This article was published in the Sunday Island on February 16, 2013
There is nothing as bad as this that you can do to people. Because they [paedophiles] are quite rightly figures of public hatred. And suddenly to find yourself a figure of public hatred, unjustifiably, is terrifying.
Dr Camille de San Lazaro OBE
In 1999, Dr Camille de San Lazaro, a Consultant Paediatrician specialising in child abuse at the Lindisfarne Centre, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was awarded an OBE for “services in the care of sexually abused children”.
Dr Lazaro’s assessments led to the prosecution of two nursery workers who were acquitted in 1994 of charges of child abuse.
Dr Lazaro was the main expert witness at the criminal trial of Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie. It was a very short trial because the judge, Mr Justice Holland, ruled that the evidence was too weak to put before a jury.
In spite of the acquittal, the ordeal of Lillie and Reed was not over and they were forced to become fugitives. The Murdoch “newspaper” The Sun, ran a campaign asking “readers” to help locate these “vile perverts”.
De San Lazaro was suspended in 2002. The GMC gave its verdict on 13 May 2005: “your conduct, although falling short of that expected of a registered medical practitioner, did not reach the threshold of serious professional misconduct. Accordingly, the Panel has found you not guilty of serious professional misconduct.”
In 1993, there were charges of child abuse at the Shieldfield Nursery in Newcastle. Allegations were made against two qualified nursery nurses. Dawn Reed was 22 years old, happily married and hoping to have children. Christopher Lillie was engaged and hoped to marry soon. There was no prior hint of bizarre sexual practices or interest in paedophilia or pornography. The two colleagues did not meet socially outside work and lived far apart.
The case against Lillie began with inconsistent allegations made by one mother, allegations which were not initially corroborated by the child in question. That mother told another mother whose husband beat up Lillie, who had been suspended pending inquiries. Social services fanned the flames by calling a meeting to inform parents. The first mother now made allegations against Reed.
Parents were encouraged to be vigilant about suspicious changes in their children’s behaviour. Joyce Eyeington was the line manager of Lillie and Reed, in overall charge of all nurseries in Newcastle. She suffered collateral damage as her own private life (including her past blameless relationship with charismatic director of social services Brian Roycroft) was probed. She told the Newcastle Evening Chronicle that she did not believe the allegations but had to suspend the pair: “As soon as the inquiry escalated and the police were involved it became very difficult to express disbelief. It was not a popular stance.”
Dr Camille San Lazaro was a key figure in building the case against Lillie and Reed. Mothers who, in their quest for reassurance, had taken their child to be examined by Dr Lazaro, had come away convinced that their child had, after all, been abused at the nursery. When Dr Lazaro’s working methods and records were submitted to close scrutiny, the results were disquieting. For example, genital scarring in young girls is a very rare finding, but it was one that Lazaro recorded with such frequency that it put in doubt her competence to make accurate findings or interpretations.
Under cross-examination, Dr Lazaro agreed that her notes were unreliable. Mr Justice Eady said to her, “You did realise, I suppose, that it was quite possible that somebody was going to get a sentence of life imprisonment for these offences?”
Newcastle City Council Report
When the not-guilty verdicts were announced in 1994, there was a riot in the courtroom, with cries from the parents of “Hang them!”. Tony Flynn, acting leader of Newcastle city council said: “We do believe that abuse has taken place … we have dismissed the employees and rejected their appeals and there is no question of us or anyone else employing these people again.”
The Sun appealed to readers:
“HELP US FIND THESE FIENDS
Do you know where perverts Lillie and Reed are now? Phone us on 0161 935 5315 or 0171 782 4105. Don’t worry about the cost
– we will call you straight back. ”
The council set up an “Independent Review Team”. The police had told the inquiry team that there were those “still walking around” in Newcastle “who are going to kill these people” i.e. Lillie and Reed. No attempt was made to warn them that the city council was about to publish a report which would put their lives in danger. Two people found not guilty in a British court of law became fugitives, living in fear of the lynch mob.
