Miscarriage of Memory – Historic Abuse Cases

Miscarriage of Memory – Historic Abuse Cases: A Dilemma for the Legal System

Justice in question for those accused of newly-remembered historic child sexual abuse

Edited by William Burgoyne and Norman Brand. Publisher: BFMS. Date: 2010.

Innocent people still go to prison because there is an inbuilt bias against those accused of historic sexual abuse, according to a collection of articles and individual testimonies published in Miscarriage of Memory.


Contents include:

  • Thirteen case histories, from over 2000 on record at the BFMS, where allegations of historic child sexual abuse involved evidence based on uncorroborated ‘memories’, often newly ‘recovered’ during therapy.
  • Five case-histories of women who have retracted their accusations, including details of the 2006 case: ‘Katrina Fairlie versus Perth and Kinross Healthcare NHS Trust.’
  • Three disciplinary hearings brought against therapists by the General Medical Council and the British Psychological Society.
  • And in a section on legal issues, the perils of ‘postdictive’ evidence, in which psychological troubles in adulthood are regarded as retrospective proof of sexual abuse in childhood, are examined by a solicitor in the case of an 81 year-old man acquitted in the Crown Court of historic allegations of abuse made by a disturbed adult.


Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health, and formerly Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Abuse Investigations says in a foreword: ‘The need for the BFMS to publish a book such as Miscarriage of Memory is itself evidence that injustices caused by a lack of understanding of memory throughout the legal system continue.’


Recovered false ‘memory’ is a problem that persists and therapists are still being disciplined by their professional bodies for engaging in activities that are intended to reveal indications of past sexual abuse for which the client has no memory.


A reviewer on Amazon has written:


If you are not aware of the truly appalling situations psychotherapy and counselling can sometimes put people in – then read this book. It contains many stories of the predicaments encountered when innocent people find themselves involved with the law, accused of crimes they have never committed. It explains how these situations can arise: a central issue being that the judiciary and the police have not yet fully recognised the importance of the findings of the science of human memory.

The start and source of all these tragedies are the theories emanating from psychotherapists who do not correct their practices and procedures because the troubles they create land up on other people’s doorsteps and not their own. As one contributor puts it, `The thought that their own beliefs and theories are erroneous must simply not occur to them, nor the devastation these professionals leave in their wake as they move on’. A whole book could be written about the psychology of how it is that professionals manage to avoid such thoughts occurring to them.

Especially important and valuable in the book are the contributions from a number of legal experts who see the difficulties for the legal profession but also point the way forward.


The book can be viewed and purchased on Amazon here.

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