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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK
Orkney abuse children speak out
Orkney family
The families were separated to investigate abuse claims
Children at the centre of the Orkney abuse allegations in the early 1990s have spoken of their experiences for the first time.

In 1991, five boys and four girls, aged between eight and 15, were taken from their homes on South Ronaldsay.

The children, who could not be identified at the time, returned to their homes two months later when legal action was thrown out by a sheriff.

They now claim questioning presupposed that there was abuse taking place.

Ritual abuse

Sandy was the mother of two boys taken by police and social workers in a dawn raid on their farmhouse February 1991.

Her sons Alex and Ben were taken to foster parents in Inverness-shire for almost two months.

The raid was organised after social workers questioned members of another family - the W family - whose father had been jailed for sexual abuse.

They became fearful there was a child sex ring and ritual abuse taking place on South Ronaldsay.

But one of the W family, May, has said the questioning presupposed the answer; that there was abuse taking place.

Janette Chisholm
If it is a secret they'll deny
Janette Chisholm
Social worker

She said: "Eventually you would break down, after an hour or so of saying: 'no, this never happened. I don't remember it. I don't even know what you are talking about'.

"I can't imagine how I got out of the room if I didn't say 'yes', but I don't remember saying 'yes' to anything."

Throughout the 1980s, social workers came to believe child sex abuse was more prevalent than was commonly thought - and could explain unruly behaviour among children.

Obtain results

Many of the 15 W children were wild and out of control.

William and Sandy, both teachers, had been asked to help look after them. That is how they became implicated in the allegations.

Their son, Alex, remembers they way he was questioned.

Orkney welcome home
Wellwishers welcomed the children back to Orkney in 1991

He said: "They said tell me about this or I know you have been doing this with this person and you are like 'no, I haven't, don't be ridiculous'. And this would go on for some time."

Alex said that social workers were becoming increasingly desperate to obtain results.

He said: "You want to be obliging as a child with adults. Then you start to get an idea that you don't necessarily want to have done that.

"That maybe you were foolish to have done it and you felt stupid."

When you get your children back after everything, you can't remember what you said
Alex's mother

Social workers such as Janette Chisholm, who was involved in the questioning of the W family, maintain a child's denial is not proof.

"If it is a secret they'll deny. As long as it's a secret, denial will come for the same reason the secrecy is there - keeping something safe," she said.

The removal of nine children from four South Ronaldsay families galvanised the local community

A public meeting demanded their return but to no avail.

After two months, Sheriff David Kelbie ordered the children be returned to Orkney, as there was no evidence against their parents.

Sandy remembers the emotion of being reunited with her sons Alex and Ben at Kirkwall Airport.

She said: "When you get your children back after everything, you can't remember what you said.

"It's just the words that are important and you hug them and you cry and hug them."

'My experience'

Fifteen years later though, Ms Chisholm will not admit she and her social work colleagues were wrong.

She said: "I can't decide things happened or didn't happen.

"But people saying things didn't happen doesn't affect me in the slightest.

"Because that's my experience of what people always say. I'd be very surprised if they said it did."

Orkney case children break silence


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