Police Scotland has revealed it has at least 5,000 files detailing child abuse alleged to have been carried out in care institutions or by prominent people since 1964.
The figure came to light in a Police Scotland document warning the cost of the Scottish Government’s historical abuse inquiry could rise.
A document produced by Police Scotland for MSPs suggests the cost of removing the time limit for victims of childhood abuse to seek civil damages in court may have been underestimated.
Police Scotland issued the warning in response to the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Scotland Bill, which intends to remove the current three-year time bar, or limitation, for bringing a civil court claim for damages in some cases of childhood abuse.
Financial documents published alongside the bill, which is being examined by MSPs on Holyrood’s Justice committee, estimate the change in the law would result in about 2,200 claims in the courts initially – at a cost of £1,017,400.
In a written submission to the committee, Police Scotland reiterated its support for the Bill but added it estimated the force held at least 5,000 files dating back to 1964 relating to reports of child abuse and neglect “within an institution or care setting or involving a person of public prominence”.
The force said: “As such, Police Scotland is of the opinion that the reference point is a conservative estimate and the impact on the Scottish courts may be more significant that suggested in the financial memorandum. Police Scotland would suggest that there is opportunity to further scope the bill’s financial impact.”
The submission said the legislation was likely to have “significant resource (human and financial) implications” for the force and a “far-reaching impact” on individuals, groups and organisations.
The concern was echoed by the Association of British Insurers, which said the 2,200 claims estimate “fails to take into account the potential effect of the bill in encouraging more cases to be brought or of previously heard cases to be resurrected.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Having listened to the views of survivors, we are legislating to remove the time bar preventing civil action to be taken after the limitation period has expired.
“Cases would only proceed to court on the basis of robust and compelling evidence.
“We will carefully consider all of the submissions to the committee.”