Survivors want judge to lead crisis-hit child abuse inquiry

QC Susan O'Brien stepped down earlier this week. Picture: Contributed

QC Susan O'Brien stepped down earlier this week. Picture: Contributed

Share this article
5
Have your say

Survivors have called for a judge to be appointed to lead Scotland’s national child abuse inquiry following the resignation of its chair.

QC Susan O’Brien stood down on Monday 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, was funded by the Scottish Government to provide a three-month support service for those taking evidence from survivors of child abuse.

It has now emerged that Dr Fyvie, who reported her concerns about Ms O’Brien in May, is a former SNP candidate, who stood to become a councillor in North Lanarkshire in 2008.

Groups representing survivors of abuse are meeting education secretary John Swinney tomorrow and will push him to appoint a judge to replace Ms O’Brien.

The chair’s departure followed that of Professor Michael Lamb who quit the inquiry last week, describing it as “doomed”.

Both panel members complained of government interference and have expressed frustration that junior counsel could not be employed to take statements from survivors.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government had been unwilling to pay lawyers £100 an hour for the work, adding it needed to make sure public money was being used “effectively and wisely”.

Alan Draper, a spokesman for In-Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said: “We argued from the start for a judge-led inquiry; a remit which would include all agencies which had a duty of care and an inquiry which could make key recommendations on redress.

“They didn’t agree to any of those key points. They haven’t listened to us from the word go. We’re now months into this and how far have we got? About an inch.

“As far as we’re concerned, the mess is at the government’s door.”

Andi Lavery, of survivors’ group White Flowers Alba added: “The inquiry must be paused and re-done with a judge from Canada, for instance. It’s got to be impartial.”

Commenting on the role of Dr Fyvie, a spokeswoman for NHS Lothian said: “Dr Fyvie is a leading expert in her field and as such was selected to provide training and professional advice to the inquiry team. Having spent a large part of her career working directly with survivors of childhood abuse, she believed it was her professional responsibility to speak up in light of her concerns. Dr Fyvie followed the correct procedures in raising her concerns with the inquiry team and Scottish Government and has the full support of NHS Lothian.”

Back to the top of the page