Catalogue of mistakes in Orkney child abuse affair

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The Independent Online
A WHOLESALE condemnation of the way nine Orkney children were removed from their homes two years ago after allegations of ritual sexual abuse was made yesterday in Lord Clyde's report on the affair. No charges were ever brought.

Although the judge said that his report was 'not an onslaught on all the agencies involved' his many criticisms implicate nearly everyone as having made 'honest mistakes'.

He said its intentions were not recriminations but reform.

The report's 194 recommendations will now shape a White Paper on child care in Scotland next year. Ian Lang, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said some of the recommendations could be implemented without undue delay while others needed primary legislation or further consideration.

The report said social workers failed to keep an open mind about the allegations of organised abuse, failed to consider alternatives to the children's removal, failed to assess adequately the risk to the nine and failed to treat them as individuals. Results of medical examinations, which showed no signs of abuse, did not prompt reassessment of the allegations. The skills of those interviewing the children - the police and social workers from the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children - were described as 'inadequate' and 'deficient'; interviewers made 'inappropriate use of leading questions'.

The report's overall findings were welcomed by the parents from the four South Ronaldsay families, who say they will sue for compensation for the trauma they claim their families suffered. However, the question of the parents' guilt or innocence did not form part of Lord Clyde's remit. But the judge said: 'There is a principle in Scotland known as the presumption of innocence.' He would be sorry if that presumption was not 'so effective as to settle the position so far as anyone is concerned'.

One of the fathers said yesterday: 'I think it is as clear as it could be that we have been fully vindicated.

'To discover it is not a whitewash is absolutely brilliant. We expected nothing.'

Call for reforms, page 8