The Inquiry can be contacted:

  • by post at PO Box 24085, Edinburgh, EH7 9EA
  • by email for general inquiries at information@childabuseinquiry.scot
  • by email to discuss giving evidence at talktous@childabuseinquiry.scot
  • by phone on Freephone 0800 0929300
    • Phone line available: Monday 10:00 to 16:00    Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 08:30 to 18:30    Friday 10:00 to 16:00

The Inquiry also keeps its website up to date with news and information about its progress and rules. The website address is www.childabuseinquiry.scot

The Inquiry asks anyone with relevant information to contact the Inquiry. Witnesses can be a wide range of people.  They can be people who want to tell us about abuse they or a family member experienced while a child in care.  They may want to tell us about positive experiences in care.  They may be witnesses to abuse, care providers, social workers, supervisors and managers. 

We take witness statements from witnesses at what we call at “private sessions” or interviews. We also obtain other forms of evidence including records and documents.

Inquiry hearings start on 31 May. For information about procedure before and during hearings see the Practice Guideline on pre-hearing procedures and the Practice Guideline on hearings.

Role of the Inquiry

The Inquiry has been set up to investigate the abuse of children in care in Scotland or where the care was arranged in Scotland.

The details of what the Inquiry is investigating are set out in our Terms of Reference here. They include the nature and extent of abuse of children in care in Scotland, the failures of those with legal responsibility to protect children in care from abuse, whether the failures have been addressed already and whether further changes are needed.

The Terms of Reference were set by Scottish Ministers before the Inquiry started, and revised slightly in November 2016. The Inquiry has no power to investigate and/or report on anything that is not within its Terms of Reference.

The remit of the Inquiry means those matters that the Inquiry must look into. The Inquiry cannot consider any matters which are not within its remit. Its remit is set out in the Terms of Reference, which can be found here.

The Terms of Reference set out the matters the Inquiry must consider. The Inquiry cannot look at anything outside its Terms of Reference. The Terms set out the Inquiry’s timescale and give it the power to make recommendations. The Terms of Reference were decided by the Scottish Ministers before the Inquiry started work.

You can find the Terms of Reference here

Setting, or changing, the Terms of Reference is a matter for the Scottish Ministers.

The change which was announced in November 2016 clarified that the Inquiry could consider abuse of children who were ‘in care’ when they were abused, even if they were not actually in the place they were cared for when the abuse took place. This could mean in practice considering the abuse of a child in care who was abused when at a weekly community-based club.

The Inquiry's Terms of Reference can be found here.

A statutory inquiry is a public inquiry set up by Scottish Ministers under specific inquiries legislation (also known as “statutes”).

The inquiries legislation sets out what an inquiry can and cannot do, and sets down some details of how it should operate. An inquiry has the power to force people and organisations to provide evidence. An inquiry should normally hold its hearings in public where possible, but may hold private hearings. The report of an inquiry must be presented to the Scottish Parliament.

The Inquiry covers events within living memory up until 17 December 2014.

“Care” is defined in our Terms of Reference. It means residential care or foster care. The term doesn’t include children who were living with their families or other relatives.

“Abuse” is defined in detail in our Terms of Reference. It most often means sexual or physical abuse, but may include other forms of abuse such as emotional abuse, neglect and medical experimentation.

The Inquiry has the power to investigate and report on the matters set out in its Terms of Reference. We do this by obtaining and hearing evidence, making a public record of all our findings and by making recommendations.

The Inquiry cannot award compensation to anyone.

The Inquiry will carry out its role, which is to “raise public awareness” of child abuse, “provide an opportunity for public acknowledgement of the suffering” and to provide “a forum for validation”. These phrases come from the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference.

 The Inquiry cannot do more than its Terms of Reference. Other forms of justice, including awarding compensation, cannot be delivered by the Inquiry.

Please contact the Inquiry if you feel you have evidence to provide. If the Inquiry needs to take your evidence, arrangements will be made to take your evidence in a private session. More information can be provided to you by the Inquiry’s Witness Support team on the process of taking and using your evidence.

You can find out how to get in touch with the Inquiry on the Contact Us page of this website.

No, it does not matter whether the person who abused you is alive or dead. You can still give evidence to the Inquiry if your experiences are within our Terms of Reference.

You may be able to, particularly if the person who was abused is no longer alive or able to give evidence. Please contact the Inquiry to discuss your situation.

The Inquiry has decided not to have an advisory panel. The Inquiry will instruct professional experts to provide reports and advice on some areas of its work but no decisions have yet been taken about this.

