An unpublished 1990 report on Britain's first satanic ritual abuse scandal has sparked renewed furor with its unauthorized posting on the Web.
Lodging claims of copyright infringement against three reporters who posted the document on Friday, the Nottinghamshire County Council got a court order Tuesday for removal of the Joint Enquiry Report from the Web site. The order also seeks to expunge links to mirror sites hosting the document worldwide.
The paper, posted by Nick Anning, David Hebditch, and Margaret Jervis, details the transformation of the 1988 Broxtowe investigation -- one of "the most serious case[s] of multigenerational sexual abuse within a family in Britain" -- into the country's first sally into the satanic-ritual abuse frenzy that swept the United States starting in the early 1980s.
Reserving its sharpest scorn for those in the social services and psychotherapy community who warned researchers that they must "suspend disbelief" when talking to the children who allegedly had been abused, the report argues that such a stance would also require suspending "common sense or the use of critical faculties". The report was written by a team of social-service and law-enforcement officials.
Among allegations that the document disputes are claims that 10 adults in the extended family involved in the case appeared with "dead babies hung around their necks" and had killed "a big sheep with their fingernails". The allegations, made by 12 of the 21 children of the clan known publicly only as the "T family", also included stories that babies were killed and disposed of in a horrifying variety of ways: jumped on and left in a garage; eaten by monsters; burned in bonfires; shot and gutted and buried in a front garden.
As in the United States, no infants' bodies or other indications of ritual abuse were ever uncovered. Nonetheless, the decision was made to suppress the report even after it was rewritten for publication.
"The report's conclusions and recommendations were ignored", J. B. Gwatkin, one of the report's authors, said in a statement the day the report was posted. Gwatkin, who warned in 1990 that suppression of the report would likely result in a "witch hunt" that would harm the very people it was supposed to protect -- abused children.
Gwatkin said he now believes that several major ritual-abuse investigations in Great Britain could have been averted had the report been published when it was first written.
"It was the Nottingham experience that became the foundation stone for a widespread belief by professionals in ritual satanic abuse", he writes in an introduction to the report. "And to this day Nottingham is still quoted as a proven case - which it most definitely was not."
A hearing on the copyright issue is scheduled for 9 June.