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. Alternatively contact us for more information.
Please note: The BFMS website is currently being redeveloped, with the aim of adding new and more frequent updates (10 July 2014).
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
Please help us to continue helping others in this specialist field by donating money. We need your help. A subscription form is available for membership through our office but if you would like to make a donation to our work now, please click on the 'Donate' button below to access PayPal to make a secure payment.
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.