Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers
Fighting injustice – lobbying for change
The Innocent People for whom British Justice Stood on its Head
An article by Iris Jensen B.A.(Hons)
A comparison of the treatment and the lack of justice meted out to the women wrongly accused of harming their children, and men working in children’s establishments who are falsely accused of child abuse
_____________________________ Sir William Blackstone [1723-1780] said:“It is better that ten guilty persons escape justice than one innocent suffer.” In January 2002, Lord Justice Judge said (following the successful Appeal of Angela Cannings against the conviction for killing her two baby sons,) that appeal court rulings could … “Could lead to some guilty mothers going free or not facing trial at all. “That,” he added “is an undesirable result which avoids a worse one.” He went on to add, “unless we are sure of guilt, the dreadful possibility always remains that a mother, already brutally scarred by the unexplained deaths of her babies, may find herself in prison for life for killing them when she should not be there at all. In our community, and in any civilised community, that is abhorrent.” It would therefore appear from such comments, that the concept of British Justice, regarded throughout the world as the epitome of honesty and truth, where an accused person ‘is deemed to be innocent until proven guilty’, is still alive and well and protecting British citizens from injustice in the same way as it was intended to in the 18th Century. I intend to point out the similarities between two groups of persons, each of whom were totally failed by British Justice, when they were deemed to be guilty until they could prove their innocence of crimes they had not committed. To be able to furnish such proof of negative events. would tax the minds of the greatest phlosophers known. This however, is what happened to those accused of killing their babies when they died in unexplained circumstances, and those accused of sexually and physically abusing children in children’s establishments at some time during the past four decades. Not all those in the former category are women, nor all in the latter category men, but since they form the vast majority in each instance, simply and only to make the article easier to write, and hopefully to read, I shall continue to refer to each group of people in this way. I hope it causes no offence to any reader.
Angela Canning was recently released from prison following a successful Appeal. She had spent almost two years in jail, having been wrongly accused and convicted of killing her two baby sons. Her case naturally aroused much disquiet and concern among members of the public that such a tragic mistake could have been made yet again. Her case also generated extensive and widespread media coverage and informed comment, plus comprehensive reporting on the reasons given by the Appeal Court Judges for their decision to quash Mrs Canning’s conviction. The Appeal Panel also made recommendations regarding the manner in which cases of sudden unexplained infant deaths should be handled in the future. The reasons and recommendations, together with the informed comment, pertain of course, only to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, their underlying call for justice for those accused of crimes which they did not commit and for which there is no tangible evidence, to either accused of historic sexual abuse in establishments for children.
There are several striking similarities between the treatment of the women accused of killing their babies and the men accused of what has become known as ‘Institutional Abuse.’ This phrase I find clumsy and not really apt, but it does serve to distinguish between the wrongly accused men who taught and looked after children in children’s establishments, and any other child abuse cases brought before the Courts. I have identified what I consider to be the most striking similarities between what has happened to the people in both the above groups. I shall look at their treatment at the hands of investigating . teams and the way ‘evidence’ has been gathered against them; the problems caused by the historic nature of the cases; the impossible concept of having to ‘prove their innocence’ of what did not happen and also the effects on their families. I intend to look more closely at the categories of similarity and develop each in turn, to show how official criticism of past handling of either group and the implementation of recommendations regarding future improvements, may be to the advantage of both. The Identified similarities are as follows:a. The bias in the treatment of the women and the men from the commencement of an investigation into the alleged offences. b. The historical nature of some alleged offences. The assumption of guilt until innocence is proved and the means used to gather evidence. c. The reliance on expert witnesses, or on preconceptions of how children react in given circumstances. d. The concept of guilt by volume. e. The effects on the families of those falsely accused.
The biased treatment.
In the cases brought against the women and the men, there is a bias present, from the outset of the investigation right through any subsequent court case. It is there because all the alleged offences concern children, or those who were children at the time of the alleged offences. It permeates the entire proceedings, but is not discernible in any other type of criminal investigation.
