The case of Katrina Fairlie is seen as a landmark case in terms of the validity of recovered memories within the United Kingdom.

While several cases had existed in the United States, Fairlie’s case was one of the most well-known cases in the United Kingdom.

Fairlie is known for winning a payout several years after falsely accusing her father of sexually abusing her in her childhood. The accusations were allegedly implanted by a therapist.

The Fairlie case contributed to the study of memory


This case was an example of a situation involving recovered memories. The topic is highly controversial.

In the 1990s, many people came forward to suggest they had uncovered past memories of being abused – often by their parents. This often happened in therapy sessions, leading to arguments that therapists were implanting false memories into their patients.

While the majority of cases happened in the US, some, like this case, took place in the United Kingdom.

The Fairlie Family

The case involved the Fairlie Family, who were from Scotland, United Kingdom. The father of the family was Jim.

Jim was a respected individual in the Scottish National Party – a popular political party in Scotland.

Katrina’s hospitilisation

The tale dates back to 1994, when Fairlie – then 25 – went to a hospital over severe pain.

In a somewhat controversial move, Doctors transferred Fairlie to the hospital’s psychiatric unit, concluding that she was imagining her pain.

While in the unit, Fairlie engaged in therapy with Dr. Alex Yellowlees. Over the following weeks, Yellowlees became convinced that Fairlie’s symptoms could be explained by repressed memories.

Repressed memories refer to traumatic memories that the mind pushes into its unconscious to protect itself. Despite being in the unconscious, the memory continues to affect a person.

Therefore, Yellowlees attempted to uncover the memory, with the aim of then processing it in a healthy way to help Fairlie lessen her symptoms.

So therapy took place, with Yellowlees doing what he could to uncover these supposed memories. Techniques used include hypnosis.

Over five months of treatment, Fairlie made some powerful accusations. She had uncovered memories that allegedly suggested her father and many others had sexually abused her over a period of time during her childhood.

Moreover, Katrina also stated that her father had murdered a child. She went on to suggest she was the victim of a grooming ring.

The allegations left Katrina’s father Jim in a vulnerable state. His relationship with his wife was impacted, and the Police eventually got involved.

Katrina’s actions

But months later Fairlie withdrew her accusations, claiming that the false memories had been implanted by Dr. Yellowlees.

Following this, her father launched legal action, although his bid for £250,000 in compensation was rejected, with the judge in the case suggesting that Dr. Yellowlees had a duty of care to the patient, but not the patient’s family.

Many years later, and undeterred by her father’s lack of court success, Katrina Fairlie launched her own legal action. This was in 2005.

Katrina sought damages after suggesting that the staff had failed in their duty of care to her. She sought £500,000 in damages for the distress that was caused in the case.

The case progressed to court. However, instead of going ahead, at the eleventh hour, Katrina settled out of court with the NHS Tayside healthcare provider. The settlement was £20,000.

Katrina and her father Jim reconciled after the allegations had been withdrawn. They became very close again, and Jim was able to restart his political career. His son – also called Jim – was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2021.


The topic of memory causes significant contention, and has proven controversial over the last few decades.

There have been many other cases like this, but not many with clear-cut results. Fortunately, this case appeared to result well for those involved.



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