The members of the inquiry team were: Richard Barker, of the University of Northumbria, independent social worker Judith Jones, psychologist Jacqui Saradjian, and Roy Wardell, former director of social services.
The report claimed that, whatever the findings of the court and the views of Mr Justice Holland, Lillie and Reed “had abused their charges at Shieldfield nursery sexually, physically and emotionally; used them to make pornography; and were part of a paedophile ring.”
When Lillie and Reed sued for libel, Mr Justice Eady said that the four members of the review team were malicious in the promulgation of their report. “They included in their report a number of fundamental claims which they must have known to be untrue and which cannot be explained on the basis of incompetence or mere carelessness”.
A little more about “independent social worker” Judith Jones. As Judith Dawson she was a non-independent social worker in Nottingham where she did much to promote the idea that satanic ritual abuse of children was a serious problem. That myth was further promulgated in a Channel 4 programme by Beatrix Campbell.
Beatrix Campbell’s book Unofficial secrets: Child Sexual Abuse- the Cleveland Case was published in 1988 and became a key text in child protection courses. In the book, she writes: “For the police there is a particular problem; as a praetorian guard of masculinity, sexual abuse faces them with an accusation against their own gender. Police and judicial mastery over evidence has for over a century enabled them to banish the sexual experiences of women and children. Was that mastery threatened in Cleveland?”
In 1998, Beatrix Campbell claimed the Newcastle council inquiry was “stringent” and had found “persuasive evidence of sadistic and sexual abuse of up to 350 children”. Tom Dervin, the director of social services, had written privately to three senior council executives. “In the context of equivalent major enquiry reports, this to me is without exception the worst I have read. I mean the worst in terms of quality of information, consistency, judgement, evaluation, etc.”
One of the four people on the Independent Review Team, was Judith Jones (previously Dawson) had collaborated with Campbell on a number of writing projects. In 1992, Dawson/Jones moved to work in Sunderland. Campbell who has described herself as a “horrible queer Marxist”, lived in nearby Newcastle. In 1997 the two women decided to live together in Byker after discovering line-dancing. Campbell, a visiting professor in women’s studies at Newcastle University, “dragged my lover along” as she was to write, for line dancing at a local church hall, and at least once to the Powerhouse Club, a Newcastle gay club.
Jones and Campbell co-wrote a book, Stolen Voices, which excoriated people who doubted the extent of satanic child abuse. One reviewer called it “a sad case of false ideology syndrome”. Jean La Fontaine, emeritus professor of social anthropology at the LSE found “facts which are not true”. The book she said was ‘long on rhetoric, short on fact’. The publishers. The Women’s Press, said, “We never distributed the book because of a legal warning. They could still be sitting in a warehouse somewhere.”
As the report hit the headlines, Lillie and Reed fled. They brought a libel case against Newcastle City Council, the four members of the Independent Review Team and the Newcastle Evening Chronicle.
Patrick Cosgrove QC (according to his obituary: “a hugely respected member of the legal profession. He was fearless in court but dealt with everyone from Judges to lay clients with the utmost respect”), who represented Dawn Reed at the criminal trial, wrote about the inquiry team’s report, which he described as “fundamentally flawed”: “in twenty two years of practice at the bar I have never heard a High Court Judge be so emphatic in an expressed view that the evidence pointed to someone’s innocence, as opposed to it being insufficient to prove his or her guilt.”
Having asked whether the authors of the report had read Mr Justice Holland’s judgment, Cosgrove wrote: “If they have not done so, they have been grossly negligent; if they have read it, their conduct is disgraceful..Why have they fed the feeding frenzy of the tabloid press?”
Children Must Be Heard
The allegations against Reed and Lillie were based on fragmentary remarks made by children who had been anxiously questioned by their parents. When the children said something that could be construed as evidence of sexual abuse, they were praised; when they said that nobody had hurt them, or proclaimed the innocence either of Reed or Lillie, they were disbelieved.
Coda: A friend of mine was a social worker in Newcastle. He told me recently: “I knew Dr Lazaro very well and feel she was badly treated. In fact it broke her. The whole affair was very, very sad. A nice lady who did more good than bad for this city”.