Child abuse of ‘utmost depravity’ at institutions

Lady Smith, chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Picture: Nick Mailer
Lady Smith, chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Picture: Nick Mailer
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Some children at homes run by a religious order were subjected to sexual abuse of the “utmost depravity”, an inquiry has found.

Residential institutions run by the Sisters of Nazareth (SoN) were “places of fear, hostility and confusion” for many children, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry said.

The inquiry published its findings into residential institutions run by SoN between 1933 and 1984 yesterday, concluding that children suffered abuse and sexual abuse there.

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During the hearings, one survivor told the inquiry that she was raped by a priest and repeatedly abused by a nun at the Nazareth House home in Kilmarnock while another witness said that a girl jumped from a building to her death after getting “battered” by a nun.

Lady Smith, chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said: “The Nazareth Houses in Scotland were, for many children, places of fear, hostility and confusion, places where children were physically abused and emotionally degraded with impunity.

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“There was sexual abuse of children which, in some instances, reached levels of the utmost depravity.

“It was suggested in evidence that applicants may have colluded to present fictitious accounts about their time in their care, fuelled by resentment towards their families and an appetite for compensation. I reject all such suggestions.”

The inquiry considered evidence about the nature and extent of any abuse of children in care at institutions run by the SoN in Scotland, with a particular focus on Nazareth Houses in Aberdeen, Cardonald, Lasswade and Kilmarnock.

The inquiry found that the physical abuse children endured included being hit with implements such as belts, canes, sticks, broom handles, hairbrushes, shoes and wooden crucifixes while some had carbolic soap stuffed into their mouths and had their heads banged together.

An SoN spokesman said: “The congregation has and continues to co-operate with all inquiries into the historical abuse of children, including in Scotland.

“We no longer run any residential services for children in the UK.”

The aim of the inquiry is to consider the extent to which institutions and bodies with legal responsibility for the care of children failed in their duty.