Loss of child abuse inquiry chief was a ‘stitch-up’

Susan OBrien QC resigned earlier this month. Picture: Contributed
Susan OBrien QC resigned earlier this month. Picture: Contributed
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Survivors have described the departure of the woman tasked with leading Scotland’s child abuse inquiry as a “stitch-up”.

Susan O’Brien QC resigned earlier this month after the Scottish Government began moves to have her removed for her post.

In a letter to Deputy First Minister John Swinney, one of the largest groups representing survivors has called for her resignation to be investigated by a parliamentary committee.

In-Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), which has recently been given official “core participant” status by the inquiry, said it was concerned pressure had been put on Ms O’Brien by government officials.

A respected QC with experience of defending abuse victims in court, Ms O’Brien stood down after the Scottish Government began moves to have her removed for comments described as “totally unacceptable” by a clinical psychologist who was working with the inquiry team.

Dr Claire Fyvie, head of the Rivers Centre for Traumatic Stress at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and a former SNP local government candidate, was funded by the Scottish Government to provide a three-month support service for those taking evidence from survivors of child abuse.

In her resignation letter, Ms O’Brien said she had done “nothing wrong” and had been “actively undermined” by government officials.

In a letter to Mr Swinney, Alan Draper, parliamentary liaison officer for Incas, said survivors had concerns about Ms O’Brien’s departure which had yet to be allayed.

He said: “We wanted to know why we had not been consulted about [Ms O’Brien’s] comments, which nobody felt justified the action taken. We feel that it looks like a stitch-up.”

He added: “We also indicated that the action taken by government had undermined survivor confidence. It is fair to state, however, that we have trust and confidence in the inquiry team.

“We feel that you [Mr Swinney] have a lot of questions to answer about the dismissal of Susan O’Brien.”

Figures released last week show that £1.8 million has already been spent in the first few months of the inquiry, which is expected to last for four years.

More than 170 survivors of childhood abuse have already been contacted by the inquiry.