By Sarah Lagan
The Middleton Guardian has revealed that Rochdale Council spent £120,000 obtaining legal injunctions which blocked the press reporting the full story of how children were taken into care after they were wrongly thought to be victims of satanic abuse.
In 1990, around 20 children were taken from six families and put in care by Rochdale Council, which believed the parents had subjected their children to satanic rituals. The council’s social services were later condemned for their actions and the case sparked off a major government review.
The 7,916-circulation weekly made two separate requests under the Freedom on Information Act and discovered the council spent £82,000 in 1991 when the main hearings were under way. A further £38,000 was spent last September when it tried to conceal the names of the social workers involved in the case.
For months the Guardian, which is owned by the Guardian Media Group, had "skirted around" the issue, unable to reveal the full extent of what had happened until the Mail on Sunday got the injunction partially lifted.
Last month the BBC worked with the Guardian to successfully get the injunction fully lifted, allowing it to broadcast a damning documentary, When Satan Came to Town. On the same day the Guardian published a full report of the scandal on its front page.
Middleton Guardian editor Gerry Sammon said: "We had been waiting to blow this story wide open for 15 years, and with the help of the BBC we managed to do just that.
"The question remained over how much the council was willing to pay to keep its disgraceful secret. We found that out, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act."
Director of Children’s Services for Rochdale Council Terry Piggot told the Guardian that considerations about publicity were a relatively minor part of the proceedings. He said: "The council felt that the issue was important and should be decided by the court, taking into account all the possible consequences for those involved and for the future of childcare nationwide."