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Home arrow False and "Recovered" Memories arrow Satanic Ritual Abuse arrow Newspaper Articles by Richard Guilliatt - 3

Newspaper Articles by Richard Guilliatt - 3

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Newspaper Articles by Richard Guilliatt - 3
Article 2

Daughter claims memory of ritual abuse


Page 2 Saturday, 13 May 1995

A Sydney couple and a 72-year-old grandmother will face court next month charged with 67 sexual offences in a "repressed memory" case which involves allegations of ritual abuse, enforced abortions and "infant sacrifice". The case, which centres on the repressed memories of the couple's teenage daughter, is among a rash of similar prosecutions which has sparked concerns about the number of repressed memory cases in the courts.

The Herald has identified at least 10 cases in which men and women claim they have been wrongly prosecuted for sexual assault based wholly or in part on the "repressed" memories of their accusers. There is intense debate among therapists about the accuracy of such memories, which are often "recovered" during psychotherapy or counselling.

In the case due for committal proceedings next month, a mother, father and grandmother have been charged with raping and assaulting the couple's children over a 12-year period.

Their eldest daughter alleges she was subjected to sadistic abuse from the age of five, and police allegedly set up a special task force to investigate allegations that the parents were part of a ritual abuse network involving many adults and children.

In another case due to be heard next month, a man serving a six-year jail term for sexual assault claims he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice because his two daughters "recovered" memories of abuse 10 years after it allegedly happened.

Professor Don Thomson, of Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, said he was very concerned about the high number of cases which appeared to be entering the courts. Professor Thomson, a psychologist who has given expert defence testimony on recovered memory, said he was aware of four or five cases that were either at preliminary hearing stage or were being prepared for trial, and of other cases that were "in the wings".

His concerns were echoed by several defence lawyers, including Mr Howard Mason, a barrister who defended a Melbourne father charged with rape after his daughter underwent repressed memory therapy.

Psychologists and lawyers have been concerned about the repressed memory issue since late last year, when a man was tried in Bunbury, Western Australia, on 42 counts of raping and assaulting his two daughters. The prosecution, which was based entirely on memories the daughters recovered after consulting therapists, was unsuccessful.

It is now clear that the Bunbury case was not the first criminal trial involving repressed memory. At least four other cases were prosecuted before it, including an assault case in which a Long Bay prison guard identified his assailants after undergoing a psychological treatment known as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing.

The Herald is aware of three sexual assault cases in Sydney and four in Melbourne in which recovered memory plays a central role. There have been two unsuccessful prosecutions in Western Australia and a committal hearing is understood to have started in Brisbane this week.

The cases have come to light as some prosecutors and judges have begun expressing reservations in particular cases about the use of therapy and hypnotism to recover memories of trauma.

The Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions announced last month he would no longer prosecute sex cases based on memories recovered during hypnosis, and a Melbourne judge recently tried to postpone the sentencing of a man convicted of sex offences dating back to 1968 based on the recovered memory of his stepdaughter. In an unusual step, the judge said he wanted the defendant's appeal hearing to proceed before sentencing.

The man, 67, was sentenced on Monday to four years in jail after the Supreme Court refused the delay. His appeal is set for next month.

In another development, the Australian Psychological Society has acknowledged it had some reservations about the conduct of a Queensland psychologist who helped several women recover memories of sexual abuse.

The psychologist, Mr Richard Rigby, was the subject of several complaints to the Psychologists' Registration Board of Queensland from parents who complained last year that their daughters had falsely accused them of sexual abuse following his treatment. The board subsequently cleared Mr Rigby of misconduct.

But in a letter sent to one of the families last month, the head of the Psychological Society's ethics committee, Mr Barry Fallon, said that although Mr Rigby's conduct did not constitute a breach of ethics, some aspects of it "were not at the level that one would describe as `best practice'".

These matters had been brought to Mr Rigby's attention, the letter said.