Satanic case report claims 'child sex abuse did occur'
A CRITICAL report into the collapse of Scotland's biggest child sex abuse investigation has concluded that the three girls at the centre of allegations did suffer physical and sexual abuse.
The official inquiry into the satanic abuse investigation on the Isle of Lewis in 2003 is expected to make strong criticisms of the way in which medical evidence was gathered and how child protection orders were served.
Seven men and one woman were arrested in a series of co-ordinated raids on the Isle of Lewis and in Dorset, Leicestershire and West Yorkshire in October 2003. They were later charged with sex offences involving girls under the age of 16. Last year, however, all the charges were dropped by the Crown Office.
It is understood that the Crown Office explained to the girls and their carers at the time why the charges were being dropped. The new report by the Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA) is understood to conclude that the children were subjected to "severe and prolonged abuse" which continued "over many years".
The new report means a cloud of suspicion now hangs over those individuals who were initially arrested, some of whom are considering taking legal action against Western Isles Social Services.
The 150-page report - which is expected to be published later this month - will describe the case as "disturbing" and that it has "serious implications for all those involved in delivering child protection services in Scotland." The report will urge ministers to tighten up the guidelines on obtaining testimonies from child witnesses in cases involving a large number of alleged victims and abusers.
Under measures to be announced by ministers later this year, defence and prosecution lawyers would lose the right to question alleged child abuse victims individually. Instead, both sets of lawyers will be required to agree a line of questioning which will then be carried out by a professional agent during videotaped interviews.
The Lewis case is understood to have begun when three girls were taken into the care of the Western Isles social services department. The initial allegations of abuse were said to have centred round two people who were accused of touching children in an inappropriate way.
However, concerns that they were the victims of a satanic sex abuse ring were triggered by allegations made by Angela Stretton, 37, a Lewis resident, who, it later emerged had been convicted of making false allegations of child abuse in the Midlands in 1987. Her allegations of animal sacrifice, orgies and child abuse were investigated by police officers in Lewis, Leicestershire, West Yorkshire and Dorset.
In October 2003, a series of arrests were made on Lewis and in three counties in England and eight people were later charged with sex offences.
Last night a spokesman for the Crown Office said: "All the available evidence was considered thoroughly before the decision was made that there were to be no criminal proceedings."
A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "No date has been fixed for the publication of this report although we hope to have it released soon. Although we cannot comment on leaks, we are committed to improving child protection and want to ensure lessons are learned."
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