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THE JUDGMENT IN THE
case was handed down on Tuesday 30 July 2002 at the Royal Courts of
Justice in London. At the end of a six-month trial, Newcastle nursery
nurses Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie were completely cleared of the horrific
allegations of abuse which had been made against them and awarded the
maximum of �200,000 damages each.
In the trial, which was unique in legal history, the court conducted one
of the most thorough and detailed analyses of multiple sexual allegations
that has ever been undertaken. Having considered each and every allegation
relating to no fewer than 27 children, Mr Justice Eady rejected them all
as being without foundation.
This was the second time that the case had come before the courts. Eight
years ago the criminal case against Reed and Lillie had resulted in
verdicts of 'not guilty'. But the accusations had continued and in 1998 a
report commissioned by Newcastle city council claimed that they had not
only sexually abused the very young children in their care, but had also
supplied them to a paedophile ring for filmed sex sessions. On the
publication of this report Reed and Lillie went into hiding in different
parts of the country, afraid for their lives.
The investigative journalist Bob Woffinden and I had known about the case
for some time. We decided to track Reed and Lillie down. Having pieced
together the story of how the allegations against them had emerged, we
brought them to London and helped them to find lawyers who would fight
their case on a no win, no-fee basis.
On the day after their historic libel victory, we told their story in the
A longer version of our article, �Cleared: the story of Shieldfield�,
is available here.
The ending of the trial on Tuesday 30 July also received extensive news
coverage, including a front page story in the
Clare Dyer and a detailed report by Joshua Rozenberg in the
The next day Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie gave a press conference in London
which led to more coverage including a piece by Clare Dyer which described
some of the fears which they still feel and their reaction to what has
happened to them over
The Times covered the press conference by suggesting in a
headline that Dr Camille Lazaro, the paediatrician and the centre of the
case, was to face the General Medical Council. As the
conveyed, a formal complaint has yet to be made.
Natasha Walter's excellent article on Shieldfield appeared in the
Independent under the title
. David Batty has an
interesting piece in Guardian Society on the same day about the
for local authorities and social services
departments. A very good article in the
by Barnaby Jones places the Shieldfield case alongside events at Salem.
One of the most ill-informed responses to the judgment so far is an
in the Guardian on 1 August. Wolmar
writes that because those being sued relied on qualified privilege as
their main defence, the trial focused on the state of mind of the review
team and not on what actually happened - or did not happen - at
Wolmar, who did not attend the trial, and who has evidently not read the
judgment, is simply wrong on this point. The main defence put forward by
the Review Team was justification: they argued that the allegations
against the two nursery nurses were true. It was because of this that the
larger part of the trial was given over to exploring in great detail the
evidence relating to allegations made by no fewer than 27 children. It was
on the basis of this examination that Mr Justice Eady found that all the
allegations were untrue. His judgment does not simply assert the
innocence of Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie; it sings it.
One antidote to Wolmar's account of the trial is a brief diary piece of
the same date by the highly respected legal correspondent of the Daily
Telegraph, Joshua Rozenberg. Describing the judgment handed down by
Mr Justice Eady, as �one of the most crushing ever� in a libel trial,
that it shows �how a single judge trying a libel
case can cut through conflicting accounts to establish the truth.�
These very points are made in a letter about Wolmar's article by Richard
Osborne of S.J.Cornish, the solicitor who represented the nursery nurses
at the libel trial . The
a response from Professor Laurence Lustgarten and an account of how Brian
Roycroft, Newcastle's former director of social services, had also
suffered unjustly at the hands of the report.
While the Guardian was publishing these letters, on Saturday 3
August, the British Medical Journal carried an article by Clare
Dyer focusing on the role played by the paediatrician at the centre of the
It is unfortunate, to say the least, that this article should have
perpetuated one of the misunderstandings out of which the entire
Shieldfield story grew - namely that Reed and Lillie had been acquitted at
their criminal trial 'after a judge ruled that the children
were too young to give evidence'. Something close to this view
may have been a part of the judge's view but it was only a part (and
perhaps the least important part) of a much more substantial ruling. One
attempts to make this point, but
goes to the other extreme in doing so. The other response, from Dr Michael
Innis, a pathologist from Australia, gives a salutary warning about just
the kind of mindset which created the Shieldfield tragedy.
While the BMJ focused on the role of Dr Lazaro and how the Review
Team 'clearly fell under her spell', Saturday's Daily Mail devoted a two-page spread to the case. Its coverage focused on the role of
Judith Jones as a member of the Review Team and on the fact that, as the
social worker at the centre of the Nottingham satanic abuse case in 1989,
she had previously been severely criticised (along with her colleagues) by
a Joint Enquiry Team (JET) made up of police officers and social workers.
