Accused parents face battle to clear names

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The Independent Online
Two therapists accused of implanting false memories in patients that they were sexually abused in childhood by their parents used methods that the British Psychological Society now warns should be avoided - leading questions and hypnosis.

After four years of weekly therapy - including taped hypnosis - Denise Gardener, 30, believed she had recovered memories of parental abuse.

She alleged she had been raped by a gang of men when 16, then said her attacker was her husband's brother. Eventually she transferred the accusations to John and Susan Shone from Doncaster. The parents deny the allegations and claim local social servicesstaff believe they are innocent. The police were informed but brought no charges.

The Shones accused the therapist, a former psychiatric nurse who became a psychologist and now works in private practice, of brainwashing their daughter and reported her to the British Psychological Society, of which she is a member, for alleged malpractice. The society rejected the complaint and the couple are taking legal advice and plan to sue the therapist.

In a second case, Sandra Nolan, 21, had recently left home - after a childhood disrupted by her mother's divorces and third marriage. A GP referred her to a mental health project where she claimed to have been sexually abused by the father of a friend.

Sandra was referred to the regional psychotherapy unit at Newcastle Mental Health Trust, and invited to join group therapy. But she disliked the sessions. The therapist agreed to individual therapy and, assuming Sandra's alleged abuser was her mother, asked leading questions about sexual practices such as "did your mother do this?" and "did your mother do that?" Sandra nodded in reply.

The therapist diagnosed sexual abuse by her mother. The police were informed. Mrs Nolan, a social worker for the children's charity Barnardo's for 13 years, was suspended pending an internal inquiry. The police took no further action.

Further allegations emerged when a social worker questioned Sandra, who accused her mother of even more bizarre and sadistic abuse.

Neither the psychologist nor the social worker investigated to find corroboration. Barnardo's dismissed Mrs Nolan, unfairly according to a subsequent industrial tribunal.

All names have been changed.