Donate Now

CFI UK Conference: Searching for Satan: Miscarriages of memory, fractured families and Satanic panics

6th June 2015 · 11:00am - 3:30pm

In person | Virtual event

 CFI UK Conference: Searching for Satan: Miscarriages of memory, fractured families and Satanic panics

Please note: This event has been moved to a new location.

Presented by Centre for Inquiry UK, the British Humanist Association
Discover how the unreliability of memory has led to grave miscarriages of justice, including panics about Satanic abuse. Can memories really be ‘recovered’ by therapists? To what extent can we rely on the memories of witnesses in historic abuse cases? Some deeply disturbing cases will be investigated.

11:00 Chris French and James Ost – ‘What people believe about memory that ain’t necessarily so’

Surveys show that a large proportion of the general public hold many beliefs about memory that are just plain wrong. Even more worrying, so do psychotherapists, psychologists, and professionals involved in legal services, a situation that can lead to miscarriages of justice. Chris French and James Ost summarise our current understanding of the nature of memory. (NB: This presentation includes a quiz for you to assess your own level of understanding – so bring pen and paper!)”

12:15 Barbara Hewson – ‘False memories, false accusations and torture: Satan’s work?’

A recent case about alleged satanic ritual abuse in the Family Division highlights the dangers of not learning lessons from history.  But it also confirms that to instil false memories of abuse can amount to torture, contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is also a heinous wrong. So the stakes could not be higher for professionals working to prevent abuse, but also false allegations of abuse.  Britain’s mounting obsession with historic abuse allegations (dubbed “Paedogeddon” by critics), coupled with political demands to give victims greater rights, risk brushing common sense away to keep monsters at bay. How can the law fight back, to ensure justice can be done?

13:15-14:15 – Lunch

14:15 Kevin Felstead – When Satan Came to Town – Carol Felstead: a true story of false memories

After visiting her doctor about a headache, Carol was subjected to hypnotic therapy, sedated and brainwashed, Carol’s childhood memories were eradicated and her mind was re-ordered. Assigned a new identity, Carol fell into the iron grip of a string of psychotherapists who obsessed about ritual abuse. A myth was created which helped stoke the entire Satanic Abuse Panic in the United Kingdom.

15:30 – Close

Speaker Biographies – 

Professor Chris French is Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal and related claims. He writes for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine. His most recent book is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience.

Dr James Ost is a Reader in Applied Cognitive Psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, UK. His research focuses on the inherently context-dependent nature of memory and remembering, focusing mainly on false memories for real life events (childhood memories, sexual abuse, terrorist attacks). He has advised police forces on interview strategy, written expert reports on memory evidence, and has served as an expert witness at court.

Barbara Hewson is a senior barrister practising at 1 Gray’s Inn Square. Her work includes human rights, mental capacity and professional regulation. She is well-known for criticising Operation Yewtree, associated historic abuse prosecutions, and “the cult of victimhood”. She also writes for spiked-online and other journals.

In 2001, Kevin Felstead was awarded a doctorate from Keele University where he taught courses on the history of crime, policing, and punishment in England and Wales since 1800. He was subsequently employed by Manchester City Council working in the field of community safety, neighbourhood crime, and justice. Kevin is currently employed as a consultant for the British False Memory Society, where he works as Director of Communications.

Read more about how we use Cookies in our Privacy Policy.


We need your help!

We host talks, concerts, performances, community and social events. However, we are an independent charity and receive no funding from the government. Everything we do is dependent upon our commercial activity and the generosity of supporters like you.

Donate Now