Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 968-979)




  968. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen and welcome. This is the final session of a short inquiry that we are conducting into the conduct of investigations into past cases of child abuse in children's homes. The witnesses today, we hope, are going to help us to assess the credibility of some of the allegations made. It would be helpful if each of you could, for the record, just state your name and your occupation and the basis of your expertise please. Starting with Professor Gudjonsson.

  (Professor Gudjonsson) I am a Professor of Forensic Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London and I am the Head of the Forensic Psychology Services there. I have been working with witnesses and suspects, in terms of testimony, for the past 22 years. I work quite closely with the police and they sometimes instruct me to see people before they interview them, or assess them before the case goes to court. I have done some research into recovered memories. My main area of specialism is in the area of suggestibility and confession evidence.

  969. Thank you. Mr Parker.
  (Mr Parker) My name is Andrew Parker. I am a Detective Inspector in the Metropolitan Police, currently working within the child protection arena, working on protracted and major inquiries. The basis of my expertise in this area, I suppose, would be my academic study in the area of forensic psychology. I have a Bachelors and Masters degree in psychology and I am currently writing up my PhD thesis, which is on witness credibility.

  970. Thank you. Dr Thompson.
  (Dr Thompson) I am Dr Bill Thompson. I work at Reading University. I am a Forensic Criminologist. My particular specialism in sexual assault is the review of memorandum interviews and I have done over 120 cases, been engaged in those.

  971. Been engaged by who?
  (Dr Thompson) Usually the defence. When it comes to false allegations, Chairman, you might remember the case of Patrick Nicholls, I kicked off 12 years ago and demonstrated that no murder had actually occurred and opened up that case. I have been responsible for opening up the Ayrshire Satanic case. I was involved and consulted by two sets of legal representatives in the Orkney inquiry and I have done several others. I also showed Professor Jean La Fontaine how to review the interviews. I have done six major reviews of so-called "care home cases" and for five years I taught social workers, on a post graduate course, on interview error and avoidance.

  972. Thank you. Dr Boakes.
  (Dr Boakes) I am a Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist at South West London St George's Mental Health Care Trust. I became involved in this ten years ago when I was serving as the Public Education Officer for the Faculty of Psychotherapy at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and started to get media inquiries about recovered memories, regression therapy and recovered memory therapy which was just coming over from America. Arising out of that, I became concerned about what psychiatry and psychotherapy seemed to be doing, and I started raising this in the College. I was a member of the Royal College's working party inquiring into reported recovered memories, out of which came a report published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. In the four years since that report was published, I have had something like 80 instructions in both civil and criminal cases and given oral evidence in about 15 cases now of criminal—

  973. On behalf of the defence or the prosecution or both?
  (Dr Boakes) On behalf of the defence. I have twice been instructed by the prosecution, but for various reasons it has not followed through.

  974. I see. We may be wrong, but we think that recovered memory actually has not played much of a part in the allegations that we have been dealing with. Does anybody dispute that? Bearing in mind we are talking about evidence by people who were in care homes against former social workers or people who formerly worked in the homes.
  (Mr Parker) I think by the nature of the way these allegations are coming forward, it would be right to say that recovered memory does not play a part in most of the allegations. I think evidence of recovered memories themselves are rare and difficult to come by. In my own study I have only five out of nearly 130 cases involve what would be known as recovered memory. That is memories from childhood which reappear within the therapeutic context.
  (Dr Boakes) It depends on how you define recovered memory. If you limit it solely to memories occurring during a specific therapeutic encounter, that is probably right. But certainly I have been involved in three cases in care homes where undoubtedly the memories were not present when the police first approached the claimant and were recovered later. For a variety of reasons, one needed to be very concerned about those memories.
  (Dr Thompson) Of the five cases that I reviewed, there were over 100 complainants and only one of those complainants appeared to follow from what is now known as false memory syndrome. They received counselling at a prison, at Her Majesty's Service, and it may well be that their recollections came out of that memory. In the sixth case, involving four complainants, one of those would appear to be repeating what are known as recovered memories and there is some indication that they have been in therapy.

  975. Dr Boakes, you said there was a cause for concern in the three cases that you had reviewed, about the way in which the memory had been recovered presumably?
  (Dr Boakes) Yes, absolutely. I think you have to be careful about how you define false memories. If you limit it to formal counselling with a specific and semi-intentional implanting, then obviously it narrows it. But if you include a broad spectrum, we now know that entirely false memories can arise outside any kind of therapeutic intervention. People can persuade themselves or are influenced by the kind of things that are available to all of us. I have been involved in five care home cases, two are civil and three are criminal. One, it came out in cross examination that the complainant had had no memory of having been abused until a certain point in time and I was called in at that stage. Of the others, one complainant first of all talked about physical brutality and some three or four months later said "Now I have remembered something else" and over the next three months she made two further statements of memories of sexual abuse. These progressed from oral sex to rape and then became quite mountingly sadistic. All of these new memories she claimed, had not been previously remembered.

  976. What prompted that, do you think?
  (Dr Boakes) I do not think it was clear. Rumination, thinking about it, dwelling upon it.

  977. Suggestion by the interviewer?
  (Dr Boakes) Not that I have evidence of, but then there was no transcript of the interview. It was a period of time. Certainly her parting remark, at the end of the first interview, was "And if I remember anything more, I will tell the police" so there was implicit in the suggestion that it was possible that she would remember more and indeed she did. Another man, similarly, started out by saying "No, nothing" and gave a categorical statement that he had never been abused and then the interviewers came back a number of times. Then they came back and said "Ah, but we know from other people that you were abused. Do you want to tell us about it?" and he then began to come up with memories, which seemed, when you put them together with other evidence, to be extremely dubious, though I do not think that one could wholly rule them out. The first woman I was talking about you could wholly rule them out for a variety of reasons. Sorry, did I lose you?

  978. You said "I do not think you could wholly—
  (Dr Boakes) In this particular man, I am not sure that you could wholly rule them out.

  979. Right. But the other two?
  (Dr Boakes) But the other two I think you undoubtedly could. They went back into such a very young age—the woman had been in care almost from birth, was talking about memories from periods where you really could be confident that they could not be possible.


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