Nine children aged between eight and 15 years old were taken from their homes during dawn raids on Orkney 30 years ago.
This Saturday marks three decades since they were separated from their families on the island of South Ronaldsay and taken to the mainland for questioning amid allegations of ritual Satanic abuse.
The story caused headlines around the world, leading to a major inquiry and reform of Scotland’s child protection system.
The children came from four different families. They were taken to the mainland and separated from their parents for questioning.
Finally, after five weeks, they were flown home when a sheriff dismissed the claims as “completely unfounded”. The allegations and the evidence were never tested in court.
To this day, the case has left scars on Orkney and the social work sector.
A public inquiry under Lord Clyde made almost 200 recommendations, which included the interviewing of children and the training of social workers.
Dr Sarah Nelson of Edinburgh University is an expert on what happened on Orkney.
She believes the case has had a negative effect on trying to identify victims of child sexual abuse.
“The myths that grew up around it had a hugely intimidating effect on child protection staff, so that even in the rare cases where children need to be taken into care it’s become much more difficult.”
But Alison Bavidge, the National Director of the British Association of Social Workers, believes there is far more protection now.
She said: “There is a much more sophisticated approach. It’s much better known across the key agencies and there are means of us working much better together.”
Changes include legislation and guidance, as well as child protection now being considered a specialisation in social work.
The Scottish Government has also just completed a major Care Review and plans to become the first country in the UK to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law.
On Orkney last year, the Care Inspectorate identified major weaknesses in child protection and care.
In a statement to STV News 30 years since the scandal, Orkney Islands Council said: “Many lessons were learned from Lord Clyde’s inquiry into the 1991 Orkney case.
“The inquiry led to significant changes in child protection legislation and practice in Scotland.
“As a result, child protection processes today are very different to those of 30 years ago. The priority and focus for all the agencies involved is to support families, helping them to look after children safely in their own homes wherever possible.”
Scotland national children’s charity Children 1st declined to comment when asked.
So too did the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland and Maree Todd, the Children’s Minister in the Scottish Government.
None of the families involved wanted to speak on camera. But after 30 years one did say they hope their experience will never be repeated.
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