Tribute by Rt Hon Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss DBE

Professor Israel Kolvin made an invaluable contribution to the field of psychiatry and in particular child psychiatry.

I first met him professionally in 1987 when I chaired the Cleveland Child Abuse Inquiry.  The remit of the Inquiry was to look at the manifest deficiencies in the response of the relevant disciplines to the allegations of child sexual abuse and in particular the removal of over 120 children from their homes in connection with these allegations.  It became clear to my Assessors and me that the medical profession, the social workers and the police were deeply divided in their approach to the many problems identified during the Inquiry.  I was extremely disturbed to find the degree of dissension within the medical profession itself.  After anxious consultation my Medical Assessor and I identified Professor Kolvin as the most likely person to find a middle way and common ground on the divisive and controversial subject of identification and management of child sexual abuse.  He took on this onerous job willingly and without fee and with a small group of other doctors produced a statement entitled “Some Principles of Good Practice”.  It was, without doubt, the most useful document that we received during the entire Inquiry and is referred to and relied upon in every section of my Report.

Looking back 14 years after the Inquiry, the intervention of Professor Kolvin was the turning point in the ability of the Assessors and myself to find a constructive way through the problems raised in the written and oral evidence presented to the Inquiry.  Without the wise, sensitive and constructive advice of Professor Kolvin and his team and their ability to find a ‘middle way’ out of the controversy, I doubt that I should have been able to provide many of the recommendations set out in the Report.

On his appointment to the Royal Free Hospital and the world-renowned Tavistock Clinic, he continued to provide to children, to families and to colleagues his professional expertise and his wisdom.  He was, from the perspective of a lawyer and a judge, one of the outstanding psychiatrists of his generation.