Welcome to the British False Memory Society
Use the navigation bar to find out about the Society, share our information resources or read about our books.You can also read our latest newsletter, catch up with the latest news or find out about events.
To get in touch please call 01225 333 654 (landline) or 07544 841 971 (mobile).
Office hours are 9 AM to 6 PM, Monday - Friday.
Alternatively contact us for more information
These rules are intended as a guide only, and intended to assist persons who have been falsely accused of a sexual offence. The rules and opinions expressed are strictly the writer’s own. The accusing person is referred to as ‘the complainant.’
BBC Radio 4 - Past Imperfect
How false memories can be artificially generated and used to change future behaviour.
Startling new research shows how false memories can be artificially generated and used to change behaviour - with implications for advertising, military intelligence and the treatment of addictions.
View the programme here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b062kx4x
Another truly extraordinary story of so-called 'historical abuse' that has turned out to be a complete and utter pack of lies.
An article by Chris French in The Conversation, based on the Carol Felstead case. Focusing on the psychotherapeutic means by which false memories are created - and how they continue to cause damage today.
Covering the Summer Conference held earlier this year.
Apparently, belief in the incredibilities of Satanic Ritual Abuse is still alive and well - among the legal profession.
Barbara Hewson article on the recent FACT conference held in May, the background of false allegations, and the way in which false memory plays a key part.
What it's like to be accused of historic abuse, to gather evidence against an adversarial legal system, and to prove one's innocence to a jury in a court of law.
Another case in which psychotherapy has resulted in a woman bringing forward rape claims. A pensioner was acquitted by a jury in Mid Devon after one hour's consideration. False memory was recognised as a key aspect of the case.
The High Court has rejected challenges by Victor Nealon and Sam Hallam in their miscarriage of justice test case for compensation for 24 lost years served in prison before having their convictions quashed.
Even witnesses to real events can be sincerely mistaken. An article on a violent attack in New York and subsequent eye witness reports. Includes CCTV footage.
Radio 4 are broadcasting an Analysis programme about the myth of Satanic Ritual Abuse on Monday, 25 May 2015.
Extraordinary case in which a retractor has won a legal case against her therapist for implanting false memories.
Constructing Rich False Memories of Committing a Crime
In an innovative and illuminating study, Dr Julia Shaw and Stephen Porter demonstrate how rich false memories of committing crimes can be generated by introducing incorrect details and utilizing suggestive memory techniques. "Participants were induced to generate criminal and non-criminal emotional false memories" with alarming results. 70% of participants developed false memories of previously committing a variety of crimes which were supposed to have led to police contact. The findings of this study suggest that poor police and therapeutic interviewing techniques can lead to miscarriages of justice and false memories. Dr Shaw was a keynote speaker at the BFMS Annual General Meeting in April.
FACT Spring Conference 2015
The FACT Spring Conference (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers) will take place at Cardiff Law School on Saturday, 30 May. For full event details and conference agenda please visit: http://www.factuk.org/fact-spring-2015-conference-details/.
New Website for Individuals Falsely Accused of a Sexual Offence
A new website has recently launched with the aim of helping individuals falsely accused of rape or sexual assault.
Accused.me.uk has information to support you through the difficult times ahead. We aim to help you, your friends and family cope with being the subject of a police investigation into the most personal and sensitive parts of your life. We hope to help you find people who have been through the same sort of experience as the one you are going through.
The website address is http://accused.me.uk/
The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, in collaboration with the Centre for Inquiry UK, a section of the British Humanist Association, are holding an event at Goldsmiths, University of London on Saturday 6 June.
The Satanic Cult That Wasn't - Radio 4
At 20:00 hours on 23 April 2015 Radio 4 will be transmitting a documentary on what was perhaps the most extraordinary fake Satanic Abuse case of recent times. The resume is: 'How Satanic abuse accusations in a North London suburb went global, but turned out to be untrue. Melanie Abbott investigates.' A link to the future programme can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05r40r5.