This bias is the element of emotion, which seems to totally preclude a rational and logical approach to any case and to eliminate the normally required evidence of a crime having been committed before proceeding further. The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘emotion’ as – a strong feeling such as joy, anger or sadness. Instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge. Not all the cases investigated are proceeded with, but for those that are, the same bias is still there. For many jury members, this could be their first experience of a Court of Law, and a daunting experience, being concerned about what will be expected of them. Being assigned to a case dealing with the death of a baby, or a child said to have been sexually assaulted in a Children's Home, would heighten their apprehension further. The jury will be required to listen to harrowing details of what is said to have occurred. When, as so often happens, the prosecution presents its case using highly emotive language, playing on the already emotional state of the jury members, are they not likely to use only .instinct or intuition, rather than also using reasoning to assess the knowledge they have gained from the facts of case? What chance then does a defence barrister have of convincing a jury that the accused mother is kind, caring and innocent of harming her baby when the jury have been given a picture of a defenceless infant whose life was cruelly and prematurely ended? Or indeed, how can the defence team for an honest and upright man, prove to a jury that the defendant could not have committed the crime of which he is accused? The jury is likely to have been accorded the image of a young boy, taken from his own home and family and placed in a Home where he was badly wronged. This mental picture is likely to over-ride the reality before them, that of a middle-aged recidivist making false accusations. Not all such court cases end with a ‘guilty’ verdict. There are times when common sense prevails; when reasoning and knowledge are used to assess both sides of the arguments put by the prosecution and defence. In these instances, instinct and intuition have been kept in check and allowed only to supplement the more rational thinking, as indeed they should. They have not been given free rein to mask objectivity with emotion and the result is that a ‘not guilty’ verdict is returned, and an innocent man is vindicated. I shall however, comment at a later stage on the effect being accused of a crime, which disgusts decent society, has on the person accused, that persons whole family, their own future prospects and also the tragic consequences that can ensue.
The problems associated with historical accusations.
In this category of similarities, there is one big difference between the cases of the women accused of killing their babies and those of the men accused of abuse in children’s establishments- The date, the time and place of each baby’s death will have been recorded, as well as being indelibly imprinted on the heart of each mother. For the men it is usually an approximate date, (sometimes very approximate.) The general location of the fictitious assaults are usually specific, although the immediate locations are frequently vague and subject to tactical changes! When a baby is found to have died in unexplained circumstances, but where there is no reason to assume foul play, initial inquiries are carried out. The baby’s mother and the rest of the family are treated with the respect and sympathy that should be accorded to the tragically bereaved. If a second, or sadly in some families, a third child dies, the attitude towards the mother is vastly different. The investigating team become highly suspicious and decide to reopen the inquiries into the former unexplained deaths. From then on, the bias of emotion clouds the issue. The mother is unlikely to have forgotten the details surrounding the deaths of any of her babies, which, on each occasion were declared to be ‘unexplained.’ That is, none of the doctors involved could offer a rational explanation for what had happened. How then is
the mother, innocent of any wrongdoing, able to offer a rational explanation, after several years have elapsed and nothing that could even be considered evidence, still remains, or ever existed? The majority of the accusations against the men accused of sexual assaults in children’s establishmentswill have been “promoted” by police investigations in various ways that will be discussed later. Coming many years, sometimes even several decades after the assaults are said to have occurred, the men are at a disadvantage from the outset. Not only from the shock of such allegations, but also because of this totally unexpected and unwarranted intrusion into their lives. From then on, they seem to be living in some sort of surreal world. Nothing makes sense and all the precepts of honesty and justice by which they have always lived are shown to no longer be there for them. They are however expected to account for what happened at an approximate time in their working lives in which, as no untoward events had occurred, is not memorable for them. The investigating teams clearly assume a gratuitous belief in the guilt of both the women and the men, apparently based on nothing more than a sinister preconception, but it is sufficient for them to prejudge innocent persons guilty from the outset.
