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The Cleveland child abuse scandal refers to a 1987 wave of suspected child sexual abuse cases in Cleveland, England.


At the time of this event, the area referred to as Cleveland consisted of three towns: Stockton-on-Tees, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.[1] Since that time the Cleveland area has been broken into four local authorities with only one retaining, in part, the name of Cleveland.[1]


During the years prior to the Cleveland child abuse scandal, the levels of reported child abuse were consistent with other parts of the United Kingdom.[1] However, in 1987, during the period of February to July, many children living in Cleveland were removed from their homes by social service agencies and diagnosed as sexually abused.[2] The 121 diagnoses were made, by two paediatricians at a Middlesbrough hospital, using a "controversial diagnostic practice" called reflex anal dilation.[2] When there were not enough foster homes in which to place the allegedly abused children social services began to house the children in a ward at the local hospital.[1]

Later, the test being used to establish child abuse was contested by the area police surgeon and cooperation between the social workers, police and hospital doctors involved in diagnosis began to disintegrate.[1] In addition, there was public concern regarding the practices being used by the local social service agency such as the removal of children from their homes in the middle of the night.[1] In May 1987 parents marched from the hospital, in which their children were being held, to the local newspaper. The resulting media coverage caused the social service agency's practices to receive public scrutiny and criticism.[1] In response, the Butler-Sloss report was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Social Services in July 1987 and published in 1988.[2] The report was led by Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and concluded that most of the diagnoses were incorrect.[2] As a result, 94 of the 121 children were returned to their homes.[2][3]

On 14 October 1991 the Children Act was implemented in full as a result of the Cleveland child abuse scandal[4] and other child related events that preceded it.[1] A TV documentary called The Death of Childhood was broadcast in 1997 and alleged that "independent experts under the guidance of the Department of Health later found that at least 70 per cent of the diagnoses" were correct.[5] According to the documentary, two years after the scandal a number of children were again referred to social services and determined to be at risk for child abuse.[5] In February 2007, the Chief Medical Officer, who was the regional medical officer at the time of the scandal, admitted that "mistakes were made." [6] A few days later, two of the children who had been the focus of the scandal asked the Middlesbrough police for an investigation of their 1987 experience.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Charles, Pragnell (unkown). "The Cleveland Sexual Abuse Scandal". Children Webmag. Retrieved July 21, 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e "20 years on from the Cleveland Child Sex Abuse Scandal". GazetteLive. 8 July 2008. 
  3. ^ Staff writer, The Cleveland Report digest by Robert Shaw, Children Webmag 2011, accessed July 17, 2014
  4. ^ Pragnall, Charles (December 13, 2014). "Torn from their mothers' arms What are social workers for? Charles Pragnell considers some disturbing cases". The Independent. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Streeter, Michael (May 26, 1997). "Child abuse scandal resurfaces". The Independent. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Staff Writer (February 24, 2007). "The women who went through an ordeal beyond belief". Daily Mail. Retrieved July 21, 2014. 


  • Bell, Stuart (1988). When Salem Came to the Boro, The True Story of the Cleveland Child Abuse Crisis

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_child_abuse_scandal — Please support Wikipedia.
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'Place of Safety'

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19 news items

Family Law (registration)
Mon, 05 Jan 2015 02:17:04 -0800

Then, perhaps fortunately from this point of view, along came the Cleveland Child Abuse scandal. This showed that social workers and other professionals could sometimes be over-enthusiastic in taking children away from their families and pointed up all ...
Sun, 25 Nov 2012 16:22:30 -0800

Incredibly, the re-evaluation of the policing of the family as an enlightened thing has included attempts to rehabilitate the long-discredited Cleveland child-abuse scandal of 1987, when 121 children were removed by social workers in Middlesbrough on ...

Evening Standard

Evening Standard
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 05:19:04 -0700

It was Elizabeth Butler-Sloss who coined the famous phrase “listen to the children” in her 1988 report on the Cleveland child abuse scandal. That inquiry examined the hugely controversial diagnosis by two paediatricians of the sexual abuse of 125 ...


Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:01:04 -0700

Not only is Butler-Sloss's brother tainted by the scandal she is investigating, her previous work on the Cleveland child abuse scandal is controversial... "...[the cleveland cjild abuse] public inquiry and report chaired by Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, who ...
The Conversation
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 08:34:35 -0700

It has been announced that the government's inquiry will be headed by Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, who not only headed the inquiry into the Cleveland child abuse scandal in 1987, but as a judge, ruled in favour of lifelong anonymity for the killers of James ...
Daily Mail
Fri, 09 May 2008 11:20:42 -0700

In a landmark judgment, he warned that even two decades after the infamous Cleveland child abuse scandal, parents are still being wrongly accused of molesting their sons and daughters. The Cleveland controversy was Britain's biggest and first mass ...
Tue, 16 Oct 2012 09:36:48 -0700

Bell will be remembered on Teesside for his trenchant campaigning on behalf of the parents of 121 children taken into care over six weeks during what became known as the Cleveland child abuse scandal. He resigned from the front bench in 1987 to ...
Mon, 26 Mar 2012 10:26:00 -0700

After the 1987 election, Newton was confronted by the Cleveland child abuse scandal, in which 121 children were taken into care after paediatricians claimed to find evidence of sexual abuse. He set up a public inquiry under Mrs Justice Butler-Sloss ...

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