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Places and People Investigated
We found no evidence to substantiate the claims of the children and the corroborating adults. Tunnels and rooms that they had identified did not exist. The three 'corroborating' adults were willing to tell you anything. In our view they could not be considered corroborative witnesses of anything the children had said. [Jane] had already retracted her statement before the enquiry and claimed that she knew [Mandy] was telling lies. We consider it was unlikely that they were 'independent' of the children as Wardship papers containing extracts from the Children's Diaries were found in the family households. In [Jane]'s records we found statements such as: [Jane] "In the Affidavit [James] told about the hole" "It's like [James] says in the Affidavits that I used to hit him".
Analysis of the Children's Diaries
We can accept that these children may have been sadistically terrorized by their family but we cannot support the interpretation of organized Satanic abuse that has been made from them. It is important to note that the only real evidence presented to us for the belief in Satanic abuse in the Broxtowe case is the Diaries.
Research into Satanism and Witchcraft
We do not consider that the Satanic indicators used by the Social Services Department have any validity and the information that we have on the author does not enhance their acceptability.
Our own research in Satanism and witchcraft left us with the view that there is very little if any empirical physical evidence to substantiate the claims that have been made. We doubt the existence of organised Satanic abuse as currently promulgated. Nevertheless it must be recognised that rent boys and paedophile rings do exist and it is always possible that an isolated cult on the "Charles Manson" model could arise.
Research into the International Scene
(USA, Canada and Holland)
If the articles that we have read are accurate it would appear that since the eruption of the McMartin case in the USA in August 1983 there has been a modern day witch hunt in the USA. The original cases of McMartin and Jordan have now finally ended with the acquittal of all the defendants. The reports suggest that the practices of social workers and therapists are now being questioned.
In both Holland and Canada the police's inability to find evidence and the social workers belief in the children's stories has led to considerable conflict between their respective agencies. The reports about Lyndon La Rouche with the emphasis on accusing Day Centre workers suggests that the accusation and promulgation of Satanic abuse can be used for political purposes. We now have the hypothesis (which cannot of course be proved) that Satanic abuse as a phenomenon is based on either or both of the following:-
Interview with the Experts used by Social Services
We found them very vague and they could not provide us with any actual evidence of Satanic abuse. Mr. W. mentioned some cases but we checked all these and they appeared to have no foundation.
The Disclosures of [Mary] and the Other Satellite Cases
We found this illuminating. If our judgements and those of our consultants are correct [Mary]'s case demonstrates how evidence can for want of a better term be "created" i.e. you start with nothing except your own beliefs and end up with the story that you expected and wanted to hear before you started.
It must be borne in mind, however, that as this was not an enquiry into staff conduct we have been unable to interview the social workers concerned to find out their explanation. We have had to rely upon the written material which we assume to be accurate and the video interviews.
We find it alarming, if we understand the Area Director's reply to us correctly, that the staff do not appear to have questioned their own practice in this case but consider that the Police interview was unacceptable. If our view is correct Nottinghamshire social workers are not alone in this. It could explain a phenomenon that has been puzzling everybody in the UK, USA, Canada and Holland. The Police can find no evidence, but the social workers believe the children. The Police in even their most jaundiced moments, however, would not consider the possibility that all the 'evidence' had arisen from the social workers' disclosure/therapy methods. The social workers would not recognise this because they are not aware that they are doing it i.e. they are not fabricating evidence as a deliberate corrupt conscious act. The result would always be irreconcilable conflict.
We consider that much further work needs to be done on this by independent, highly qualified professionals as it has serious implications for social work practice. We can only surmise that there are great dangers if the initial theory is wrong and social workers are working in isolation. In the field of sexual abuse the dangers are magnified as all social workers know that children are reluctant to disclose and only do so in a piecemeal fashion.
Research into other cases in the UK
The experience of Humberside would appear to confirm that a similar process can happen elsewhere if the interviewer has a belief in Satanic abuse.
The Broxtowe family was the largest child abuse case yet found in this country and was probably unique with regard to the extent of sexual abuse disclosed and the nature of the disclosures. It is understandable that involvement with the children could well lead one to believe that anything could happen. It is doubtful whether anybody as the time could have come to the right conclusions. As a Team we know how it affected us initially and are aware of some of the wilder expectations that we had.
In our view that choice of experts was unfortunate and the use of the Satanic Indicators which appear so convincing was disastrous. The willingness of adult members of the family to fabricate stories even if they were encouraged to do so was grossly misleading. The social workers were faced with a new phenomenon outside their experience and it is not difficult to understand how they set off on their particular road.
The unwillingness of the Police to engage in a joint investigation in the aftermath of the Broxtowe case left the social workers isolated and without any real means of checking their suspicions. We are all aware that it is easy to criticise with the benefit of hindsight.
Unfortunately, two years were allowed to elapse without the social workers views being challenged by any contrary independent evidence. If anything the stream was flowing the other way. Satanic abuse as a concept appears to be contagious and additional evidence was cropping up all over the country. The pace has quickened in the last three months. When we spoke to the NSPCC less than six months ago they had no information to give us but we now read that "an increasing number of the society's child protection teams are dealing with children who have been ritualistically abused".