The article in the Mail contained much extremely valuable
material concerning Jones's role in the Nottingham case, and her
extraordinary persistence in ignoring, or somehow incorporating, evidence
which clearly contradicted her preferred version of events.
The Mail's main source was John Gwatkin, formerly Area Director
of Social Services for Newark. Gwatkin was joint chairman of the
Nottingham inquiry which investigated the claims of satanic abuse. He knew
Judith Jones, who was at that time using her married name, Dawson, in her
capacity as the leader of Team 4. This was a group of social workers who
were investigating a case of multiple incest within an extended family in
Broxtowe, Nottingham. This apparently genuine and disturbing case led to a
number of convictions in the courts.
At a certain point in the investigation, however, Judith Jones's team
became convinced that they had uncovered a satanic cult which practised
not only child sexual abuse but also ritual sacrifice and murder. This
fiercely held belief led eventually to a breakdown of the
working relationship between social workers and the police, who had found
no evidence of satanic involvement. The JET inquiry was set up in the
summer of 1989 in an attempt to repair this relationship by investigating
whether the claims relating to satanic abuse were true or false.
The article went on to relay John Gwatkin's assessment of Judith Jones,
made on the basis of the knowledge he gained during the inquiry:
opinion,� he said, �she is totally unsuited to do this kind of work. As
soon as we started our inquiry, we began to feel that she was totally
ignoring any evidence that contradicted her preconceived ideas.
�For example, she believed a ten-year-old girl who said her stomach had
been cut open in the front room of a council house. We learned that the
girl had previously been in hospital for an appendix operation, and her
surgeon was contacted. He identified his scar and told us the girl was
�When we informed Judith Dawson of this, she replied that satanists were
clever people and would cut along the same scar so that it wouldn�t be
noticed. We put this to the surgeon, who said it was medically impossible
as scar tissue heals poorly. But when we told her what he had said, she
was dismissive. She didn�t want to know and refused to accept it. It was
�Even more astonishing,� he says, �was some months later when he read an
article about satanism by her in the New Statesman. She wrote
about a girl who had described 'how she was laid on a table and had her
stomach ritually cut open'.
�It was as though the evidence we had presented to her never existed,�
says Mr Gwatkin . . . �It beggars belief that someone with such a closed
mind should be appointed to sit on a panel investigating alleged child
abuse at a nursery school in Newcastle.�
�Retired Detective Superintendent Peter Coles, who was involved in ritual
abuse investigations in Nottingham, also remembers Judith Dawson and her
team � and a particular incident involving a child who had,
allegedly, been microwaved.
�I was slightly mischievous, and said to one of Judith�s team that I had
checked this out and it couldn�t be right � because experts had told me if
you did that, the baby�s eyes would explode and the door of the microwave
would come off.
was just kidding, but before long one of the team came back and said
disclosures had now been made about babies� eyes being taken out before
they were microwaved. These claims were pure invention.�
�One is surely entitled to
recall these bizarre incidents,� wrote the Mail,
relation to the libel judge�s comments about claims of the Newcastle panel
that they �must have known to be untrue��
The Mail went on to relay John Gwatkin's view that Judith Jones's
career was saved because the Joint Enquiry Team report was effectively
suppressed by Nottinghamshire County Council. (The full report has never
been published and the summary version only became generally available
when it was put on the internet in 1997 as . Although Nottinghamshire
County Council made a further attempt to suppress this version of the
report, they eventually dropped the high court action they had taken
against John Gwatkin and the three journalists who had published it.)
As can be seen from these extracts, the Daily Mail article which
appeared on Saturday, four days after the libel judgment, contained much
material about Nottingham which was directly and disturbingly relevant to
the approach which had been adopted by the Shieldfield Review Team almost
a decade later. What the article also illustrated, however, was how easy
it is for a newspaper to lessen or destroy the value of the information it
seeks to impart by the manner in which it presents it.
As was indicated by the intrusive photograph chosen to illustrate it, one
of the targets of the article was Jones's relationship with her
fellow-campaigner Bea Campbell. The overall effect of the article's
anti-Marxist, anti-feminist, anti-gay and unjustifiably personal approach
was to obscure the vital infomation it sought to impart beneath layers of
unpleasant, and deeply misogynistic prejudices. Printed beneath the bold,
black headline THE WITCHFINDER, the article itself
offered a disturbing example of the witch-hunting mentality at work.