The assumption of guilt and the methods of evidence gathering.
As the title of this article implies, British Justice is no longer something that any British subject can absolutely rely on should they be falsely accused of a crime. By the same token the old and widely held belief that if a person has done nothing wrong and tells the truth to those investigating a crime, that person has nothing to fear. Alas, not only is this now a fallacy, but it appears that anyone who has charge of children in any capacity, and is accused of committing a crime against them, can no longer expect justice to be done. It seems to matter not one iota whether the accused person is likely to have committed such a crime, nor even whether they had the opportunity to do so. Commonsense, it would seem, plays no part in the investigation and they are deemed guilty, from the time the accusation is made, unless they can furnish proof of their innocence. Such proof is, of course, impossible to provide. In the case of the women, if all the medical evidence could not explain how a baby died, the mother has no hope of doing so. Thus it is left open ended, and with no proof either way and going against all that was held most dear in British Justice, the mother is assumed by the investigating team, to be guilty. For the men, accusations against them may not have been spontaneously made, but are more likely to have resulted from a Police Operation involving several Children's Homes and Establishments in an area. Such operations, which have been replicated in many parts of the Country under various code names, may have emanated from an extremely small number of spontaneously, or even spuriously made complaints. They were however, sufficient to cause investigators to view the men they interviewed as guilty. Yet again, commonsense appears to have been lacking in the investigations, which went ahead, regardless of the quality of the complaints made. It is well documented that men were charged with offences supposedly committed in Establishments they were not employed at when the assaults were said to have occurred; accusations were made by men who had never been at the Homes where they claimed to have been abused; assaults were said to have been carried out in places that did not exist within the named Establishment. These are a few of the fallacious complaints that could so easily have been checked, yet were allowed to reach a Court of Law. However, both during the investigations, and also if the accusations led to a court case, the accused men would be expected to account accurately for their actions and whereabouts at the specified time. Any inaccuracies on their part being regarded as a
sign of guilt. In contrast, any inaccuracies on the part of the accusers, concerning any aspect whatsoever, would be regarded as natural confusion after such a time lag, and could be attributed to having suffered such an ordeal. Again, a clear assumption of guilt pertained until proof of innocence could be found. Since no crime had been committed, what “proof” could there be to find?
Expert witnesses and expert opinion on children.
When the sudden death of an adult occurs, if it is considered to be a ‘suspicious death’ the police investigate. Should a baby be found dead in ‘unexplained’ circumstances, it is reclassified as ‘suspicious’ if there have been previous unexplained baby deaths in the family – and the police investigate. One of the main reasons for doing so is the excessive reliance on the opinion of experts, particularly that of Professor Sir Roy Meadow. He became a recognised expert on cot deaths and also developed the theory of Munchhausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, where mothers are said to have harmed their children in order to draw attention to themselves. The Professor is currently facing an enquiry by the General Medical Council into allegations of serious professional misconduct. There are those who consider themselves experts in child behaviour and they claim that children do not lie, especially when it comes to issues of a traumatic nature. They also claim that adults do not lie about such issues if they experienced them as children. This so-called expert opinion also has its adherents, and they are prepared to accept the most implausible stories as truth, simply because they relate to what are claimed to have been childhood experiences. The investigations into complaints of historical abuse in children’s establishments do not depend on the accusations of children, but on that of men who were children when they claim the offences occurred. Despite what ‘experts’ on child behaviour say, and no matter how convincing they may sound in a Court of Law, anyone who has had any dealings with children know that they will lie about having done something they should not have done, even when caught ‘red handed’ or with the ‘evidence’ such as chocolate smears still visible! Children will lie in order to say what they think an adult wants to hear, either to please that person, or to save themselves from rebuke or punishment. These may not be serious issues, but most of us also know how manipulative children can be, lying about an occurrence or twisting the truth, either to gain an advantage for themselves, or else to make trouble for others. A child who regularly finds itself in situations where its wellbeing depends on lies, evasion or manipulation of facts, is not likely to grow up to be an honest and upright citizen. Unless some dramatic changes for good come about in that child’s life, he will continue to lie or to offend. Very occasionally, such changes do happen, but sadly, it is evident that they never have for those who have made false claims of abuse against the people who once tried to help them.
