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Christopher Lillie and Dawn Reed were nurses at the Shieldfield Nursery that was run by the Newcastle Council in North-East England. A mother reported to social workers that her son might have been abused. Christopher Lillie was then suspended. Parents with children at the nursery began to share experiences; this was facilitated by a number of voluntary groups who were linked to social workers who were prominent in previous abuse panics (e.g. Nottingham and Cleveland). Sexual and physical abuse accounts accumulated. Some suggestions of ritual abuse emerged: charges of supplying children to a local pedophile ring for abuse; child pornography photos and movies; torturing child victims, etc. The Daily Mail reported: "Some depths of human depravity simply defy belief...Children as young as 2 were repeatedly molested by staff and...supplied to paedophiles for filmed sex sessions...In scenes of almost unimaginable horror, rapist paedophiles dressed as clowns or animals slashed terrified toddlers with knives." 5

A local pediatrician made numerous abuse diagnoses in spite of the complete absence of physical evidence -- signs that would have had to be present if the abuse had happened.

Then a young female nurse, Dawn Reed, was implicated as well. The local council, conducted a disciplinary hearing which concluded the children had been abused. From the many children and multiple bizarre abuse allegations, only a few charges were laid. These included 11 counts of indecently assaulting five girls and a boys. Chris LIllie was also charged with raping a girl.

The case went to trial in 1994-JUN. The Judge, Mr. Justice Holland, decided that the evidence was unreliable. Both defendants were acquitted. Some of the parents stormed the dock and attempted to attack the defendants. They marched through the streets of Newcastle with banners proclaiming "Believe the Children" and "We believe the kids". A public inquiry and financial compensation was demanded.

The Council was in a difficult position, because they had already concluded that the pair were guilty, and the costs of compensating over 100 children would be immense. They decided to appoint an internal independent inquiry - a review team. Four experts working two days a week for two years ran up a bill of 400,000 (about $670,000 USF) while preparing a report on the fiasco. 1

The media had repeatedly named the two workers as abusers since their acquittal by the court. They were presumed guilty by many of the citizens of Newcastle; there lives and professional careers were damaged beyond repair.

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"Abuse in the Early Years." report:

In 1998-NOV, more than four years after the women's acquittal, the review team of:

bullet Dr. Richard Barker, a social worker at the University of Northumbria;
bullet Judith Jones, (formerly Judith Dawson), an feminist, prominent Satanic Ritual Abuse lecturer, and social worker;
bullet Jacqui Saradjian, a clinical psychologist; and
bullet Roy Wardell, a former director of social services for Barnsley Motropolitan Borough Council

issued their report: "Abuse in the Early Years." It "accused the pair of being members of a paedophile ring." The report's authors "claimed [that the two nurses] used their positions to groom young children for rape and abuse by themselves and other members of the ring." 2

Christopher Lillie, 37, and Dawn Reed, 31, sued both the council and the review team for libel. The team and council defended their report, claiming that it was covered by qualified privilege. The nurses also sued the publishers of the Newcastle Chronicle newspaper for libel. That action was settled out of court.

The libel trial started on 2002-JAN-14 and lasted for 73 days. It was heard by Mr. Justice Eady in a trial without jury. It generated more than ten thousand pages of transcript. The plaintiffs' lawyer, Adrienne Page QC, said the report "accused Chris and Dawn of the most serious and repugnant crimes it is possible to imagine. All the more abhorrent for relating to very young children of two or three years old whose care was entrusted to them." Miss Page told the judge that the report was released into the public domain without warning in "what we suggest was an act of extraordinary irresponsibility and callous indifference...Publication of this report was utterly devastating and ruinous for Chris and Dawn and their respective families." 2

Mr. Justice Eady ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded Lillie and Reed 200,000 pounds each. This is the maximum allowed by law. He upheld their claim against the four report authors, saying that they had "forfeited" the protection of qualified privilege because they were "malicious in the promulgation of their report..."That is because 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." The judge rejected the plaintiffs' claim against Newcastle City Council because they had a defense of qualified privilege. 4 Mr Justice Eady announce that they "merited an award at the highest permitted level" against the four authors of a report which contained "untrue" allegations of the "utmost gravity". He said: "Indeed, they have earned it several times over because of the scale, gravity and persistence of the allegations...What matters primarily is that they are entitled to be vindicated and recognized as innocent citizens who should, in my judgment, be free to exist for what remains of their lives untouched by the stigma of child abuse." 4

Solicitor Richard Osborne said that Mr Lillie and Ms Reed had not only proved their innocence but had shown that the authors of the report calling them "child abusers" were dishonest and motivated by malice. "Complete vindication is what Chris Lillie and Dawn Reed have sought from this court and what they now have by the judgment of this court....This is an appalling story not just for Chris and Dawn but for all the parents and children at Shieldfield Nursery who were told that child abuse had taken place when it had not done so and who have suffered terribly over the past nine years....It is hoped that lessons will be learnt from this appalling tragedy, by councils, social workers and all others involved in the protection of children."

