TWO religious groups have launched a legal challenge to block the appointment of a respected QC to chair Scotland’s national inquiry into child abuse.
The Congregation of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth and the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul have raised judicial review proceedings against Scottish Government ministers.
The move is designed to challenge a decision to appoint Susan O’Brien as the chair of Scotland’s child abuse inquiry, which is due to get under way later in the year.
A hearing is expected to take place today at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The Scottish Government said it would defend its position “robustly”.
In an e-mail to abuse survivors, Scottish Government official Ellen MacKinnon wrote: “I am writing to make you aware that the Congregation of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth and the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul have raised judicial review proceedings.
“I was not sure if you would be aware of these proceedings and did not want this to come as a surprise to you. Please be reassured that the Scottish ministers are defending this challenge.”
The Poor Sisters ran a number of children’s homes across Scotland and the UK which have been at the centre of abuse allegations. They have links with the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul, which has also been subject of abuse allegations.
Ms O’Brien led a 2003 inquiry into failings that led to the death of baby Caleb Ness and produced a report resulting in the reorganisation of Edinburgh’s social work department.
She is expected to begin her work on 1 July, with the inquiry due to begin in October.
Ms O’Brien will be charged with looking into the treatment of children by institutions – including churches and independent boarding schools – going back decades.
The Scottish Government yesterday began consultation over removing a three-year time bar which prevents civil actions being brought against abusers, allowing claims for damages in cases which took place after 1964.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ms O’Brien’s appointment has been received positively by many people, including survivors. She is an experienced advocate whose considerable knowledge and expertise was an important consideration in making this appointment.
“We are confident that her appointment is sound and that she will lead a fair, thorough and honest inquiry.”