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Parents Cleared Of Abuse Reject Woods Comments

Irish Examiner, January 08, 2003 , By Michael O’ Farrell

PARENTS accused of child abuse by Moira Woods yesterday reacted angrily to comments made by the former child sexual abuse expert.

Dr Woods was found guilty last January of 13 counts of professional misconduct by the Fitness to Practice Committee of the Medical Council in cases involving false accusations of sexual abuse against the parents of three families.

Dr Woods was cleared of any wrongdoing in the cases of two other families.

Yesterday, Dr Woods, who now lives in Italy, broke a year's silence on the issue by saying doctors were living in fear of reporting child abuse.

She said: "This inquiry is now over. Its net effect will be to increase fear among professionals of committing themselves to any statement on child abuse physical, emotional or sexual."

But one of the fathers cleared of child abuse by the Medical Council inquiry, Eddie Hernon, yesterday angrily dismissed any such suggestion.

"What it has done is made doctors more careful and that can only be a good thing," said Mr Hernon, who first lodged a complaint against Dr Woods 11 years ago. "Dr Woods was found guilty of professional misconduct and of making false accusations and in that process she destroyed families and children. There are no excuses for what she did."

Following allegations made against him by Dr Woods, Mr Hernon lost access to his daughter almost 20 years ago and had to fight for 16 years to clear his name.

Dr Woods criticised the Medical Council's decision against her and the fact that extracts from its report appeared inaccurately in the media. She also rejected the council's report as inaccurate and deeply flawed.

But Mr Hernon said Dr Woods could have appealed the ruling to the High Court if she felt it was unfair:

He said the full truth could not come out since the Medical Council inquiry had been held in private.

However, Mr Hernon said he was prepared to break a High Court order forbidding the public release of the inquiry's proceedings: "I would break the High Court order if necessary to prove the truth of what I'm saying."

However, Dr Woods insisted she had acted correctly.

She said: "This is not a matter of pride or defiance. No doctor is infallible. Mistakes and oversights are a daily risk for all doctors and I am no exception.

"But as regards these cases, which have been under intensive review during this inquiry, I remain adamant that I had no option but to act as I did on the evidence presented to me and on my interviews with the children concerned."

The Medical Council last night declined to respond to questions, saying it had not yet seen Dr Woods' statement.