Guilt by volume.
The concept of guilt by volume pertains for both groups of wrongly accused persons we are considering. Although it is used rather differently for the women than for the men, it nevertheless has the same catastrophic outcome in that innocent people are sent to prison, and it is this concept that has played a significant part in their convictions. In many types of criminal case, guilt by volume is a reasonable concept, especially where there have been, what in today’s parlance, are termed ‘serial crimes’. When, for example, a series of rapes, murders, or high profile thefts have occurred and within each category of these crimes a very similar method has been used; they have been committed within a relatively small area; or have been committed in the same type of
terrain. The media often refer to such crimes within a category by a title which connects them and describes the location in which they were committed. It is then reasonable to assume that, because all the crimes in a category are of such a similar nature, when the perpetrator of one crime in a category is apprehended, that person is likely to have committed them all – and the police have a volume of evidence. Each is a crime in itself, but they can be safely linked when a case is being put together. This is a very important factor when considering unexplained baby deaths. According to the now infamous “Meadow’s Law” which states – “Unless proven otherwise, one cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder.” It would therefore appear that each tragic death is just that, a tragedy. However, when they are linked together, each one becomes a crime. Once again it seems, the Law changes its standard of ethics when dealing with the mothers of cot death babies. There can be few people who do not know that if someone needs an organ or bone marrow transplant, one of the most likely sources of a compatible donor is a sibling of the patient. It therefore seems a reasonable assumption that, since the physical make up of some siblings is so similar, they will have similar reactions, and so could succumb, to a like set of circumstances. Arguably then, one could foretell that more than one child in a family could be at risk from cot death syndrome. Loving parents who have lost one baby in this way are bound to be more vigilant with subsequent offspring but regretfully, even this extra care will not be sufficient to save some. Guilt by volume in the case of the men refers to the number of complaints made. In reality, it refers to the number of false allegations which have been coached, coaxed or coerced from ex-residents of children’s establishments, by police operations and by law firms which specialise in the lucrative business of compensation claims. A great deal has been written on the subject by people who have first hand knowledge of such inquiries which have become known as ‘trawling’. It is sufficient to add that the investigating police, starting with the premise of wrongdoing, visit a number of ex-residents to see if a crime has been committed. This is, yet again, the opposite of normal police investigative procedure where a crime is reported before being investigated. It is unclear how the sample of possible complainants is chosen, but two things are very clear:Many of the men visited have no complaint to make and, despite several police visits, refuse to make false accusations. Others receive many police visits and at some stage accept the inducements on offer. (These inducements include cash compensation, lighter sentences for current offences, plea bargaining etc.) This is strongly and consistently denied by the police, and yet there are many who have written and spoken of receiving numerous such visits and of the offer of incentives. Despite the legal requirement to do so, the defence are not told of the number of men who refused to make allegations of abuse. If they were so advised, there might be a very persuasive counter claim available – that of ‘Innocence by Volume’. When one considers the number of people who spent some time in children’s establishments, and the number who actually make complaints, (or indeed have cause to do so), the percentage is extremely small. Therefore, should not the concept of Innocence by Volume be accorded at least equal value to that of Guilt by Volume? Earlier in this section, it was shown that in certain circumstances, crimes could be linked, without causing prejudice to the defendant. However, a great deal of prejudice is caused when the cases of several falsely accused men are tried at the same time, each being variously accused by different complainants. This indicates an attempt to persuade the jury that there is a volume of evidence against each man whereas, had the defendants been tried separately, the paucity of evidence against each of them would
have been patently obvious. Yet again, perceived crime against children changes the ethics of the Law.
