Children's sex abuse evidence challenged

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The Independent Online
Six men convicted last year of child sex abuse in Wales are the victims of a serious miscarriage of justice, the Court of Appeal was told yesterday.

The six were found guilty in June 1994, for their part in an organised sex abuse ring in Pembroke, west Wales.

After a nine-month trial they were sentenced to a combined total of 53 years in prison and for the first time in post-war Britain, conspiracy charges arising out of a child sex abuse ring were sustained in court.

The key evidence in the case came from a group of children, ranging from six to fifteen-years-old, who said they were victims of the ring. The lawyers acting for the six alleged that the convictions are "unsafe and unsatisfactory" because the evidence of the children cannot be relied upon.

They also claim that the children's video-taped evidence should not have been shown to the jury in the original trial because it was tainted and consequently prejudiced a fair trial.

They claim that without the video evidence there is insufficient material to uphold the convictions.

The sex abuse ring came to light in May 1991, when an eight-year-old boy in Pembroke, who was undergoing counselling following the breakdown of his parents' marriage, accused his father of abuse. He quickly accused his mother and a group of other adults.

The inquiry soon encompassed two other families who shared the same housing estate as the boy's father.

No compelling evidence was found to substantiate the boy's claims, so the charges against his father were dropped. Social workers continued to question the eight-year-old boy, as well as the children of the other two families.

Later, after a teenage girl complained her father had raped her, police believed they had uncovered a paedophile network. During their investigations 18 children from nine families were taken into care.