The Hampstead Satanic cult hoax must be classed as one of the most bizarre cases ever to be examined in a British court. And the consequent ruling by Mrs Justice Pauffley is as definitive as the case is extraordinary. It has attracted the notice not only of the media, but of barristers as well. Both Barbara Hewson and Matthew Scott have written upon the matter.
In a landmark ruling on 19 March 2015, Mrs Justice Pauffley, sitting in the Family Court in the Royal Courts of Justice ruled that "sickening allegations" about a Satanic Cult, which was supposed to be based at a primary school in London "were evil and baseless." The children's false stories - which were viewed by over 4 million people on the internet - were a product of "relentless emotional and psychological pressure as well as significant physical abuse."
Justice watchdog sued by wrongly convicted man who spent 17 years in prison for attempted rape after DNA evidence proved he was innocent.
DJ Paul Gambaccini recently gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee after spending a year on police bail 'when the case against him was groundless.' Left to foot a legal bill of £200, 000, Mr Gambaccini protested that 'he does not want to see others suffer in the way he has, spending months or even years on bail, knowing nothing about the progress of the investigation that could change their lives forever, but over which they have no control.'
Professor Elizabeth Loftus is a world-renowned expert on the science false memory. Throughout the course of her many research projects, she has interviewed a wide range of criminal justice practitioners and victims of false memory. In the US, Professor Loftus has served as an expert witness in a number of high profile trials. In the video below, she illustrates how false memory can lead to miscarriages of justice.
We know that celebrities usually have the finances to pay for the expensive services of top-class barristers, but what happens when an ordinary member of the public is accused and has no such resources? What happens when the defence barrister does not appear to be acting effectively on behalf of the accused? How is it possible for justice to be done when the odds are so overwhelmingly stacked against an individual?
"I'm going to tell you something that will change your lives forever." The devastating impact of being falsely accused of child sexual abuse is readily apparent in this excellent article by journalist Frances Hardy, writing in the Daily Mail.
People Can Be Convinced They Committed A Crime That Never Happened
A new study published in the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science shows that it is extremely easy to implant false memories; moreover these false memories can lead to miscarriages of justice. As the authors write: "Evidence from some wrongful conviction cases suggests that suspects can be questioned in ways that lead them to falsely believe in and confess to committing crimes that they didn't actually commit."
Needless to say, this is absolutely groundbreaking research and is vital information for those falsely accused of non-existent crimes.
Dr Peter Naish, a member of the BFMS Advisory Board, provides a brilliant and illuminating synopsis into how false memories can be generated following bad therapeutic practice. The article pinpoints three misguided beliefs which are central to any understanding of how - and why - adult victims of false memory may wrongly believe that they were abused in childhood.
A new article has been published on the case, as a pronouncement on a fresh inquest is to be made at the High Court later this week. Update 19 December 2014. In the High Court (based in the Royal Courts of Justice, London), the Hon Mr Duncan Ouseley and Peter Thornton QC Chief Coroner for England and Wales granted the application to quash the original Inquest into Carol's death. A fresh Inquest has been granted, together with a new Coroner's Inquiry.
An authoritative demolition of multiple personality disorder, from which the recovered memory movement emerged. Important viewing for anyone concerned - personally or professionally - with the issue of false memory.
Recovered memory therapy isn't simply an historic curiosity; it is still being practised now and is still damaging lives.
Following a moral panic about Satanic Ritual Abuse in Scotland, Professor Christopher French suggests (Guardian Online, 18 November 2014) that this latest wave of hysteria is based on false memories. The article is measured and thought-provoking.
Exaro News Is Playing A Dangerous Game With Its Paedophile Murder Story
Following sensational claims about a paedophile ring involving MPs, widely reported in the national press, Matthew Scott, a respected senior Barrister, has written a brilliant and illuminating essay which warns of the dangers of leaping to precipitous conclusions without first undertaking simple fact-checking and rigorous investigation. In a sober and lucid analysis, Matthew examines the case of Carol Felstead who was hypnotised, sedated and brainwashed, during protracted psychotherapy without restraint. Her case helped to stoke up the entire Satanic Abuse panic in the United Kingdom. The blog provides a devastating critique of some of Carol's psychotherapists, including Dr Valerie Sinason - a name well-known to the BFMS.