The effect on the families.
When a decent person is jailed because they have been falsely accused of crimes that right thinking men and women find abhorrent, the effects on their families are manifold. This, however, is only the start of the horror and fear to come. From the time the first false accusations are made and the questioning begins, the lives of the women and the men accused, and all those closest to them, are shattered, if not irrevocably ruined. The attitude of the investigating teams and the sensational press coverage can affect the perception and behaviour of neighbours, those thought to be friends, employers, colleagues, and all who do not know the families sufficiently well to believe in the honesty, integrity and innocence of the accused persons. From that time on, those accused will lose their jobs; their future employment prospects will be adversely affected and possibly even those of their husbands, wives or partners, especially if they work with children. Whilst all this is unwarranted and extremely distressing, worse may follow if Social Services decide that any children of these families are also “at risk” and either take them into care, or threaten to do so. This is no idle threat. Over the past fifteen years, ‘family courts’ have ordered the removal of approximately 5000 children from their families, some immediately after birth. Margaret Hodge, The Children’s Minister has admitted that the vast majority of these children will never be reunited with their natural parents. Many of these callous acts were once again the result of over-reliance on ‘expert opinion’ which decreed that on a balance of probability, some mothers were harming their children, or might harm them in the future! In a criminal court they would have to prove beyond all reasonable doubt, what is little more than supposition in a family court. British Justice seems yet again, to have deserted those who have no other recourse left to them to refute false allegations. At some stage, the case against someone falsely accused may be dropped, or, if the case does go to court, a verdict of ‘not guilty’ returned. Good news, but not good enough to make reparation for what has gone before. There is no way that anyone can ‘walk away’ from such an experience and carry on normally with life. After the stress and trauma of such an ordeal, the marriages of some will be over or family life will have been irrevocably torn apart. For others, their health or the health of a loved one will have been impaired. For all, job prospects will still be affected and they will always be viewed with suspicion by some people. Then there are those for whom the strain was just too great and they never recovered from the ordeal they were made to suffer so unjustly For the people found guilty of crimes they did not commit, and for their families, a whole new dimension is added to the nightmare situation. The sentences handed out are usually savage, as befits the perception of the crimes said to have been committed, and it could be several years before an Appeal date is given. Meanwhile, the innocent person serves an undeserved jail sentence, with all the horrors of imprisonment, plus the added horrors of being regarded as a baby killer or a paedophile. The families carry on with life as normally as possible – with one parent absent and the bias and bigotry still around them. The parent at home tries to make up for the absence of the other and keep life as it used to be. Prison visits will replace normal family interaction; the children will miss the care and influence of one parent, while that parent misses family birthdays, outings, Christmases and all the other milestones in the lives of their children. A very high price to pay for being a loving mother, or for showing care and concern for children in need.