The Inquiry must, according to the Terms of Reference, look at the failures by institutions and bodies which had legal responsibility for the care of children within living memory up to 17 December 2014. The Inquiry must also consider whether the failures have already been addressed by changes made to practice, policy and legislation.

These are any organisations which were responsible in law for the care of children in Scotland. They include care provider bodies (such as some religious organisations, trusts, charities and local authorities) and public bodies which supervised and inspected the care providers (such as local authorities, central government and health boards).

The Inquiry report will be the record and commentary of the Inquiry. The report will refer to the evidence the Inquiry has heard about abuse of children in care. The report will be published at the end of the Inquiry process.

The Inquiry cannot find a person guilty of a crime or award compensation. If you want to claim damages you have to go to court. So far as criminal proceedings are concerned, they are brought by Scotland’s prosecution authorities.

But, the Inquiry can make findings about relevant facts. Those findings may indicate that someone was at fault or committed a crime.

Yes because there is much we can and have learned from other inquiries, reviews and reports, both past and present. These include relevant ongoing inquiries in England and Wales, and Australia, and inquires in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Jersey which are now complete or nearing completion.

The Inquiry provides regular updates on its progress and rules on its website. www.childabuseinquiry.scot. If you do not have access to a computer, please contact the Inquiry by phone or post and information can be sent to you or provided over the phone.

The Inquiry started its work on 1 October 2015. 

The Inquiry will report no sooner than October 2019. 

The four year period has been set by Scottish Ministers in the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. The Inquiry expects that there will be, over time, a large number of people who want to give evidence to the Inquiry. Time is required to hear and consider all relevant evidence to the Inquiry.

The Scottish Ministers would have to give permission to the Inquiry.

At its end. Before then the Inquiry needs to hear and consider all relevant evidence and write its report. The Inquiry may also publish interim reports if appropriate.

The Inquiry must make recommendations. It is tasked to do so in the Terms of Reference.

The work of the Inquiry

The Inquiry works in as open and transparent a way as possible. Detailed rules (known as Protocols) and guidance about how it operates are available here or by post from the Inquiry.

The Inquiry would like to hear from you. You can get in touch by post, email or phone.

Contact Us

The Inquiry asks all those who suffered abuse and other witnesses to contact the Inquiry. Private sessions are held with witnesses and witness statements prepared with the evidence provided at those sessions.

The Inquiry is also obtaining other forms of evidence, including historical records, documents and reports.

Hearings start on 31 May 2017.   For information about the procedures before and during hearings see the Practice Guideline on pre-hearing procedures and the Practice Guideline on hearings.

This is very hard to estimate at this stage of the Inquiry. The Inquiry has already started collecting documents. The Inquiry is putting in place a special Document and Evidence Management System to store and organise all documents received by the Inquiry.

If you think you have documents of interest to the Inquiry, please let us know. You can contact us about this by email at information@childabuseinquiry.scot. We will discuss with you what documents you have and whether we need to see them.

Not everyone who has experienced abuse as a child will fall within the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. If a person wants to give evidence to the Inquiry the person will be asked for some more information about their experiences. The Inquiry team will then decide if the person’s evidence falls within the matters the Inquiry can consider. If it does, a private session will be arranged with the person. If it does not, the Inquiry Witness Support team will advise the person.

The Inquiry may do this. No decisions have yet been taken about this.

This is very hard to estimate. We won’t know the full number until the end of the Inquiry. We have a document team in place and a special management system to securely store and analyse all the information we obtain.

The Inquiry will consider all the relevant evidence it receives. The evidence will be used when the Inquiry prepares its report, including its recommendations.

All witness statements to the Inquiry will be published. All evidence heard at the Inquiry’s public hearings will be added to the Inquiry’s website as the hearings take place. The Inquiry report will also be published. Some particular pieces of evidence may be blacked out (known as “redacted”). This will include the names of any survivors of abuse.

Minutes of internal Inquiry meetings and discussions are not published.

It doesn’t matter what legal proceedings or investigations a witness has been involved in before.   If you have evidence to give about abuse, we would like to hear from you.

We hope all witnesses will co-operate with the Inquiry, but the Chair of the Inquiry can, if it proves necessary, order a person or organisation to give evidence to us. This could be done, for example, by attending to do so, or by providing a written statement. Failure to comply with such an order may be a criminal offence.

