Parents win rehearing of child sex abuse case

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THE CONTROVERSIAL case of eight children from three families who have spent the last three years in care, isolated from their parents, after a Scottish court ruled that they had been involved in ritual sexual abuse, is to be re-examined. The unusual decision to reopen the case, which involved sadism and torture, was made yesterday by three appeal judges from the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court. The four boys and four girls, aged between three and 13, were placed in care after a 13-day hearing in Ayr in 1990.

At the time, Sheriff Neil Gow QC, who ruled that abuse had taken place, said he found aspects of the case 'distressing and terrible', and 'almost too extraordinary to believe'. Sadism, ritualistic ceremony and torture were described at the hearing. One child was said to have had enamel removed from her teeth by an aunt, using scissors.

The parents, who have continually protested their innocence and demanded the return of the children, will have the case re-examined by a different sheriff.

The special powers of the Court of Session to order a re-examination followed what the parents and their lawyers believe to be new evidence casting doubt on the expert medical, dental and psychiatric material presented to the original hearing.

At yesterday's appeal, Lord Hope, the Lord President, said: 'In our opinion, the additional evidence which the parents aver is now available to them suggests strongly that, in the event, the sheriff did not have all the information which was necessary for him to arrive at a sound decision in the children's best interests.'

The children will remain in care. If the original verdict is overturned, the matter will go back to the Court of Session to decide how their welfare is to be safeguarded.