THE Rev. Morris McKenzie, the minister of South Ronaldsay involved in

the Orkney child abuse controversy, received support from the General

Assembly yesterday in efforts to clear his name.

The Assembly approved an overture by Orkney Presbytery which

instructed the church and nation committee to consider the question of

human rights raised by his case with a view to seeking to establish

procedures ''where due redress may be available to innocent parties in

such circumstances''.

The Assembly recognised in the overture that very serious allegations

without proof had been made publicly in the media and in judicial

proceedings and the inquiry in conditions which precluded any legal

remedy to Mr McKenzie.

The Rev. Marjory MacLean, Stromness, said in the Orkney case the

law-enforcing agencies had treated other people as if Mr McKenzie were a


He had never been able to face his accusers under criminal procedure

and had been left defenceless and without a remedy.

''Our legal system has been shown to have a terrible point of

weakness, that in child-care cases like this an individual may not be

able to insist that allegations are dealt with properly as they would be

in the course of a normal criminal proceeding''.

Miss MacLean said it was intended that the church and nation committee

should make an investigation with this disastrous case as its

starting-point and ''to make representations to those whose task it is

to develop and reform our country's laws''.

The Rev. Andrew McLellan, convener, said the committee might not be

able to solve ''this legal tragic loophole'' but would do its best.

Mr McKenzie, who is a commissioner to the Assembly, said later the

Assembly's decision was some encouragement, but he added: ''I wish I had

had something like this earlier.''

He wanted an inquiry at public expense to clear his name.

* Orkney Islands Council yesterday announced the appointment of an

acting social work director following the suspension of Mr Paul Lee over

his handling of allegations of child sex abuse in South Ronaldsay.

Dr Avril Osborne will take charge of a social work department, which

has been at the centre of controversy for more than two years, until

disciplinary action has been completed against Mr Lee.

As assistant director of social work in Highland Region, 46-year-old

Dr Osborne is currently half way through a three-year secondment to the

Scottish Office social work services inspectorate.

Orkney's chief executive, Ron Gilbert, said yesterday that the

authority had been advised to approach Dr Osborne after Mr Lee's

suspension on full pay last week. But he refused to elaborate on where

the advice had come from.