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Shieldfield is not an isolated case



It would be reassuring to dismiss Shieldfield as a terrible aberration. The story of what happened to Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie is so bizarre that it might seem to be without parallel. But that would be to replace one delusion by another. On the day after the libel judgment, the Guardian newsdesk was contacted by a reader who told them of a similar case. And the next day, 1 August, Canadian journalist Margaret Wente published a story which has close parallels with Shieldfield. This concerned a police officer who had lived for 10 years under the shadow of horrific allegations. These allegations had their origins in a panic triggered in 1992 when a couple said that their two-year old had been sexually assaulted at the local babysitting service. Last month John Popowich won an apology from the government and $1.3 million. ‘The most important part’, he said, ‘was getting my name cleared.’The Saskatchewan case is not an isolated coincidence. Over the past decade there have been countless other Shieldfield – in nurseries or kindergartens in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland, in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and above all in the United States.

Richard Webster