Butler-Sloss chaired the Inquiry into the arrangements for dealing with suspected cases of child abuse in Cleveland since 1 January 1987 (Report of the Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland 1987 (1988) London. HMSO)
Butler-Sloss presided over a cover up which the system decided was necessitated by the social and political pressures for containment. This was to the great detriment of the children who had actually been abused at that time, to the detriment of children in that position ever since, and to the professionals trying to bring this to light. This was a betrayal because initially we trusted that the Inquiry would be powerful and would want to uncover the truth.
She has never to our knowledge made any public connection between the silencing of professionals by the Inquiry, and what happened to Child Protection in the UK as a direct result of the Cleveland Inquiry. Therefore, we have no confidence in her capacity to bring a neutral stance to this present problem. Despite her demonstrated understanding during the inquiry that many of the children in Cleveland had in fact been abused, she let the system return them home to the likelihood of further abuse. This in our mind was wrong and immoral. There was no excuse, even the one she gave, which was that it was not her remit to decide whether abuse had taken place because the high court was doing that job.
After Cleveland, professionals lost their mandate to intervene to protect children and this legacy has continued to this day. As professionals who were among the first to expose the extent of child sexual abuse we experienced at first hand how a public inquiry is used to allay public disquiet and divert attention from the truth about sexual crime against children. We cannot let this happen again.
Heather Bacon. Former Consultant Psychologist, North Tees Health Authority. Witness to the Cleveland Inquiry
Sue Richardson. Former Child Abuse Consultant, Cleveland Social Services Department. Witness to the Cleveland Inquiry
Authors of Child Sexual Abuse. Whose Problem? Reflections from Cleveland. 1991
What on earth is Lord Elizabeth thinking of? Apart from the idiosyncrasy of calling herself Lord, it is obvious, she should withdraw because her brother is alleged to have closed down an investigation into a senior official. That is not her fault. But it compromises her and it seems intransigent not to know that.
There is another reason that Butler Sloss is not acceptable: she led the judicial inquiry in 1987 into the alleged abuse of 121 children in Cleveland that did not ask or answer the question on everyone’s lips – were the children abused?
Though she acknowledged that the doctors who had diagnosed severe anal abuse were not always wrong, and that the medical findings were not doubted, she then and thereafter contributed to the vilification of professionals trying to do their job in the face of the evidence and of ‘destructive’ police resistance to it.
Worse, her report contributed to the myth that children were the victims not of sexual abuse but of crazed doctors and social workers.
The only American expert she heard was accused adults’ advocate Ralph Uunderwager – later discredited for proposing that paedophilia could be seen as ‘god’s will.’
Her report also contributed to a regime that gave children one chance, and once only, to tell their story, in less than an hour, in a video interview with complete strangers.
Children’s evidence was not liberated, it was controlled and constrained – and closed down.
Her report was published in 1988. Before the year was out, the report of an eminent group of experts, ‘Action Taken Following the Report of the Judicial Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland’ was sent by the Northern Region Health Authority to the Department of Health. It detonated the myth: after ‘extremely thorough and in-depth assessments of the children and families’ these experts concluded that 70-75 per cent of the diagnoses were correct. This ‘would clearly be contrary to general public understanding of the accuracy of the diagnoses.’
The Department of Health has never acknowledged this report nor relieved the public of its misconceptions. Nor has Butler-Sloss. That is why whistleblowers and abuse survivors wont want to talk to her.
Bea Campbell, award winning journalist.
Beatrix Campbell’s book, Unofficial Secrets, is an investigation into the Cleveland child abuse crisis.