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1991: Orkney 'abuse' children go home

The children at the centre of satanic abuse allegations in the Orkney Islands off Scotland have been reunited with their families after the case was thrown out of court.

The judge, Sheriff David Kelbie, criticised the social workers who took the children away from their homes on the island of South Ronaldsay more than five weeks ago.

Sheriff Kelbie said their handling of the case had been "fundamentally flawed" and the children had been subjected to cross-examinations designed to make them admit to being abused.

"There is no lawful authority for that whatsoever, in my view," he said.

The parents were accused of involving their children in ritual sexual abuse but Sheriff Kelbie said he was "unclear" what the evidence produced by the social services proved.

Orkney social workers had failed to learn the lessons of the Cleveland and Rochdale child abuse cases, he added.

After the judgement the parents said they just wanted their families back together.

"The important thing now is to get our children back quickly and start to repair the damage," one father said.

More than 100 people gathered at the airport to welcome home the children, aged from eight to 15.

Foster homes

They had been taken by social workers in dawn raids on their homes after allegations of ritual sexual abuse by their parents and the local Church of Scotland minister.

The five boys and four girls were placed in foster homes on the Scottish mainland.

Their parents complained the children were taken away solely on the basis of allegations made by three other children.

After their children's return they said they were planning to sue for damages and called for a judicial inquiry into the handling of the case.

Orkney's social services director, Paul Lee, said he would be taking legal advice about appealing against Sheriff Kelbie's decision.

In Context
Three Appeal Court judges in Edinburgh later ruled that Sheriff David Kelbie was wrong to have thrown out the case but police dropped the criminal investigation.

An inquiry report in October 1992 criticised Orkney Social Services and produced 194 recommendations for changes in child care practices.

In March 1996 the families involved accepted an apology from Orkney Islands Council plus compensation of 10,000 for each child and 5,000 for each parent.

The Orkney children's removal came in the wake of similar cases involving ritual abuse allegations in Rochdale and Cleveland in England and Ayrshire in Scotland.

In 1994 a government report based on three years of research said there was no foundation to the plethora of satanic child abuse claims.

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