On the same day, Saturday 3 August, a much more moderate (though not
entirely accurate) version of the entire Shieldfield story appeared in
a four-page article about the case written by its London correspondent.
The online news magazine Spiked carried
which focused on the Review Team,
commenting that 'while two young nursery workers can be pilloried for nine
years on the basis of false allegations, there seems to have been
remarkably little anger directed at those who brought the allegations.'
Meanwhile a report had appeared in Canada of a case which had interesting
parallels with Shieldfield. On 1 August, two days after the Shieldfield
judgment was handed down, journalist Margaret Wente filed a story about a
police officer who had lived for ten years under the shadow of horrific
allegations. These allegations had their origins in a panic which was
triggered in 1992 when parents said that their two-year old child had
been sexually assaulted at the local babysitting service. It took ten
years for John Popowich's nightmare to end. This did not happen until
last month, when he finally won an apology from the government and a
$1.3-million settlement. "The most important part," he told
Margaret Wente, "was getting my name cleared."
On Sunday 4 August the Observer, in addition to running a
an account of the Shieldfield case by
based on an interview with Dawn Reed and
Chris Lillie. This was accompanied by my article,
which I explored the nature of witch-hunts and attempted to place the case
in a larger historical context. (For another historical perspective
on nursery cases see my review of Jean La Fontaine's book on satanic
A global village rumour.
The Sunday Telegraph ran Bob Woffinden's account of how
, and a
also carried a sensitive and revealing interview with Dawn and Chris by Olga
Craig under the headline
As well as giving interviews to the Observer and the Sunday
Telegraph, Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie have been interviewed together
on radio and television. The interview which Dawn gave to
can, for the time being at least, be listened to
On Tuesday 6 August, reaction to the Shieldfield story continued in the
national press. Libby Purves�s characteristically lucid and trenchant
comment piece opened with the following paragraph:
�If you pay council tax in Newcastle upon Tyne, you
have had an expensive week. You have paid �400,000 in libel damages over a
bungled council attempt to blacken the names of two citizens previously
acquitted in court. You have also paid about �4 million in legal costs to
defend what a judge calls a �malicious� report, and you gave four
�experts� �360,000 to write it. None of the team or those who commissioned
them is being fined, charged or in any way punished.�
The full article,
Hysteria helps no one but the
real paedophiles, repays reading.
The following day, in a
letter to the Guardian, published under the title
Bob Woffinden drew attention to the fact that, because of the
extraordinary circumstances of the case, Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie will
each have to meet significant legal costs from their damages.
Also in the Guardian Rod
Liddle, the editor of BBC Radio 4's Today
programme, explored the manner in
which the apparent lifting of the taboo on homosexuality seems to have
gone hand in hand with increased anxieties about paedophilia. Liddle's
article, Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie as
'people who will be able to attest to our latest consuming paranoia'.
Meanwhile in Nursery World,
Frank Furedi, the author of Paranoid Parenting,
out of which the Shieldfield case (and many
others) have grown.
In the edition of Private Eye which appeared on 9 August, the lead news story provided an interesting
perspective on the case. It drew attention to the close parallels between
what had happened to Reed and Lillie and
the fate of another Newcastle
care worker - Paul Gillon - who had also
suffered unjustly at the hands of Newcastle City Council and who has also recenly
On Saturday 10 August the story was taken up
further afield and I was interviewed at length about the case by Radio New
Zealand. The following day the Christchurch-based newspaper The
Press published David Rose's article which
had originally appeared in the Observer.
The main reason for the great interest shown in
the story in New Zealand is to be found in the close parallels between the
Shieldfield case and the case of Peter Ellis, a nursery worker who found
himself facing a series of bizarre allegations in 1991-2. Unlike Dawn Reed
and Chris Lillie, Ellis was actually convicted at his criminal trial and
sentenced to ten years in prison. He continued to protest his innocence in
prison, and gained strong support from many people who were convinced that
he had been the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice.
remains a cause
and it would seem that the judgment in the Shieldfield case may have
helped to persuade some doubters that Ellis is indeed innocent
Meanwhile, back in
Britain, Margaret Jervis, legal adviser to the
British False Memory Society,
added her extremely
a piece which placed on record the role played by the BFMS in the early
stages of the case. After examining some of the dangerous theories
which drove the case onwards, she makes a recommendation which deserves to
be given the widest possible circulation: 'Anyone involved in this field
should read the full judgment; not only does it endorse sound theory and
practice in child abuse investigations, but it calls for a return to the
fundamental principles of natural justice, reason and humanity.'
