access to details of the investigation, and it could not have been more sincere, or more thorough. A senior officer has carefully explained why not only has no evidence emerged to support the children's stories, but how any checkable facts have always turned out to be false. Two examples, among many, illustrate this point of view. *Children said sheep had been slaughtered in Satanic ceremonies. This was not a vague rumour. Team 4 gave police the exact address, and even told them which room had been used. Killing sheep with a knife is a very messy business, and in an untidy and dirty house, plenty of evidence would have been available - even if, as it is claimed, plastic bags were put down to prevent a mess. Forensic scientists searched the entire house, not once but twice. No evidence, not even a fragment of sheep hair, was discovered. *A foster mother noticed scars on the stomach of a young girl. At first the girl was reluctant to explain them, but after much pressing, eventually disclosed that she had been cut by a Stanley knife by a female member of the family while others watched. Her story was confirmed by one of Team 4's most important witnesses, a girl who has frequently corroborated other childrens evidence. But in this instance the police discovered neither were telling the truth. Her medical records showed she had undergone an exploratory operation for a congenital rupture weakness. Detectives traced the original surgeon who confirmed the stitches were his work. ***** As a result of Team 4's unhappiness, it was decided a joint inquiry team would be established, consisting of three senior social workers and three high ranking police officers, none of whom had any previous connection with the case. The Professor of Child Development at Nottingham University, John Newsom, was an independent advisor. He said: "I became concerned at the degree to which words were being put into children's mouths - strong insistence and assertion being used and the alternation of a sympathetic and a forceful attitude." The inquiry team asked how an interview should be conducted which would neither unduly frightened nor lead the child. Using his advice, and recorded on video, a policewoman interviewed a teenage girl whose stories were central to many of the Satanic allegations. Under these controlled conditions, it became clear, according to the professor, that "much of what this young person believed was very uncertain in origin". He said the girl repeatedly changed details of her stories. But she insisted that much of what she knew must be true because, she said, she had been told it by a social worker. Professor Newsom was also critical of the "confusion" shown by the social workers between a disclosure interview - designed to reveal the child's experiences - and a therapeutic interview, which allows the child to come to terms with these experiences. Professor Newsom said: "Unless the social worker knows which interview she is carrying out, serious damage may be done." But according to their own transcripts, it was evident that social workers were attempting both at once. The investigators interviewed a 14 year old girl who had given graphic accounts of murder and burial. Because of her evidence, papers were being prepared to take 19 more children into care. During questioning, the girl admitted she had invented the whole story. The children remained with their families. Who do children lie? The problem has long been known to psychologists. In the most famous case of all, the 17th Century Salem witchcraft trials, people were unjustly executed solely on the testimony of children. Most experts now accept the ideas were put into their minds by the questioning of a vicars wife. Recent research - and we include the exact references - shows that "children are very susceptible to suggestion by leading questions" (Memory, Suggestibility and Eye Witness Testimony In Children And Adults, Maria Zaragoza, 1987). Others have found that "suggestive material overwrites the previous memory, creating a new, false memory" (E.F. Loftus and J.C. palmer, Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 1974). Children also "fantasise as a means of coping with a hostile environment" Fantasy Proneness and Psychopathology, Judith Rhue and Stephen Lynn, 1987). Team 4 have spent much effort on refuting the Joint Inquiry team's unanimous criticism of their conduct. They have prepared a huge rebuttal which extends to three volumes. According to someone who has studied it, it cannot ever be published or even given in confidence to Nottingham's Social Services Committee because of its highly strident tone and the libellous allegations it makes against named individuals. One social worker we spoke to described the current attitude in the department as a "bunker mentality". "There is a deep distrust and suspicion even amongst ones own colleagues." Team 4 are not totally without support, however. last week the New Statesman's front cover article strongly attacked Nottingham Police and its Chief Constable, Dan Crompton. ***** On December 10, the High Court in PReston will begin a six-week hearing into the controversial Rochdale case. For the first time Rochdale Social Services must produce substantive reasons for taking 17 children into care. Sources we have spoken to say there is a fierce internal debate now raging within the department. They will either press on with their allegations of Ritual Abuse, despite the lack of concrete evidence - or they will claim that the children were generally at risk in problem families. Should they choose the latter course, many reputations will be indelibly scarred. Their previous justification for seizing children from their homes at 7am - so physical evidence could not be destroyed - will be seen to be extremely doubtful. Whatever Rochdale's eventual tactics, the evidence in one case is very clear. One girl, of the 15 remaining in care, is now 11. We shall call her Jenny. It is difficult for this newspaper to remain detached about her. We have got to know her family very well indeed. We say, without equivocation, that they have never been involved in Satanism or similar practices. We wish we could show you Jenny's school and medical records and other evidence about a perfectly ordinary child being brought up in a perfectly ordinary home. We cannot because of High Court injunctions forbidding anything that might lead to Jenny being identified. Of course her friends, fellow pupils, neighbours, priest and teachers - know exactly who she is. But the debate on whether such banning orders are really designed to protect the child, or to block other agencies, including journalists, is for another day. What is of immediate concern is the way Jenny was taken into care, made a ward of court, and is still prevented from rejoining her family. It appears that another child was asked by social workers to identify friends. She named Jenny. Rochdale social Services made an application for wardship, claiming the child was in immediate danger. The judge, with access to no other evidence, had little choice but to grant it. But it may be more than a year before the substantive case, and the parents' evidence, can be heard. It would be wholly unfair to place the entire blame for this hysteria on the NSPCC. The charity has a long tradition of using shocking advertisements to alert the public to child cruelty. They do not apologise for doing the same this time. But they do admit: "It is a very uncomfortable position for us now." But several local authorities, notably Manchester, are concerned that for once the NSPCC's alarmist methods went too far. A confidential paper, presented to the Salford, Bolton and Wigan area Child Protection Committee made, amongst others, the following statements: "The Satanic abuse of children involves the murdering of babies. "Survivors indicate that special women are used to breed children to be used in networks, particularly sacrifices. "They talk of witnessing and participating in eating flesh, i.e. cannibalism, of infants and young babies. Often the mothers body is used as a sacrificial altar." That kind of language is at the root of the problem. When such statements are made to a judge, behind the closed doors of a Family Division court, of course he feels compelled to take action. But nowhere in this country, now or ever, has any evidence ever emerged to substantiate them. Nowhere in America, now or ever. Nowhere in the world, now or ever. It remains wild, uncontrolled and unfounded rumour. Listen to the child, the NSPCC said. Would it not have been preferable to follow the advice of Professor Israel Kolvin, spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrist? He said: "Always listen to the child and always take what they say seriously. But you are prejudging the issue if you say you believe the child entirely." *** Uploaded by MagickNet-UK +44-(0)223-324997 1200/2400 8N1 *** File Title: MS211090.ASC *** Also See : MS211090.AS1

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