A woman who falsely accused her father of rape after undergoing a discredited “recovered memory” psychotherapy has won a £20,000 [$41,000] payout from a local health authority.
Katrina Fairlie claimed a hospital psychiatrist almost ruined her life after he extracted false memories that her father, Jim, a former deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, had sexually abused her.
Miss Fairlie, who withdrew the baseless allegations months after making them, revealed during other sessions with consultant Dr Alex Yellowlees that she witnessed her father murder a child and named him and 17 other men, including two politicians, as paedophiles.
In 2005, she launched a £500,000 action for negligence against NHS Tayside asserting that its staff had failed in their duty of care to her by failing to check the likely truth of her allegations which have caused her and her family years of distress.
The case was due to be heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh this week, but at the eleventh hour, bosses at the trust offered the substantial out-of-court settlement instead.
Yesterday, 37-year-old Miss Fairlie said: “After so many traumatic years, I finally feel that I can put this nightmare behind me and start getting on with my life.
“However, I am still extremely angry at the hospital and the consultant involved who all but ruined my life and damaged my family.
“To this day, they have never apologised for what they did to me and I would much rather have got no money just for the chance of seeing them squirm in court and admit what they did to me.
“However, my QC advised me that the best thing to do was accept the money. He said it would hurt them to have to pay out that much. I know they are not going to say sorry or admit liability, but I regard this payment as some sort of an acknowledgement by them, whatever they may say.”
Miss Fairlie’s ordeal began in 1994 when she was admitted to Perth Royal Infirmary at the age of 25 suffering from severe abdominal pains.
She was later referred to the psychiatric unit at the town’s Murray Royal Hospital after doctors concluded she was imagining the pain following operations to remove her appendix and her gall bladder.
While a patient of Dr Yellowlees, Miss Fairlie says she underwent a form of Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT) – a controversial technique since discredited by the Royal College of Physicians.
The therapy claims to “unlock” memories so painful the patient has blocked them out of their conscious mind rendering them retrievable only through dreams and hypnosis.
The revelations which sprang from this former postal worker’s therapy during five months of intensive treatment were shocking: a series of outlandish claims of sexual abuse against her father and a number of others while she was in a very disturbed mental state and on powerful medication.
She claimed she was the victim of a paedophile ring involving her father and described seeing him batter a six-year-old girl to death with an iron bar.
When Dr Yellowlees later told other family members that abuse had occurred, Mr Fairlie’s previously unblemished reputation and close and loving relationship with his family had been damaged.
Police and social workers from Perth and Kinross Council were also called in, but Miss Fairlie withdrew all the allegations in 1995 and the police later dropped their investigation.
Three years ago, Mr Fairlie, now 66, of Crieff, Perthshire, lost his own bid for ?250,000 compensation against the former Perth and Kinross Healthcare NHS Trust – now part of NHS Tayside.
The judge, Lord Kingarth, found against Mr Fairlie on a technicality after ruling that Dr Yellowlees only had a duty of care to his patients and not to their relatives.
In 2005, however, Miss Fairlie decided to launch her own separate legal action. She said: “I was determined to make people see what happened to me. I lost years of my life because of the opinions of psychiatrists.
“I am relieved that this is over and now I can move on. I am lucky because my family have stood by me and we have become closer because of this.”
Last night, Mr Fairlie said the damage the council and the health board had done was irreparable and that over 1,400 cases across the UK similar to his daughter’s had been reported to the British False Memory Society.
He said: “This decision really is a victory for Katrina and a vindication of what we as a family have been saying for so long, that the psychiatric profession acts as if it is a law unto itself and can do enormous damage to patients and their relatives.
“What happened to my daughter and me should not be allowed to happen to anyone else.”
An NHS Tayside spokesperson said: “We can confirm that an out-of-court settlement was reached with Miss Fairlie without any admission of liability on the part of NHS Tayside, or its predecessor authorities, and that settlement was made purely on an economic basis.”
Dr Yellowlees, who is now medical director at the Priory Clinic, Glasgow, was unavailable for comment.