One of the most revealing responses
to the Shieldfield libel judgment has come from ACAL, the Association of
Child Abuse Lawyers. This British organisation was founded in 1997 by
fomer barrister Lee Moore in order to give support to those who allege
they are victims of child sexual abuse and to lawyers who seek to help
them. Although the aims of the society might seem to be entirely
praise-worthy, there is sometimes a reluctance on the part of its leading
members even to acknowledge the possibility that false allegations of
sexual abuse are made and can have devastating consequences for people who
are entirely innocent.
ACAL's press officer, Peter Garsden, is a partner
in the Cheshire firm of Abney Garsden Macdonald, a firm of solicitors
which specialises in seeking compensation on behalf of alleged victims of
sexual abuse. He gave his views on the outcome of the libel trial to Jon
Robins of Lawdirect, an online news
service run by the leading legal publishers Butterworths.
One of the most striking
is that he expresses no sympathy at all for Dawn
Reed and Chris Lillie and makes no reference to their nine-year ordeal.
Instead he is said to be 'troubled' by the judgment and concerned that it
may deter experts from participating in inquiries to unearth abuse.
The fitting rejoinder to such
concerns is that of Professor Laurence Lustgarten on the
response to Christian Wolmar's similar views (see above). Mr Justice
Eady's conclusion that the qualified privilege which would normally have
protected the four authors was destroyed by their dishonesty in
'[including] in their report a number of fundamental claims which they
must have known to be untrue' is, we are told, not one that Garsden
accepts: 'Just as you can say what you like in parliament why should there
be an exception here?'
The only reasonable inference one may draw from
these words is that Garsden believes that members of an inquiry team
should be protected by the law even if they dishonestly conceal evidence
which might point to the innocence of those accused, and even if, as in
the Shieldfield case, such dishonesty plays a part in driving completely
innocent citizens to the brink of suicide.
What is most extraordinary about the views Peter
Garsden expresses is not so much the fact that he has voiced them but that
a leading legal publisher should take them seriously and relay them to the
Garsden's views on the
Shieldfield case are entirely in keeping with
earlier this year to the House of Commons Select
Committee during their inquiry into police trawling.
Although those of us who campaigned to bring this
inquiry into existence have always acknowledge that sexual abuse in care
homes is a real and serious problem, Garsden is evidently unable to
recognise that there are two sides to the debate. He does concede that
some witnesses may have exaggerated or even invented allegations of abuse.
But he simultaneously makes the extraordinary claim that no one who has
been convicted as a result 'is entirely blameless'. In an even
more remarkable pronouncement he refers to those who are campaigning
against miscarriages of justice on behalf of innocent care workers as
belonging to 'the abuser lobby'.
The views Garsden has expressed both
about Shieldfield and about trawling are also in keeping with the general
position adopted by ACAL. This organisation, whose inaugural conference in
1999 was chaired by the journalist Christian Wolmar, presents itself as
offering help and support to victims of child abuse. But its role is in
practice rather different. It is in effect an organisation which provides
help and support to those who make allegations of sexual abuse. In particular it supports claims made for financial
compensation. It even offers to train witnesses in the art of giving
evidence. Its general presumption appears to be that allegations of sexual
abuse are always, or almost always, true.
This presumption is one which
ACAL appears more than happy to extend not only to retrospective
allegations made against care workers, but also to allegations of satanic
ritual abuse. Indeed, as is acknowledged on
the founder of the organisation, barrister Lee Moore, actually believes
that she is herself a victim of ritual abuse and that she 'experienced
Satanic ritual abuse throughout childhood'.
An article about Moore which appeared in the
Times Literary Supplement (29 January
1999) implied that she had no memories of the twelve years during which,
from the age of three to the age of fifteeen, she had been brought up
inside what she later identified as a satanic cult.
According to the article her life during this
period had been so traumatic that she had 'dissociated' herself from it.
It was only after she had a nervous breakdown forty years later that
she had, 'with the help of her psychiatrist, pieced together her life of
fear growing up in an organised abuse ring' where she had been 'abused by
carers, friends and acquaintances both male and female'.
Anyone who sincerely believes that they spent
twelve years of their childhood being systematically abused inside a
satanic cult, that they repressed the memory of this abuse and only
recovered it forty years later with the help of a psychiatrist, deserves
the utmost sympathy and understanding.
