Children taken into care by social workers more than 15 years ago following accusations of ritual and satanic abuse that were later disproved are still seeking a formal apology, as well as compensation.
Twelve of the 20 children involved, now aged between 18 and 29, are suing Rochdale Council for the psychological injury caused by their separation from their families and their removal into local authority care.
A spokesperson for Pannone and Partners in Manchester, who specialise in child welfare legal representation and have taken on the case, said: “Some people may say there is no smoke without fire, but the accusations against the families have been utterly disproved. Yet their ordeal has not ended. They have had to deal with the consequences.
“The families are looking for an unqualified apology, not just an acknowledgement of a mistake. They, of course, deserve compensation as well, as no-one would deny.”
However, in a statement the council insisted it had “both acknowledged and apologised for the errors made in the investigation of the allegations” following the court ruling in 1991, which found no evidence of ritual abuse of any of the children and highlighted mistakes made by social workers involved in the case.
“Those acknowledgements were made publicly at the time,” it said. “The local authority recognised the painful and traumatic experiences of all the families involved.”
The council added that the judge had not questioned the “good faith or good intentions” of the social workers, and had acknowledged that they were working under considerable pressure.
“The pressures upon social workers working to promote the upbringing of children by their families can often be immense in circumstances which call for difficult decisions to be taken,” the council said. “The declining number of professionals willing to work in this crucial area is a growing concern. Rochdale Council and those with whom it works in partnership are committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes for some of society’s most vulnerable children.”
Pannone and Partners said they hoped the action against the council would be heard later this year.