Later, the review team said in a statement they were "shocked and upset" by the judge's finding that they acted with malice. They said they undertook their inquiry in the "spirit of public duty" and wished it to be known that they had never sought to mislead anyone. They are considering an appeal.

Newcastle City Council leader Tony Flynn said: "For more than a decade, the people of Newcastle have felt the distress of all those close to the events... In our desire to address the parents' concerns and to show our commitment to protecting and supporting all children in our care, the council, acting in unity, did what we genuinely believed to be the best at that time."

The council's chief executive Ian Stratford said that the case had cost 600,000. He added: "We expect that to escalate significantly to something in excess of 4 million....The important point here is that the council took the decision to support parents and children and respond to the mood of the public at the time....This is an expensive case and the monies will need to be found initially from insurance and thereafter they will be a cost pressure on the budget." 4

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Ramifications eight years later:

Dr. Camille De San Lazaro examined children who were expected of having been abused in the Newcastle case. She provided information for the Abuse in Early Years report -- the document that resulted in nurses Reed and Lilley suing various individuals and organizations for libel. The Press Association states that Dr Lazaro testified under cross-examination during the nurses' libel trial that there were deficiencies and inaccuracies in the recording in the Child Protection medical records. She conceded that there were inconsistencies between medical records and medical reports.

She is now a consultant pediatrician and senior lecturer at Newcastle University. On 2005-APR-25, a "fitness to practice" hearing before the General Medical Council [GMC] began. 7 The hearing took three weeks." Dr. Lazaro denied that she engaged in a serious professional misconduct. The Daily Telegraph reported"

"At the libel trial, the judge, Mr Justice Eady, had said that 'where physical findings were negative or equivocal, Dr Lazaro was prepared to make up the deficiencies by throwing objectivity and scientific rigour to the winds in a highly emotional misrepresentation of the facts'."

"Dr Lazaro herself had admitted that some of her work was 'inappropriate',  'irresponsible' and 'unprofessional'. The GMC concluded that the evidence reached the threshold that would permit them to find her guilty of serious professional misconduct. And yet, they let her off after a colleague, Dr Christopher Hobbs, pleaded that she was overworked and under stress."

"Such a decision is troubling for those facing charges of sexual and other kinds of child abuse. Unreliable evidence from social workers and doctors often lies behind allegations that turn out to be false. Medical experts often give opinions in court without even having seen the child or carer, using inaccurate hospital records as the basis for conclusions that have a shattering effect on the lives of the accused. Yet it appears that they cannot be held accountable if   they can plead tiredness and overwork - even if they are being paid large fees for their expert opinions." 8

If the GMC had found her guilty of serious professional conduct, it is possible that her name could have been removed from the medical register, thus ending her career.

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  1. Abuse probe panel costs council 400,000," at:
  2. Lindsay Jennings, "Nursery Workers Libel Trial Decision," The Northern Echo, 2002-JUL-25, Page 16.
  3. Cathy Gordon, "Nursery Nurses await libel ruling," Press Association, 2002-JUL-30.
  4. Cathy Gordon & Jan Colley, "Nursery nurses accused of sex abuse win libel case," Press Association, 2002-JUL-30.
  5. Quoted by Bronwyn Sell, in the New Zealand Herald, 2002-AUG-10, Pages B1 & B3
  6. The text of the High Court of Justice decision is at:
  7. Charlie Hamilton, "Doctor admits 'exaggerated' accounts in sex abuse report," Press Association, 2005-APR-25.
  8. Cassandra Jardine, "Eleven years ago, former nursery nurse Dawn Reed was cleared of sex abuse
    charges. But, she tells Cassandra Jardine, the scars remain,"
    The Daily Telegraph (London), 2005-MAY-31, Page 013.

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Copyright 1997 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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