The expert who helped discredit infamous claims of satanic abuse in Orkney has branded the failed investigation into similar allegations on Lewis an even bigger disgrace.
Dr Bill Thompson said police and social workers had completely failed to learn the lessons of the 1991 Orkney case, in which nine children were taken into care amid allegations of ritual abuse which were later thrown out of court.
Thompson, the criminologist whose work for Orkney families helped lead to the dropping of the case , said: “The Lewis case is worse than Orkney. Orkney preceded this case but the investigating authorities didn’t learn from the earlier mistakes.”
The Lewis investigation cost more than £100,000 and saw eight people charged with sexual offences against children in October 2003. The charges were dropped at the beginning of July.
Thompson says that the Lewis accusations – involving animal sacrifices, snuff movies, devil worship and the rape of children – were “classic textbook satanic allegations which have been disproved everywhere”.
Thompson says police and social workers should release transcripts of interviews with the children who made the allegations to prove whether or not investigators asked leading questions which encouraged the children to fabricate their stories.
Thompson says that only the release of the transcripts can clear the names of the people who were wrongly accused of satanic sex crimes against children. “People want to kill them,” he said. “They will suffer stigma forever. They need a chance to clear their names.
“Let’s suppose it can be proved that the children have been sexually abused, how does that prove the existence of a satanic cult?” he asked. Thompson accused police of ignoring evidence which contradicted allegations of ritual abuse.
“Social workers and police have one-track minds in these cases,” he said. “They were convinced this case was true and were blind to evidence to the contrary.
“The belief system that led to Orkney is alive and well in Lewis more than 10 years later.”
Thompson said that because of the experiences of Orkney, police and social workers “should have asked themselves if they were leading the children and this should have prompted a review” of the investigation.
Peter Nelson, one of the men accused, said: “This has been absolutely heart-breaking. I nearly killed myself because of this.” He spent almost two weeks in prison on remand where he was threatened with murder and male rape. Nelson wants the handling of the case to be subject to a public inquiry.
The Sunday Herald has been passed police transcripts of interrogations with some of the accused. They include police claims that there is medical proof that the three children – who can only be referred to as coming from Family X – at the centre of the case were definitely sexually abused.
The mother of the children made claims of their sexual abuse prior to arrests being made in October last year. She and the children’s father are no longer together.
The children of Family X are currently in the care of Western Isles Council social workers and are considered “vulnerable”. Nobody – at the moment – is facing any charges relating to their sexual abuse.
The failure of the investigation means that despite evidence of the children being abused there is little or no chance that the children’s abuser or abusers will ever come to trial as the children would be seen as unreliable witnesses in the wake of the collapse of the Lewis case.
Penny Campbell, the wife of Ian Campbell who was also one of the Lewis accused, has now set up an organisation called False Allegations Action Scotland and is calling on MSPs to mimic Westminster and establish a cross-party working group to monitor abuse investigations.
“Many families are being destroyed by false allegations of abuse made by malicious accusers,” she said, adding that she believed investigators were “obsessed with an erroneous belief in widespread organised ritual and satanic abuse rings”. She said this meant prosecutors “repeated the same mistakes over and over again”.
Keywords: Operation Haven
July 11, 2004
Neil McKay, Investigations Editor, and Vicky Allan