Head Teacher Cleared of Unbelievable Sex Abuse Allegations in Just 15 minutes
A respected headmaster has been cleared by a jury in just 15 minutes after "unbelievable" allegations he molested an unruly pupil subjected him to a year-long court ordeal.
This case suggests that the system of criminal justice in the UK is broken. Why was this innocent man prosecuted?
To read more please visit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11230909/Headteacher-subjected-to-year-long-ordeal-is-cleared-of-unbelievable-sex-abuse-allegations-in-just-15-minutes.html
Recent Satanic Abuse Claims in Scotland
Once again advocates of the much discredited Satanic Abuse Panic are making claims of widespread child abuse across Britain. Scotland appears to have become caught up in a nationwide frenzy of superstitious irrationality. This moral panic exhibits typical clichés of sensationalist psychology. In England, the case of Carol Myers/Felstead (www.justiceforcarol.com) - whose family were falsely accused of an endless variety of insane criminal acts - has comprehensively demonstrated that the existence of Satanic Cults preying on vulnerable children is a myth created on the therapists couch. As in Rotherham, real victims of abuse are being let down by focusing on this nonsense.
Professor Christopher French provides a measured an illuminating commentary about the traumatic impact of historic sexual abuse allegations on the falsely accused.
The Rotherham abuse scandal brings up the issue of the difference between genuine memories of real abuse and false memories of non-existent abuse.
FACT (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers) are holding an AGM and Autumn Conference later in the month. Details of the event.
The scientific viewpoint on how and why false memories are created.
False memories are commonplace in tales of alien abduction. The 'abductees' claims have been extensively explored by psychologists.
Dominic Grieve makes serious criticisms of the manner in which the police investigation into the Cliff Richard case has been handled, calling it 'odd' and 'very questionable'.
News on Cliff Richard's recent statement denying sexual abuse allegations.
Comprehensive analysis of historic abuse allegations, addressing many of the issues of concern within the legal community and beyond.
A 35 year old historic abuse case under investigation by Criminal Cases Review Commission. More details in the BFMS News and Articles section.
The scientific view that repression is a theory not a fact.
An updated introduction into the subject of false memory and the type of cases seen by the BFMS.
An introduction to an excellent Independent article on the issue of presumed guilt rather than innocence. Sometimes there is smoke without fire.
A brief introduction to an important article published in the Daily Mail on the subject of bad psychotherapy and the creation of false memories: 'The women brainwashed by therapists to believe their parents abused them'.
Overview of the recent article published in The Times on the purposed new inquest into the death of Carol Felstead. A critical case for understanding the damage recovered memory therapy can inflict on patients and their families, and the means by which false claims can be disproven.
In an extraordinary turnaround, a new inquest has been ordered into the death of Carol Felstead. Click the headline to find out more.
Powerful review of Katharine's Mair's book on the damage recovered memory therapy can have on vulnerable patients.
BFMS 20th Annual General Meeting in London,
Saturday 5th April 2014
A talk by Leading Junior Barrister, Barbara Hewson on the 'Cult of Victimhood and the Limits of the Law. She highlighted the difficulties of challeging the perceived wisdom about historic abuse claims.
After lunch David, a man accused of historical sexual abuse, gave a moving talk about the police investigation against him. After a tortuous time lasting nearly two years he learned that the police would not be persuing the case. He has many complaints about the way the police failed to manage the investigation. You can read his talk.
"We both found the conference very helpful and supportive - I can't thank you and your organisation enough. I feel that a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders with the realisation that has been happening to our daughter is not our fault. Listening to the talks and then sharing stories with other parents was such an eye opener, just the awareness that all the accusers used similar processes was incredibly enlightening...I feel you have given us so much strength to go forward."
