IPT Book Reviews

Title: The Orkney Child Abuse Scandal, Suffer the Little Children  Positive Review
Author: D.H.S. Reid
Publisher: Napier Press, May 1992 for the Medical Institute for Research into Child Cruelty.

Step Rock House
St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland KTl6 9AT
15 Paperback (hardcover)
ISBN 1 871479 037


This 168-page book is written by a Pediatrician who had involvement in the Cleveland Affair and the Orkneys.  He describes in detail how the Orkneys scandal came about, in particular criticizing the use of flawed interviewing techniques by the professionals with both adults and children.  He draws comparisons between the witch hunts in the Orkneys in the 1590s and recent events, focusing on the similarities of disclosure methods used to obtain confessions.


Dr. Reid provides an emotional and damning indictment of the way the Child Protection System functioned in the Orkneys.  In so doing, he identifies concerns which apply to the Child Protection System throughout the Western World.  Dr. Reid expresses his ideas in an emotive and sometimes incoherent manner, this will hopefully not detract from the important messages that this book contains.

Some of the facts in regard to the Orkneys, as presented by Dr. Reid, are clearly correct while others are disputed.  The veracity of the others may not become clear until the publication of Lord Clyde's Inquiry into the affair.  Despite this, Dr. Reid's criticisms about the interviewing techniques used by the professionals on young children, particularly the way in which a preconception that abuse has taken place (ritualistic or otherwise) can lead to confirmation of that preconception via leading questions and coercive interviewing, seem particularly significant.  He also makes the important point that the use of the term "disclosure interview" presupposes that there is something to disclose.  Dr. Reid refers to other cases such as Rochdale and Nottingham and presents evidence from them to the effect that the above points were also a key factor in the errors that took place.

His basic theme is that the Child Protection System has become over zealous and in so doing has embarked on a Salem-like witch hunt.

Dr. Reid seems to believe that the Dutch Child Care System which emphasizes healing within the family, provides a more humane and just model.  Events surrounding the Oude Pekela case, however, do seem to indicate that the Dutch system is not immune from child care disaster.

Dr. Reid is director of the Medical Institute for Research into Child Cruelty.  This organization shares his address and also published the book, but its academic status, membership and role are unclear despite a brief appendix concerning it.

Apart from these criticisms, Dr. Reid's book identifies major flaws and injustices in the Child Protection System and until these are recognized by the various professionals involved, there is little hope for improvement.

Hopefully the way is now open for a dispassionate critical examination of the perceived current wisdom on child abuse and of current practice in dealing with it.

Reviewed by D. Long, Child & Family Counselor, Parents Against INjustice, 3 Riverside Business Park, Stansted, Essex, CM24 8PL, England.

Order this book: Hardcover

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