Last nightâs BBC1 programme âWhen Satan came to townâ told the story of twenty children on Langley council estate in Middleton, north Manchester. In 1990 they were taken from their homes (literally, snatched from their beds) in early morning raids by social services, who falsely believed they were being subjected to bizarre satanic rituals including the microwaving of foetuses, sacrificing of animals and the amputation of childrenâs fingers. This came about after one child, aged 5, who was withdrawn and exhibited behavioural problems, told his schoolteacher about dreams he had been having involving ghosts. He was referred to social workers, who interpreted this as a form of code, the âghostsâ being a reference to hooded abusers. Thus started a huge investigation that became national news. (Some background: at that time there was a nationwide fascination with satanic abuse, with seminars being held up and down the country at which social workers were trained to spot the âindicatorsâ. It did not take long for some to believe that they had become experts in identifying the signs of satanic abuse, and it was this self-delusion which caused them to pursue their convictions with such unhealthy zeal.) Despite a judge finding that there was no evidence whatsoever for any of the allegations, and that the parents had âneither the inclination nor the intellectual curiosityâ to take part in the alleged activities, two of the children â a brother and sister â ended up spending the next ten years in care. Parental contact was progressively cut to one hour a year. Thatâs not a mistype â one hour a year. Both are clearly damaged by the experience. I heard about this at the time, but there were few hard facts around because Rochdale council had obtained a gagging order which forbade the families to discuss the case with anyone except their solicitor â not their local councillor, not their MP, not anyone. Only now has the BBC succeeded in having the order lifted. With more facts brought into the open I found the full story truly shocking. The people involved were poor and uneducated, without the means or the tactics with which to fight the council. Think âShamelessâ, but without the same degree of eloquence. Watching this programme left me incandescent with anger at the social workers and the council, which still refuses to give even an apology to the families involved. I couldnât help wondering how many cases of genuine child abuse slipped through the net whilst the workers were pursuing their craze of satanic abuse; a craze which despite 70 separate investigations in the late 1980s and early 1990s revealed not one scrap of evidence anywhere in the country. This is a lesson in what happens when common sense is elbowed aside by self-appointed experts. One councillor, lone in his search for evidence, asked the police: âHow many four-fingered kids have you seen knocking about?â The answer was none, but the boring facts were no match for a trendy theory. Link to article in the Times online at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7-1977323,00.html A footnote for clarity: Langley estate is in Middleton, north Manchester, but in 1974 a reorganisation of local authorities placed it under the control of Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council. The people of Langley, however, remain Mancunians and have never considered themselves a part of Rochdale. Newspapers take no notice of this.