View Latest BFMS Newsletter - December 2013
- what it is like to fall victim to poor hypnotherapy practice - book reviews for 'Abused by Therapy : How Searching for Childhood Trauma can Damage Adult Lives' and for 'Betrayal of Trauma'
BFMS is a U.K. registered charity, founded in 1993
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News and Comment
Following our meeting with the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) they have sent us the following outline of how they intend to ensure therapy organisations handle the risk of false memory within their practice..
from the Professional Standards Authority
Accredited Voluntary Registers Scheme, 13 April 2013
People engaging with talking therapies now have greater opportunities to identify providers of quality service, and to seek redress if things go wrong. By seeking out the Accreditation Mark of the Professional Standards Authority's Accredited Voluntary Registers (AVR) scheme, service users and the public can be assured that their therapist belongs to a professional body that requires and actively checks for high standards of personal behaviour, technical competence, and business practice.
The scheme requires organisations to undertake independent assessment of their voluntary register. If found to meet the Authority's demanding Standards and fulfilling any conditions necessary to ensure public protection is at the heart of their operation, the organisation and its members will be able to display the Authority's Accreditation Mark. This will offer both competitive advantages to providers and assurance to service users seeking quality care.
The Authority has met with several organisations, including the British False Memory Society (BFMS), since the beginning of the scheme to ensure that issues were identified and accounted for within the accreditation process. This article outlines how the AVR scheme takes account of the issue of false memory.
The scheme operates a robust assessment process requiring organisations to demonstrate compliance with 11 key standards encompassing every aspect of their register. This process begins with the scrutiny of an application form and continues through evidential reviews, site visits, interviews with senior staff, observations of conduct hearings, and more. An important part of the process is the 'Call for Information', in which the Authority invites the public and stakeholder organisations to submit their evidence as to whether or not they think that the Standards are met by the applying organisation. Through this, subject-experts such as the BFMS are able to inform the Authority of possible risks related to the occupation registered by the applying organisation.
The Authority requires organisation to have "a thorough understanding of the risks presented by their occupation(s) to service users and the public - and where appropriate, takes effective action to mitigate them." Applying organisations are required to submit a risk matrix as part of their application for accreditation. The Authority would expect to see the risk of 'false memory' and appropriate controls in place to mitigate it listed in the matrix. In addition, as part of the assessment process the Authority interviews the senior management team of the applying organisation and asks: "Is there a risk that memories could be formed within the therapeutic context, of events which never happened? What does your organisation do to mitigate this risk?" The wording of these questions was agreed with the BFMS in a recent meeting with the Authority. The Authority requires the organisation to demonstrate how registrants are both trained and ethically bound to minimise the chance of false memory occurring, and how to react appropriately if it does.
When service users, and related third parties, do have concerns about treatment received, the Authority requires organisations to provide effective complaints procedures that focus on protecting service users and the public and putting matters right where possible. The complaints procedure of the applying organisation is assessed by the AVR team to ensure that third party complaints are considered by the organisation. The Authority believes this to be an important aspect for the families of service users affected by false memory. Furthermore, organisations must demonstrate transparency, sound decision making, and the commitment to share concerns with related agencies and professional bodies.
Over 70 organisations have so far expressed their interest in applying for accreditation of their voluntary register. The Authority has received applications, and expects more from, organisations representing the majority of counsellors, psychotherapists and related occupations within theUnited Kingdom. The AVR scheme will require them to demonstrate their awareness and mitigating actions for the risk of false memory.
For more information about the AVR scheme visit: http://www.professionalstandards.org.uk/voluntary-registers
Professional Standards Authority call for information on British Psychoanalytic Council Members
It is useful to keep an eye on the Professional Standards Authority website as they publish names of therapy organisations applying to join the Voluntary Accreditation Scheme.
The BFMS is particularly concerned that blanket accreditation of the British Psychoanalytic Council members has the potential to give false security to members of the public as we are well aware that some of their members hold extreme views and believe in the unsound theory of 'buried' traumatic memories.
