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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Ritual abuse
Lewis, Western Isles
In October police carried out coordinated raids in Scotland and England arresting several people accused of being part of a paedophile ring on the Isle of Lewis.

Two weeks ago prosecutors announced they were dropping the charges. It was only then that it emerged that those arrested had been accused of being involved in ritual abuse as part of devil worshiping ceremonies.

They say they were the subject of a satanic panic, and that their reputations have been destroyed without sufficient evidence. The police say they were acting properly in response to serious allegations of child abuse.

The case illustrates the dilemma for the authorities as they try to weigh up the rights of alleged victims against those of the accused. Ben Geoghegan reported.

BEN GEOGHEGAN:
Last October the dawn silence on the Western Isle of Lewis was broken by the commotion of a police raid. A fleet of cars had pulled up at a cottage on the edge of a village in one of the remotest places in Scotland.

IAN CAMPBELL:
There was just confusion. It was a real environment. It was like, it was like a bad movie.

GEOGHEGAN:
The officers were carrying a search warrant and said they were investigating allegations that's both Mr Campbell and his wife had been involved in the sexual abuse of children.

PENNY CAMPBELL:
And when I left the house, there was, they must have known about seven or eight officers were searching through everything. I went into the car, it was a plain clothes officer who said, "We don't do this sort of thing without plenty of evidence." I just turned away, I couldn't speak.

GEOGHEGAN:
What do you remember of how you felt as all this was happening in your house?

PENNY CAMPBELL:
Completely violated. Completely destroyed because there was no reason for them to be there.

GEOGHEGAN:
Later that day, Ian Campbell was accused of the rape of two young girls. Eight other people were charged alongside him and news soon spread that a paedophile ring had been discovered on the island. Like the other people charged in this case Peter Nelson was an incomer to the island. His dream was to move to Lewis and transform his patch of moorland into a spectacular garden, which he would open to the public. Even before this case, Mr Nelson's home had been subjected to regular attacks. But it's got even worse. And he doesn't think many people will want to visit his garden any more.

PETER NELSON:
There are some, if they had their own way, I would be strung up and we've just had so many attacks on the property and the house. It become frightening. Really, really frightening.

GEOGHEGAN:
This is footage taken by Mr Nelson's daughter after they were woken in the middle of the night. The camera records her conversation with the police.

PETER NELSON'S DAUGHTER:
Are you not listening? They've thrown a great big boulder through the window.

GEOGHEGAN:
The Nelson's CCTV cameras picked up two people who came on another night and who spent several minutes pelting the house with stones.

PETER NELSON:
It was just an endless barrage, but it was always from 2am, 3am. They were cowards to do it at that time. You know, hiding and not being honest.

GEOGHEGAN:
The police warned people not to take the law into their own hands. Mr Nelson's car were burnt out, parts of his garden destroyed. Some of the locals held a meeting to demand he be forced off the island. Then two weeks ago, there was a dramatic development. After a police investigation lasting nearly two years, the Scottish Crown Office decided to drop all the charges. Now that the investigation has ended, more details are emerging of exactly which lines of inquiry the police decided to follow. We've seen the transcripts of several of the interviews with the people who were charged. They clearly show officers believe they were dealing with more than child abuse. Again and again they question the suspects about lurid allegations to do with devil worship, animal sacrifice and ritual abuse. The Northern Constabulary say at every stage child protection has been their main priority. The families caught up in this investigation say they're the victims of a satanic panic and without any real evidence the police have accused them of them of some of the most horrendous crimes imaginable.

RECONSTRUCTION:
ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:

I have information that you were involved in devil worshiping ceremonies. What do you like to say?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
I'm not into devil worship.

GEOGHEGAN:
In their interview with Ian Campbell the police asked if he'd been involved in wife swapping, snuff movies, Satanism and the occult. They seized on the fact that he describes himself as a pagan even though Paganism has nothing to do with the devil. These are some of the questions that were put to Mr Campbell during police interviews.

