Expert resigns from ‘doomed’ Scots historical child abuse inquiry

Professor Lamb wrote an open letter to education secretary John Swinney. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Professor Lamb wrote an open letter to education secretary John Swinney. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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An independent expert has resigned from his position on Scotland’s child abuse inquiry claiming it is “doomed” due to Scottish Government interference.

Professor Michael Lamb, a professor of psychology at Cambridge University, said the inquiry’s fact-finding was being “constrained” and “micro-managed” by ministers.

QC Susan O’Brien is leading Scotland’s inquiry into the historical abuse of children in care, which is expected to last four years.

Professor Lamb joined Ms O’Brien at a launch event in March during which the QC told abuse survivors the inquiry would “shine a light into the dark corners of the past”.

But in an open letter to education secretary John Swinney, Mr Lamb said he had grown frustrated that the Scottish Government was continuing to interfere “in ways large and small, directly and indirectly”.

He said: “Continuing interference threatens to prevent the Inquiry from investigating thoroughly and taking robust evidence of the highest quality.

“To be worthwhile, the inquiry must ask fearlessly about what happened to children in care, who and what institutions failed in their duties of care at the time and subsequently, how the affected individuals can ‘be made whole,’and how we can ensure that such unconscionable events never happen again.

“Crucially, its fact-finding should not be constrained or micro-managed by one of the bodies whose actions or failures to act may ultimately be criticised.”

Mr Lamb, who headed a research unit at the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Washington DC for 17 years, said “repeated threats” to the inquiry’s independence had undermined its work and left it “doomed before the first witness has been heard”.

He said the government had delayed or prevented the appointment of members of staff and said the inquiry had to wait for prolonged periods before making key decisions.

The inquiry is looking into the treatment of children by institutions – including churches and independent boarding schools – going back decades.

Alan Draper, a spokesman for In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said Mr Lamb’s resignation was a “devastating indictment” of the government.

He added: “This will have a major detrimental effect on the confidence of survivors. Mr Swinney must make an urgent statement to parliament.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We entirely reject Prof Lamb’s comments about the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Government has a clear obligation to fulfil its responsibilities within the requirements of The Inquiries Act 2005 and other relevant legislation. Our primary focus remains on supporting the successful operation of the independent statutory Inquiry.

“Ministers are grateful to Prof Lamb for his work.”

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