What is truly disturbing, however, is that this
belief has become one of the foundation stones of a professional
organisation of lawyers which is now acting as a pressure group on behalf
of those who make allegations of abuse.
Even more disturbing is that this organisation
appears to be taken seriously not only by the publishers Butterworths, who
have on occasion offered it sponsorship, but also by the Law Society
response in Newcastle
One of the most disquieting features
of the Shieldfield case has been the response of the local press and the
local media to the libel verdict. Whereas the national press gave the
story wide and at times even massive coverage, the response of the press
in Newcastle has been muted.
In the early stages the outcome of the trial did
receive some coverage. On the day the judgment was handed down the front
page of the Evening Chronicle carried
the story on its front page under the large
black headline 'INNOCENT'.
Since the Evening Chronicle had
itself been sued (and had settled a few weeks into the trial when it
became clear that the case was likely to result in the vindication of Reed
and Lillie), this headline was very welcome.
Yet, after only a few days, the local papers in
Newcastle seemed increasingly to treat the story as an unwelcome intruder.
On August 9, the Evening Chronicle
which made it clear that some families involved in the
case had already received compensation from Newcastle City Council. It
quoted Clare Routledge, of David Gray's solicitors in Newcastle, who has
represented 41 families whose children attended the nursery, as
saying 'The libel verdict was not unexpected. The parents are very upset.
We piloted six test cases and the council has admitted it was negligent in
the running of the nursery in those cases.' What the paper did not record
was that Newcastle City Council had reached a settlement with some of the
parents shortly before they were due to appear in the witness box to give
evidence for the Council in the libel trial.
On the same page the paper
published a statement in which the editor acknowledged the complete
vindication of Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie but attempted to minimise its
own role in disseminating the libel by pleading ignorance of the report's
unreliability. The editor's statement was reported sympathetically in
which repeated the
claim made by the
initiative to settle the libel action had come from counsel representing
the two nursery nurses. It also claimed that the
after paying costs in the region of �60,000. Since the true figure was
�650,000, and since it was the
had first mooted the idea of a settlement, this was a serious
misrepresentation of the facts.
Thereafter both the Evening Chronicle,
and its sister paper, the Journal, appear to have deliberately ignored what should by rights have been the
biggest local news story since the Poulson scandal of the 1970s. Whereas,
in the wake of the publication of the report in 1998, the two papers had
been strident and seemingly robust in their willingness to harry anyone
who might be deeemed responsible for the alleged abuse, they now fell
almost completely silent.
As if as a result of a carefully considered
strategy, however, the story was not buried completely . Instead, the Sunday Sun, a
down-market member of the same group of newspapers, went through the
motions of pursuing it. On
that the role of paediatrician Camille Lazaro in the Shieldfield story was
under investigation by the local health trust; it also raised questions
about Professor Richard Barker, quoting a spokesman for the University of
Northumbria, in Newcastle, as saying 'When Professor Barker was leading
that panel he was employed by the Newcastle City Council. He was acting
independently and was not in any way representing the university.'
On 1 September in a brief
inside story headed
reported the demand made by the campaigning group Action Against False
Allegations of Abuse (AAFA) that Dr Lazaro should return the OBE she was
awarded in 1999 for 'services in the care of sexually abused children'.
In the meantime the two main Newcastle local
papers, the Chronicle and the
Journal have preserved their
virtual silence. Not only this but local television journalists working
for both BBC and Tyne Tees Television have seemingly ignored the story.
So far as local coverage is concerned, it seems
almost as though an iron curtain has been hung around the north east, in
an attempt to limit the damage which might be caused to local reputations
if the story was properly followed up. The effect has been to prevent the
people of Newcastle knowing the full truth about the actions which have
been performed, and the millions of pounds which have been spent, in their
The real tragedy of this
response is that the lessons which are contained in a detailed judgment on
one of the most disastrous sexual abuse investigations there has ever
been, seem likely, in Newcastle especially, to remain unlearned.
The judgment and Newcastle City Council
Mr Justice Eady�s judgment is now
available online at the court service website. Because of its length it
has been divided into three parts. A link to each of these parts will be
. The judge's own summary, which inevitably does not convey the detail and
power of the full judgment, is the last section of the document. This
which is what Mr Justice Eady read out in court, can also be found on the
A file of key extracts from the judgment,
including the reasons why the report of the inquiry team was found to
be misleading and dishonest, will eventually appear on this site.
