Cleared nursery nurses fear vigilante mobs

Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
Guardian (England)
Thursday August 1, 2002
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4473298,00.html

Two former nursery nurses who were awarded maximum libel damages after an official report falsely labelled them paedophiles said yesterday that they had considered committing suicide and still feared for their lives.

Dawn Reed, 31, and Christopher Lillie, 37, were each awarded £200,000 damages on Tuesday against the four authors of a report published in 1998 by Newcastle city council, four years after they were cleared in a criminal court of abusing children in their care at the council-run Shieldfield nursery.

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Yesterday the pair told how they had fled Newcastle in fear for their lives when the report came out, how friends had deserted them, and how they both contemplated suicide.

Mr Lillie said he had considered killing himself to save his family from further anxiety. “It was in the back of my mind once the report came out,” he said. “I could feel all the hurt it had put on everyone else and I thought the easiest way out was for me to die and for them to get on with their lives.”

Ms Reed described a time when she had felt so helpless that she had sat revving her car engine at the top of Marsden Cliff, South Shields. “If it wasn’t for my family I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
“I did think they would be better off without me but I couldn’t leave them with the fight because I knew they would continue to fight.”

In a 700 page judgment delivered in the high court following a 74 day libel trial, Mr Justice Eady said Mr Lillie and Ms Reed had earned their £200,000 damages “several times over” because of the scale, gravity and persistence of the allegations.

He said the team had lost the protection of qualified privilege against libel claims which would normally apply to official reports because they were guilty of malice. The four members had “set out to misrepresent the state of the evidence available to support their joint belief that Mr Lillie and Miss Reed … were child abusers (and indeed abusers on a massive scale) and to give readers the impression that statements by parents and/or children had been corroborated by police inquiries.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday August 4, 2002.
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