It would be very interesting to know whether anyone from the groups of women and men whose plights we have considered, would have been wrongly accused, if experts like Professor Sir Roy Meadow had not been so eager to air dubious theories and opinions, or if the police nationally had not set up ‘trawling’ exercises to rival the fleets that once left Grimsby. The element of wanton gullibility also played a large part in the whole tragic fiasco when ‘expert opinion’ was accepted unquestioningly, as were the most lurid tales of abuse in Children's Homes, and none were evaluated, or weighed against facts known about situations or the persons accused. The training and past experience of police and social workers alike seems to have deserted them, almost as if some form of mass hysteria had swept the Country causing a manic desire for sensationalism. Under normal circumstances, an air of reason would have prevailed and they would have proceeded with caution, checking details for rational answers. This just did not happen. Theories were embraced unreservedly and seem to have masked commonsense, even when there were doubts about them. Lord Howe, Shadow Spokesman for Health in the House of Lords, has described the work of Professor Sir Roy Meadow on Munchhausen’s Syndrome by Proxy as “one of the most pernicious and ill founded theories to have gained currency in child care and social services over the past ten to fifteen years.” The Professor also claimed that the chance of losing two babies in one family to cot deaths was 73million to one, a figure he randomly plucked from an unfinished piece of research. Similarly, when the police ‘trawled’ for complaints of abuse that might have occurred in children’s establishments, they accepted that 82% of the staff at one Liverpool Home had been abusing boys. Allowing that many of the remaining 18%of staff must have been female, it would appear that they were prepared to believe that virtually every male employee was an abuser. Surely reasonable thought applied to the investigation would have shown this to be a nonsense. Since, however, the investigating police and the CPS considered it to be a credible situation, one must question what other preposterous claims they have unquestioningly accepted. One must also query what sort of strange world they inhabit if this to them is acceptable as a ‘norm!’ To take their dubious logic further, could it not be reasonable to assume that any Establishment, about which there have been no claims of abuse, must be suspect and so in need of investigation? A worrying aspect of such an argument is that it could become accepted as ‘expert theory’! Such investigations have been aptly named “witch hunts” and bear the hallmarks of those shameful episodes in history. Neighbours were encouraged to lay claims against neighbours and some did so, sometimes in an attempt to protect their own families, sometimes out of spite or malice. ‘Trawling’ investigations encourage ex-residents to lay claims against staff or ex-staff on whom they once relied, and some do so, sometimes to save themselves from prison, sometimes out of spite or malice, sometimes out of greed for cash compensation. Little change there! The ducking stool was frequently used. A woman who was still alive after having been ducked, was clearly a witch and killed. One who had died under the water must have been innocent. Oops! A simple mistake. Little change there either in the casual attitude to the ruination of a life and a family, three hundred years on,. In Salem, the witch hunts finally imploded when claims became so ludicrous and implausible that the authorities had to accept that they could no longer go on. Are we now approaching that stage since so-called evidence in cases brought to court have been variously described by judges as “nonsense that could so easily have been checked”, and” unsafe evidence on which to convict a person”, whilst one claimant was described by the judge as “a fantasist”?
Our courts of law do sometimes bear strong resemblance to theatres putting on a farce. Simon Jenkins, in the Times in June 2003, writes of the Crown producing the same stage army of “child abuse experts” to give evidence against the experts marshalled by the defence in cases of cot deaths. He adds, “The distortion of evidence, the onus to prove innocence and the hyping of juries are all medieval and barbaric.” Professor Tony Risdon, consultant paediatric pathologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, is also critical of the adversarial system as a means of getting at the truth, especially in a case where there is a suspicion that the baby’s death was not natural. He advocates panels of pathologists and paediatricians jointly reviewing all the evidence for each case before making a decision about handing it over to the CPS. Provided there is honesty and openness, such a system does seem to have a lot to recommend it. However, Sally Clarke served three years in prison for killing her two baby sons, but her conviction was quashed at her Appeal when it was revealed that a Home Office pathologist had examined both her sons after their deaths and had failed to pass on vital information to other doctors involved in the case. Similar panels to those mentioned above could be a way of helping to refute some of the wild claims made against those accused of historical abuse. Among panel members, should be someone familiar with the type of Establishment which features in the allegations, at the time the alleged offences were said to have occurred. All too often, cases are brought when neither the defence or prosecuting teams, nor the juries, have any idea of the accepted norms of daily routine, expectation of resident’s behaviour, or the forms of acceptable and legal punishments and restraints of those particular times. Neither do they know what written records various types of establishments were obliged to