Abuse case six appeal slates social workers

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The Independent Online
SIX MEN jailed after Britain's biggest-ever trial for organised child abuse will learn this week whether they are to be freed, writes Louise Jury.

An appeal hearing at the High Court, London, is due to end tomorrow after three weeks in which the investigation which led to their convictions has come under fire for breaking guidelines laid down after the Cleveland child abuse scandal.

Lawyers acting for the men, who are aged between 25 and 42, have claimed the convictions at the end of last year's pounds 10m trial were unsafe because child witnesses made statements after emotive therapy sessions with social workers while in council care in Pembroke, West Wales.

At the end of the trial Ray White, chief constable of Dyfed-Powys, called the inquiry "a model of perfection". Five of the men were jailed for conspiracy to abuse and one was found guilty of an additional charge of gross indecency. They received sentences of between five and 15 years. None of the men may be identified, to protect the children.

At the High Court on Friday, Gerard Elias QC, for the Crown, said this was a case in which the jury in Swansea Crown Court last year had "a more complete picture" of the evidence and the way it had been gathered than had, perhaps, ever been made available to a jury before. "The verdicts of the jury were in no way unsafe or unsatisfactory," he said.

But Patrick Eccles QC, for the man accused of being the paedophile ring leader, said that during care proceedings for the youngsters last year, Mr Justice Connell established it was impossible to rely on some of the children's evidence.

Another defence lawyer, Nigel Mylne QC, said "emotive phrases [were] drummed into the children in therapy" by social workers who "had found it difficult to distinguish between therapeutic and investigative work". A judgment is expected on Friday.