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Timeline :: Orkney child abuse case & inquiry

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The Orkney child abuse case began on 27 February 1991 when social workers and police removed nine children from four families on the island South Ronaldsay, in Orkney, Scotland, following allegations of Satanic abuse. The children denied that any abuse had occurred; medical examinations did not reveal any evidence of abuse. The children were held on the mainland until the case came to court on 3 April, when Sheriff David Kelbie dismissed the case as fatally flawed and the children were allowed to return home. The judge criticised the social workers involved, saying that their handling of the case had been "fundamentally flawed" and he found in summary that "these proceedings are so fatally flawed as to be incompetent". The Reporter appealed against the dismissal of the case and on 12 June 1991, the Court of Session upheld the appeal, criticising Kelbie's handling of the case. The case was remitted back to the sheriff court to proceed. The Reporter took the view that in the light of factors including the publicity since Kelbie's decision, the case was severely compromised. The application was formally abandoned.

An official inquiry began in August 1991, chaired by Lord Clyde. Its report was published in October 1992. It described the successful appeal against the first judgement as "most unfortunate". It also criticised all those involved, including social workers, police and Orkney Islands Council.

Source: Clyde, J. (1992) Report of the inquiry into the removal of children from Orkney in February 1991, London: HMSO.