Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry Publishes Sixth Case Study Findings
Inquiry establishment delay woeful and wholly avoidable
Lady Smith has today, Wednesday 29 September, published her findings into the Scottish Government’s response between August 2002 and December 2014 to Petition PE535, and other key issues raised by adult survivors of childhood abuse experienced in care in Scotland.
The petition was presented to the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament by abuse survivor Chris Daly. It had three key aims:
The Scottish Government should establish an inquiry into past institutional child abuse
An unreserved apology should be made on behalf of the state
The religious orders that had run institutions should be urged to also apologise unconditionally
Lady Smith concludes the delay of more than 13 years in setting up a public inquiry was woeful and wholly avoidable.
The findings also examine other key issues raised by adult survivors of childhood abuse experienced in care in Scotland arising after the petition was presented.
Lady Smith, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said: “For far too long survivors’ voices were not listened to, nor heard; they were treated as if their views did not matter and as if they were not worth listening to, just as when they were abused in care.
“The Scottish Government failed to grasp the fundamental importance that survivors appropriately and justifiably attached to their need for justice, accountability and redress.
“Justice is not a service, and those who call for it where it has been denied are not customers of a service that may or may not be available depending on the choice of the administration of the day. That key point was missed.
“Officials and legal advisors wielded significant power and influence. Ministers relied heavily on their advice and generally followed their recommendations.
“By following advice and by not questioning it when they should have done, key aims of the Daly petition were resisted for far too long.”
Public hearings took place between 17 November 2020 and 4 December 2020, during which time the Inquiry heard evidence from 12 witnesses including former and current Ministers as well as Scottish Government officials both remotely and in person. The written statements of four witnesses were also read in.
Lady Smith will take these findings into account when she analyses all the evidence gathered by the Inquiry and decides what recommendations to make in her final report.
Lady Smith added: “It was clear throughout that the justice survivors were calling for, and was of paramount importance to them, was the need for public acknowledgement of their experiences of being abused as children in institutional care, and the need to hold to account those who did not listen to them when they were children, those responsible for the abuse, and those who failed to prevent the abuse from happening.
“However, between 2002 and 2014, there was no appetite within Scottish Government, at official or ministerial level, for setting up a public inquiry.
“The delay was the result of a variety of factors including:
some confusion on the part of ministers and officials
diversion into areas that were not the subject of the Daly petition
officials urging ministers not to hold an inquiry
officials controlling the process up to the point of trying to prevent there being an inquiry
ministers following the advice of officials while not reading and trying to understand the Daly petition for themselves
both ministers and officials failing to listen to and engage with survivors
“Between 2002 and 2014 when the Scottish Government announced it was going to set up a public inquiry, a significant number of survivors of childhood abuse in care in Scotland died. For them, justice delayed was justice denied.”
The Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Act 2021 received Royal Assent in April. Redress Scotland, the public body which will make decisions on levels of financial redress awarded to survivors of historical child abuse in care has NO connection with the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has no input or influence over levels of financial redress.
About the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry
The overall aim and purpose of this Inquiry is to raise public awareness of the abuse of children in care, particularly during the period covered by the Inquiry. It will provide an opportunity for public acknowledgement of the suffering of those children and a forum for validation of their experience and testimony.
Its Terms of Reference are set out below.
To investigate the nature and extent of abuse of children whilst in care in Scotland, during the relevant time frame.
To consider the extent to which institutions and bodies with legal responsibility for the care of children failed in their duty to protect children in care in Scotland (or children whose care was arranged in Scotland) from abuse, regardless of where that abuse occurred, and in particular to identify any systemic failures in fulfilling that duty.
To create a national public record and commentary on abuse of children in care in Scotland during the relevant time frame.
To examine how abuse affected and still affects these victims in the long term, and how in turn it affects their families.
The Inquiry is to cover that period which is within living memory of any person who suffered such abuse, up until such date as the Chair may determine, and in any event not beyond 17 December 2014.
To consider the extent to which failures by state or non-state institutions (including the courts) to protect children in care in Scotland from abuse have been addressed by changes to practice, policy or legislation, up until such date as the Chair may determine.
To consider whether further changes in practice, policy or legislation are necessary in order to protect children in care in Scotland from such abuse in future.
To report to the Scottish Ministers on the above matters, and to make recommendations, as soon as reasonably practicable.
‘Child’ means a person under the age of 18.
For the purpose of this Inquiry, “Children in Care” includes children in institutional residential care such as children’s homes (including residential care provided by faith based groups); secure care units including List D schools; Borstals; Young Offenders’ Institutions; places provided for Boarded Out children in the Highlands and Islands; state, private and independent Boarding Schools, including state funded school hostels; healthcare establishments providing long term care; and any similar establishments intended to provide children with long term residential care. The term also includes children in foster care.
The term does not include: children living with their natural families; children living with members of their natural families, children living with adoptive families, children using sports and leisure clubs or attending faith based organisations on a day to day basis; hospitals and similar treatment centres attended on a short term basis; nursery and day-care; short term respite care for vulnerable children; schools, whether public or private, which did not have boarding facilities; police cells and similar holding centres which were intended to provide care temporarily or for the short term; or 16 and 17 year old children in the armed forces and accommodated by the relevant service.
“Abuse” for the purpose of this Inquiry is to be taken to mean primarily physical abuse and sexual abuse, with associated psychological and emotional abuse. The Inquiry will be entitled to consider other forms of abuse at its discretion, including medical experimentation, spiritual abuse, unacceptable practices (such as deprivation of contact with siblings) and neglect, but these matters do not require to be examined individually or in isolation.”