We are less sympathetic with the current attitude of the staff involved in the Broxtowe case. In our view two years later on an unshakeable belief system in Satanic ritualistic abuse appears to have developed which could easily lead into a modern day "witch hunt" (as has happened in the USA). All the elements appear to us to be present; rigid preconceived ideas, dubious investigative techniques, the unwillingness to check basic facts, the readiness to believe anything, however bizarre, the interest in identifying prominent people, with widening of the net to implicate others and the unwillingness to accept any challenge to their views. This may appear to be a harsh judgement but we would support it by the following examples:-
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS
IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
a) The Effect of the Broxtowe Case on the Social Services Department
If we are correct in our findings and judgements there appear to be the following implications:-
1. That children could be emotionally abused
We have to consider the damage that may have been done to the children in working with them on the basis that they had been involved in experiences such as the slaughter of sheep and the killing of babies that had not actually happened. What has been done to [Mary] by convincing her that she was a child murderer who had indulged in acts of cannibalism or that she might kill again if she did not feel guilty?
2. The possibility of gross injustice
[Craig] identified a lodger (by means of a photograph) who lived with his aunt for a few months when he was no more than two and a half years of age. He also dictated a letter which could be used in a Wardship Hearing alleging that she was a witch who held witch parties and sexually abused him. If [Amy] had not retracted her disclosures twelve children could have been removed from their homes.
3. The influence of the Social Services Department nationally
The staff of our Social Services Department appear to be perceived as experts on Satanic ritualistic abuse and gave a presentation at a conference in Reading in September 1989 which included 230 representative from child protection agencies, child psychologists, police and social workers. The conference was told that the Nottingham Case appeared to involve Satanic rituals, that the staff were convinced the children were telling the truth and that they now gave advice to other social workers seeking information on Satanic rituals. The conference was reported in the press and a tape of it can be purchased. We are aware that many Police forces and Scotland Yard had intended to use this as substantiated evidence of Satanic abuse.
Social Services staff have given a presentation to all Nottinghamshire Area Directors and Group Principal Hospital Social Workers. We understand from an independent participant at the Presentation that it was convincing.
4. Police perception of Social Services Department
It is clear to us that the recent satellite cases have gravely damaged the Social Services Department's reputation with the Police. The Police have complained to us that children in care are alleging murder but they have then been kept in the dark for a considerable period of time before the children are ready for the Police interview. The Police have been astonished at some of the allegations that appear to be accepted by social workers such as the cooking of babies in microwave ovens (the body, we are told would explode).
A straightforward Police interview quickly discredited the children's allegations. [Reggie], for example, went on to include adults being cooked in microwave ovens. The Police subsequently learned that the social services claimed that Police Officers could not do satisfactory interviews of this type of disclosure. It is not surprising that some Police officers have become very angry and that the credibility of the Social Services Department has suffered.
b) Police - Social Service Relationships
We consider that the unwillingness of the Police to agree to joint working in the aftermath of the Broxtowe case led eventually to distrust and a failure of communication which contributed to the Social Services Department developing and enlarging upon its concept of Satanic ritual abuse. It would appear to us that the Social Services Department was never really aware of the full extent of the Police enquiries but was asked to accept assertions without detailed evidence being presented. By the time of the briefing at Hucknall it was too late and any additional information that appeared to dispute the Police findings created suspicion that no proper investigation had taken place. We consider that this was particularly unfortunate as the basis for the Police view was in our opinion fundamentally sound. They had investigated locations thoroughly, they were sceptical at the idea of the family murdering children in a semi-detached council house, (particularly after interviewing neighbours). They were aware that the adults were totally unreliable, they were suspicious as to the validity of the American literature and they had doubts about the interpretation of the diaries. We were surprised to discover that the Police had actually researched witchcraft and Satanism quite thoroughly.
Our own experience as a team has proved that Police and social workers can work perfectly well together and that they have more in common than suspected. The empirical approach of the Police with its emphasis upon evidence and checking can blend quite well with the rationalistic approach of social workers with its emphasis upon establishing hypotheses, logical consequences and an information base.
Faced with a very complex situation, however, (such as a paedophile ring) we would consider that it would be essential for the Police and social workers to be located in the same office together so that a trusting relationship based upon mutual respect and open debate could develop. Otherwise the preconceived stereotypes and differences in style, organisation and decision making would be likely to get in the way. We do not consider that in a "Broxtowe type of case" that real joint working could be achieved by meetings alone.
It is our view that if the current situation is allowed to persist that there could be a total breakdown of Police/Social Service relationships with incalculable consequences. At the present we are told that this has almost happened in one Police Division but it could spread to the rest of the county.
Parts of this report make uncomfortable reading, however, we take comfort from the following:
W. Thorpe, Detective Sergeant
J. B. Gwatkin B.A. Hons (Social Science) Dip App Social Studies, Area Director
W. P. Glenn, Detective Policewoman
M. F. Gregory RMN CQSW PhD Candidate, Senior Social Worker
The other members of the original team were:-
Detective Superintendent R. S. Davy
(Deputy Head of Nottinghamshire CID)
D. C. Long B.A. (Sociology & Politics) M.A. (History of Education)/M.A. (Social Work), CQSW, Certificate of Education, Senior Social Worker
7th June 1990
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(C) 1990 Report Copyright Nottinghamshire Social Services