We have to share with the police the identity of anyone who we are told has abused children. We share with the police any information we receive which suggests that anyone is at risk of harm or that there is a risk to their life. For more information on when we report information to the police see our Protocol on Anonymity.

Most witnesses will not require legal representation to participate in the Inquiry. The Inquiry considers that a lawyer is not necessary for a private session.

Anyone participating in the Inquiry, including witnesses, can decide to instruct a lawyer at their own expense if they want to.

The Inquiry cannot provide legal representation or help a witness to choose or instruct a lawyer. We may be able to point a witness in the direction of other organisations that provide information on how to do this.

Yes. The Inquiry has a specially trained Witness Support team who will provide advice and assistance through all stages of the Inquiry. The Witness Support team can be contacted on 0800 0939 200. The Inquiry has regular access to the advice of clinical psychologists, and other professionals with expertise in trauma.

The Inquiry Chair decides who is a core participant. They are likely to be people and organisations with a significant role in all or part of the matters being considered by the Inquiry. 

There are detailed rules (called a Protocol) on core participant status and an application form for anyone who wants to apply to be one. These are available on the Inquiry website or by post from the Inquiry.

Yes. Core participants can have lawyers representing them at the Inquiry. This doesn’t mean the Inquiry will always pay for the lawyers. Core participants and others can apply for an award for funding of legal representation. There are detailed rules (called a Protocol) and application form about this. These are available on the Inquiry website or by post from the Inquiry.

Core participants and others can apply for an award for funding for legal representation. There are detailed rules (called a Protocol) and application form about this. These are available on the Inquiry website or by post from the Inquiry. 

Inquiry Public Hearings

The hearings venue is on the 3rd floor of Rosebery House, Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5EZ. There is more practical information about how to get there, and facilities in the venue, in the Factsheet on Inquiry hearings.

In most cases the public will be able to come to our public hearings. Sometimes the Chair of the Inquiry will decide to hold a hearing in private. For more information see our Practice Guideline on Hearings

There are some limits to the power of the Chair of the Inquiry to force a person to give evidence or hand over documents. For example, a lawyer can’t be forced to tell the Inquiry about advice given to clients.

The Inquiry Chair has the power to force any person to give evidence. She does not, however, expect that she will require to do so. She expects that anyone asked to give evidence will do so voluntarily.

There are no plans for this at present. Any media organisation wishing to do so will require to make a specific application and if the Chair is considering granting it, she will not do so without first consulting those likely to be participating at the time of any filming.

Yes. Please contact our media team at 3x1 to obtain accreditation. Contact details for 3x1 are shown at the bottom of this website.

The Inquiry Team

The Inquiry Chair is the Right Hon. Lady Smith. The Inquiry has a legal team (including advocates and solicitors) who identify witnesses and bring together evidence for the Chair to consider. The Inquiry’s Secretariat ensures the day-to-day running of the Inquiry and includes the witness support team.

The Inquiry Chair is the Rt Hon Lady Smith. Lady Smith will hear evidence at public hearings, and write the Inquiry report.

The Inquiry Chair has the legal power to appoint assessors who would assist the Inquiry. No assessors have been appointed to date

The Inquiry has administrative offices in Edinburgh. 

The Scottish Ministers appointed the Inquiry Chair. 

The Scottish Ministers selected the Chair. 

The Inquiry cannot answer this question as the recruitment process was operated by the Scottish Government.

The Inquiry cannot answer this question as the selection decision for panel members was made by Scottish Ministers.

For the current list of core participants see the core participant page of our website.

Inquiry Cost

It is too early to provide an estimate of the overall cost of the Inquiry.

By law the Inquiry Chair must avoid unnecessary cost in the conduct of the Inquiry.

The Inquiry will be publishing costs quarterly.

By law the Inquiry Chair must avoid unnecessary cost in the conduct of the Inquiry.

The Inquiry is funded by the Scottish Government but operates, like any other public inquiry, independently of Government.

The Inquiry is not a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2001. As a result, the Act does not apply to the Inquiry, and requests for information under that Act cannot be considered by the Inquiry.


Information and Support Services

Survivor Scotland has a directory of help and support services available locally and nationally. It is available at www.survivorscotland.org.uk/help-and-support

The Scottish Government is establishing a Survivor Support Fund Service. Further information about the Scottish Government’s proposals for the service can be found at www.survivorscotland.org.uk/current-future-priorities/in-care-survivors-support-fund-service

The National Confidential Forum provides acknowledgement of the experiences of people who were in institutional care as children in Scotland. More information is available at www.nationalconfidentialforum.org.uk