Social workers defy abuse ruling

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The Independent Online
SOCIAL workers involved in the Ayrshire Satanic abuse case which collapsed last week are trying to thwart a court ruling that the children who have been kept in care for almost five years should be returned home.

According to the solicitor representing one family, the social workers who have been most closely involved in the case have told the children that they do not need to return home if they do not want to.

This is despite the fact that Scotland's most senior judge ruled last Monday that the children were "unjustifiably removed" and should be returned to their parents after a "tragedy of immense proportions".

The eight children were taken into care after the mother of three of them - the F family - reported that she suspected her husband, when drunk, had sexually abused their children. She later withdrew the allegation, but social workers suspected they were abused as part of an international conspiracy by devil-worshippers - a scare which had spread from the United States. Police investigated, but found no evidence of abuse and took no action.

In August 1990, Sheriff Neil Gow ruled that the eight were victims of "sinister, sadistic, ritualistic" torture. The accused parents denied the allegations and fought for a second inquiry. In his ruling last week Sheriff Colin Miller said that in 1990 there was a "fashion to uncover ritual or Satanic abuse".

Upholding his findings, Lord Hope, Scotland's Lord President, said the investigations were inept and the evidence contaminated by the social workers who lied and distorted evidence. A hearing will take place tomorrow in the Court of Session in Edinburgh at which the judge will decide on arrangements for the gradual return of seven of the children to their families. A 15-year-old girl who was allowed access visits from her parents throughout the period she was in care was allowed home immediately after the decision last Monday.

But the two familes who are awaiting reunion with their seven children were dismayed by a local newspaper report last week that three of the children from one family do not want to go home. Their solicitors condemned the "appalling" front-page story in the Glasgow Evening Times last Tuesday and suspect it came from social workers involved in the case.

Under a banner headline saying "We don't want to go home. Abuse case kids shock" the article said: "The Evening Times can reveal today that they have told several trusted friends that they do not want to move in with their parents again. The boys have been living together in a unit specially set up for them. But now they will go back into the care of their parents.

"There are now grave concerns among those who have been close to the boys for the last five years. A source who has followed the abuse case carefully said today: `Everyone is very upset by what has happened. The boys don't want to go home and the people who look after them at the moment are extremely distressed by the decision.' "

Michael Johnston, who represents the F family, has written to the chief solicitor of Strathclyde regional council demanding an internal inquiry into the leaking of the story.

He said: "The social workers most closely involved are known to have been trying to influence the children by suggesting they don't need to go home if they don't want to. They have been told in no uncertain terms the children are going home but the parents are very concerned about the attitude of the social workers and would prefer a complete change of personnel to deal with the access and return arrangements.

"They have been too closely involved and their minds appear to be entirely closed to the reality of the situation.

"The top judge in Scotland has ruled that the children should go home but the social work department has its own view, which they are trying to infiltrate into the minds of the children. It's crystal clear that they have behaved since 1990 as though they are above the law and they know best."

A spokesman for Strathclyde regional council's social work department refused to say whether an internal inquiry would be held into the source of the newspaper story that the boys did not want to go home. "This is a matter for the Court of Session," he said.

He added: "Our position is that we will co-operate with the instructions of the courts in returning the children. We always co-operated within the instructions laid down by the courts and children's hearings."

Child's story, page 10