RECONSTRUCTION:
ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:

Have you ever been involved or have any knowledge on a first-hand basis of the killing of animals in relation to any ceremony?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No.

ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:
In particular, chickens?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No.

ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:
Rams?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No

ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:
Lambs?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No

ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:
The abuse of dogs?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No.

ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:
You ever drunk the blood of a chicken?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No.

ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:
Ever see someone else do that?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No.

ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:
Ever drunk the blood of any other animal?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No.

ACTOR PLAYING POLICE OFFICER:
Is there anything you wish to say in relation to that?

ACTOR PLAYING IAN CAMPBELL:
No.

IAN CAMPBELL:
It's like being put in front of a firing squad. It's just a case of allegation after allegation after allegation and that why are they getting all this from? I don't believe in devil worship. I don't believe it exists. Probably back in the 17th century, but not today. They were treating us as a typical witch hunt.

GEOGHEGAN:
None of the agencies involved in this case was willing to be interviewed. We understand the allegations came from several girls in the care of social services. One of the defence solicitors says the police had a difficult job and that the information they had did merit investigation. However, when he read the girls' evidence he had doubts about whether it would stand up in court.

DAVID BROOKENS:
(Defence lawyer)

I felt from the nature of the information which was given to me that one explanation could be that it was simply a ghastly fantasy that these girls were playing amongst themselves. And that was something which was overheard, was misinterpreted and a whole chain of events was then set in motion.

GEOGHEGAN:
Ten years ago, a Government study looking at more than 80 cases found no evidence to suggest that child abuse takes place as part of a satanic ritual. That report followed several other Investigations, including one in Orkney, where allegations of satanic abuse were made but where the evidence turned out to be unreliable. The Orkney inquiry, conducted by Lord Clive, concluded that the authorities were not sufficiently sceptical about the allegations coming from the child witnesses.

JEAN LA FONTAINE:
(Author, Government report on ritual abuse)

The police have been told over and over again that they have to listen to victims. They had their knuckles wrapped over their behaviour to rape victims, for example, not treating them properly and disbelieving their stories. In some ways we have taught the police to believe and it is very difficult to tread a fine line between listening sympathetically and swallowing everything you're being told. It's just hard for some people to tread that.

GEOGHEGAN:
One expert involved in counselling paedophiles says Satanic allegations have to be taken seriously. Strip away the more outlandish evidence and there still be signs of a serious crimes.

RAY WYRE:
(Sexual crime consultant)

There have always been offenders who have sexually abused children and used Satanic imagery to control those children and stop them telling. They have introduced bizarre behaviour into the abuse to make it more likely that the child will not be believed. That's why we must listen to children, however bizarre the information is and not shut up our minds.

GEOGHEGAN:
This is another case which highlights the difficulty in weighing up claims made by children. But the people who are arrested feel they've been needlessly smeared by the allegations made against them.

DAVID BROOKENS:
(Defence lawyer)

I feel strongly that there's an imbalance here. My client and the six-former co- accused were accused of the most unpleasant crimes, crimes repugnant to normal society and certainly to the society he lives in, and that's a very small group of people and a small community. There seems to be a determination to guard and protect the identity of victims in cases like this, but the names of those accused, often wrongly accused, are displayed in the media, television and press and handed out by the prosecuting authorities.

PETER NELSON:
I'm just so angry about it that they've ruined my life. They've ruined my daughter's and the other people's life in this case. There's always going to be a cloud hanging over us all of our lives.

GEOGHEGAN:
Some of the families are demanding a public inquiry. If that doesn't happen, they may take legal action of their own. They say it would have been better if they'd been put on trial. At least then they would have had the chance to clear their names.


This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.



WATCH AND LISTEN
Newsnight's Ben Geoghegan
reported on the latest in a series of collapsed investigations into ritualised sex abuse.



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