In a judgment which found that Newcastle City
Council had been formally correct in their claim that the report was
protected by qualified privilege, it is clearly no coincidence that Mr
Justice Eady chose to end his summary, and his long judgment, by
powerfully criticising the very public authority he had been obliged to
release from judgment on a point of law:
'Although parents had been calling for a public
inquiry in 1994, their legal advisers were pressing for procedures
compliant with the principles of natural justice. That was clearly right,
but the Council allowed the team to proceed as they thought fit, and
natural justice seems to have fallen by the wayside.
'I characterised these arrangements in a ruling in
February as a "shambles". That still seems to me to be an apt description.
The fault cannot be laid entirely at the door of the Review Team since
none of them was legally qualified, and I concluded at an early stage that
it was mainly the Council's fault for sanctioning an inquiry into the
commission of acts tantamount to criminal offences, with a view to the
ultimate publication of a report, but without appropriate safeguards for
the "accused". The exercise has cost a vast amount of money for the
citizens of Newcastle and I have no doubt years of unnecessary heartache
for many of those directly involved. Unhappily, the Council has
only itself to blame.'
The Council responded to
these severe words of criticism by almost immediately issuing a
They claimed that Mr Justice Eady's decision to uphold their defence of
qualified privilege meant that 'he has confirmed that the Council acted
properly in publishing the Independent Review Team's report'. They omitted
to inform the people of Newcastle that the judge had specifically said
that 'the Council had allowed the team to proceed as they thought fit,
and natural justice seems to have fallen by the wayside.' They made no
mention either of his description of the Council's arrangements with
regard to the inquiry as a 'shambles', or of his conclusion that 'the
Council had only itself to blame'.
In the note they appended to this statement the
Council offered its own version of the Shieldfield story. In this version
they did not refer to the fact that they had prejudged the issues by
holding disciplinary hearings and finding Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie
guilty in advance of the criminal trial. Nor did they mention that, on the
day the not guilty verdict was announced, their acting leader had stood on
the steps of the City Hall and reaffirmed the Council's own findings of
saying that they were 'shocked and upset' at the judge's findings on
malice. They added that although they were going to make no further
statements that day, they might be able to answer questions later in the
They did not do so.
The question which now
remained was whether there would be an appeal against the judgment - and
in particular of the finding of malice against the Review Team. On 18
September 2002, two days before the deadline by which any appeal had to be
submitted, Newcastle City Council issued a
in which they announced that there would be no appeal
as the Council could not justify spending any more public money on the
In a significant development, the Council for the
first time publicly accepted the judgment. While it did not offer an
apology to its two former employees it did make a welcome gesture in this
direction by expressing regret:
'The city council fully accepts Justice Eady's
judgment and that Dawn Reed and Christopher Lillie are innocent of all the
allegations against them. The council regrets the suffering these events
have caused them.
'Our sympathies remain with all the people affected
by this case.'
As was reported in the
next morning the Review Team also issued a
. Significantly this statement contained no acknowledgment of the innocence
of Reed and Lillie and no expression of regret for the suffering they had
In a sequel to the news of
the decision not to appeal, Liberal Democrat councillor Greg Stone
discovered that the Council had taken a
to spend �56,000 on hiring a media consultancy to
handle the publicity surrounding the the judgment.
In an attempt to justify this expenditure, a
Council spokeswoman said: 'The council has a responsibility to communicate
the meaning of the judgment to the people of Newcastle, via the media, as
soon as possible.'
It would seem rather more likely that the Council
had employed the media consultancy in an attempt to hide the implications
of the judgment from the people of Newcastle, as far as was reasonably
possible. In particular, as noted above, the Council had, in its original
press statement, failed to make any mention of the severe criticisms Mr
Justice Eady had made of its own conduct. Instead it had attempted to
represent the judgment as a vindication of its actions.
In its recent statement the Council revealed that
it had commissioned its Head of Legal Services 'to prepare a report on
issues to learn from the judgment'.
The report is awaited with
Lib dems challenge council over libel action
The most welcome consequence of
Council's decision not to appeal against the judgment is that the
19-strong Liberal Democrat opposition group on the City Council is now
free to probe the entire conduct of the Shieldfield investigation. On
Tuesday 2 October the Lib Dem group fired a carefully-aimed and
leader of the Council Tony Flynn. In its
the Evening Chronicle
spoke of 'a stormy public meeting'
and quoted councillor John Shipley as saying 'I feel a great sense of
shame that at the time I did not realise what was going on. We must ensure
this never happens again.' Answers to the written questions, which, like
the oral answers, were deeply unsatisfactory, can be found
. Details of further developments will follow.