These beliefs could be a danger to vulnerable patients with the potential for the outcome of that treatment to lead to false memories of childhood sexual abuse and false allegations resulting in criminal charges.
The call for information on this group is now closed but do contribute to further calls as they appear on the PSA website, if you have experience of whichever body of therapists/counsellors is the latest to seek accreditation. Please write to the Professional Standards Authority if you have any relevant information.
Extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants
(also see News articles)
With yet another historic allegation hitting the headlines in the past few days isn't it time to reconsider the issue of anonymity for defendants in rape cases until there is sufficient substance to a case, before the media revel in naming and shaming a person who may still be shown to be innocent of the alleged crime?
An allegation can be made in an instant but the effects of doing so can linger for decades. Such suffering may be considered by some as apposite for an offender but if there remains the possibility that the accused might be innocent and falsely accused then the justice system owes a 'duty of care' to those going through its procedures to protect an individual's good character and integrity until such time as they can show otherwise.
We acknowledge there could be exceptional circumstances in some cases where there is an issue of public safety warranting publicity about a case but there is no evidence released so far to justify such an approach in this case and many similar ones.
Last summer the Coalition Government came to power pledging to 'extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants', with ministers stressing the need to 'protect anyone who may be wrongly accused from harmful stigma'. It is regrettable that David Cameron seemed to bow to pressure from campaigners with Justice Minister Crispin Blunt saying that the government would rather put pressure on the media not to name suspects than bring in a new law.
It is now quite clear that the 'non-statutory solution' has failed. We call on the Government to re-consider its position with some urgency.
Research on the fallibility of memory from different arenas has grabbed press attention
Love at first sight.. or is it hindsight? How our memory constantly rewrite our past and updates it with new experiences
by Fiona Macrae, Daily Mail, 5th February 2014. From research by Dr Joel Voss and Dr Donna Jo Bridge of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The Memory Game
We think our recollections are relibale, but research shows that all of us are susceptible to false memories. Kate Hilpern discovers what can happen whenw e rewrite the past. This article refers to research published at the end of January 2014 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology and also draws on the work of Professor Cara Laney, Professor Elizabeth Loftus, Professor Amina Memon and Professor Christopher French. The Independent, 4th February 2014
Childhood memories can be deceptive
The brain may fill in gaps when it cannot remember details from childhood, according to study which could have important implications for court cases. The research reported here was published in theJournal of Experimental Biology, the lead author, Dr Christine Wells is from Sheffield Hallam University with Professor Martin Conway. Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent, Daily Telegraph, 28th January 2014
Michael Le Vell
After a worrying and terrifying ordeal Micheal le Vell has been cleared of all charges of child sexual abuse.
"Incredible moment when girl who accused Coronation Street actor, Michael Le Vell of rape broke down... at self-help event for devotees seeking 'inner truth'."
by Elizabeth Sanderson, Mail on Sunday, 15th September 2013
Independent journalist needs help with her research:
"I cannot find any research into why an individual would falsely cry rape, but recent cases suggest some are motivated by revenge."
Jane Merrick, Independent, 11th September 2013
Earlier news coverage of the case:
Follow the latest developments in Carol's story:
See Observer article by Will Storr in their magazine of 11th December 2011
www.justiceforcarol.com has been created to draw public attention to what happened to a beloved sister and daughter after she came to believe that she was the survivor of a satanic cult. It is a truly shocking story. What is amazing is the determination and capability of the family to discover what happened to Carol over a period of a decade and a half when she was estranged from her family. That search is ongoing and new information is being uncovered all the time.
In other news:
Justice for Carol
Read the shocking and gripping account of what happened to Carol in 'Justice for Carol - The True Story of Carol Felstead'. You can also visit www.justiceforcarol.com which has been created to draw public attention to what happened to a beloved sister and daughter after she came to believe that she was the survivor of a satanic cult. It is a truly shocking story. What is amazing is the determination and capability of the family to discover what happened to Carol over a period of a decade and a half when she was estranged from her family.