keep. Not infrequently, many who worked at the Establishment cited, have died during the interim period, or become too old or infirm to be of assistance after so many years. It is often claimed that no records of the establishment remain, or ever existed, even though the police have found sufficient documentation to enable them to draw up their list of possible complainants. Convincing a jury of what normal routine and expectations would have been in the named establishment at the time claimed thus becomes almost an impossibility, without an experienced person there to guide them, should the case be referred to the CPS and proceeded with. Men have been convicted of physical abuse when they actually administered legally permitted corporal punishment according to the guidelines of the day. Such details, which highlight discrepancies and inaccuracies in the concocted stories of false claimants, should help to form a stronger case for the defendant. Also of great value on such a panel would be someone who could read and verify the likelihood that the statements of the men making the accusations contained what they had actually said. Such a person should be able to check out the wording used, both to describe the said abuser, and the setting and circumstances of the claimed abuse. The majority of men making false accusations, not only struggled with basic learning during their school years but have since spent their time, both in prison and on the outside, in the company of similar men and women. Their speech, and therefore the statements they make, will naturally be in the ‘restricted code’ that is appropriate to their type of friends and acquaintances. This is true of any group of people, at ease within a family gathering, among friends, colleagues or workmates, or with those who share specific interests or hobbies. The more able revert to an ‘elaborated code' for formal occasions or when in the company of others who share only general interests, those less able, retain the same restricted code throughout. No-one objects to someone else writing out the statement of one who finds the task difficult, but it should be in the claimant’s own words so that the jury are not given a false impression. Two statements which are almost ‘carbon copies’ of each other, from men claiming not to have seen each other for many years, are either indicative of collusion, or of a third party writing what are supposedly their statements. Whatever the
explanation, the accumulative affect of such incidents, which a panel would uncover, should be sufficient to make it unsafe to proceed with a case, whether or not it goes to court.
Should panels of knowledgeable people be seen as the way forward in eliminating claims of abuse that are either patently false, or else impossible to prove or disprove because of the excessive time delay, such panels should be completely impartial and not allowed to become all-powerful, as the family courts appear to have done, seeing themselves as apart from the normal concept of justice in this Country. It would also be an immense step towards fairness if independent persons or electronic methods were used to take the statements of complainants, with all parties concerned knowing exactly what was said and not reading the version drawn up by a policeman who may well have been part of the investigation which helped to encourage the claim in the first place. There was a time, not that long ago, when the uncorroborated word of a career criminal would not have been accepted, without added proof, that he had been abused by a man whose life’s work had been teaching or caring for disadvantaged children; who had never been in any trouble with the law, and who had worked in several other children's establishments without a complaint of any sort being made against him. Conversely, despite a law that bans a loving parent from slapping a child, children are still being tortured and terrorised by parents who seem able to also frighten inexperienced social workers into submission. This is in spite of reports and pleas from concerned family members and neighbours who have heard and witnessed the terrible abuse. In the current climate of ‘Political Correctness’- where the majority of ordinary, decent citizens feel that the ‘Yob’ or ‘Thug’ Culture is what influences official decisions; where people are seen as less important than property; where motorists are thought more likely to be apprehended by the police than muggers or burglars, it can sometimes be seen as an impossible task to bring any influence on judicial or political decision making. Most social reforms however, come about because of economics rather than altruism and this could well be the over-riding influence if it becomes cheaper to listen to public opinion than it is to pay off those making false accusations of abuse, often so many years after the assaults are said to have happened, that they are impossible to prove or disprove. The Children's Minister, Margaret Hodge, has said that she not only anticipates mothers suing local authorities for the loss of their children, but that claims will be made by those taken away as children for loss of family life. All who have been wrongly imprisoned will also have rightful claims to compensation, as will their children, since one doesn’t have to be taken from home to suffer the loss of normal family life. It can be achieved just as successfully by the removal and imprisoning of one innocent parent, labelling that parent as a baby murderer or a paedophile. That is sufficient to disrupt family life, but the national and local media coverage so often given to such cases, tarnishes the whole family, including the children, by association. Surely, all these legitimate claims for compensation should be sufficient to cause a rethink, resulting in the vital and long overdue reforms necessary in the administration of British Justice. Iris Jensen 2006