Child abuse victims demand destroyed files probe

Survivors of abuse have found it difficult to identify and locate information. Picture: Alamy
Survivors of abuse have found it difficult to identify and locate information. Picture: Alamy
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CHILD abuse campaigners have called for an investigation into the systematic destruction of records going back decades.

MSPs have joined victims in calling for the issue to be investigated as part of a wider public inquiry into historic physical and sexual abuse within the care system.

A report produced for the Scottish Government in 2007 by Tom Shaw, a former chief inspector of education in Northern Ireland, found widespread evidence of poor data management and records being destroyed.

The study, which dealt with the period from 1950 to 1995, said the law had been ineffective at making sure records were kept and made accessible, making it “extremely difficult” for former residents to identify and locate significant information.

Since then little progress has been made, making it difficult for survivors of abuse to get accountability.

Now there are calls for the destruction of records to be re-examined as part of a public inquiry which has growing support among MSPs.

Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson, a former police officer who brought forward a members’ debate on the issue recently, said there was frustration that much of the 2007 report had not been followed up. “The survivors want to understand what went on behind the scenes of all of this,” he said.

Labour MSP Neil Bibby said the report’s finding that senior people had destroyed records was “scandalous”.

“The Labour Party is calling for a full public inquiry and part of that needs to look at the issue of records.”

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has produced an action plan for what needs to be done to address the issue of historic abuse.

The group’s chair, Professor Alan Miller, said: “Ensuring accountability can help establish a national record and ensure that children in care today are as safe as possible. One element of that involves ensuring that record-keeping systems and practices are robust and appropriate.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This government has invested £6.2 million since 2007, through the Survivor­ Scotland Strategy, to raise awareness, provide training and fund specialist support to ensure survivors can get the help they need.

“We’ve created a law to set up a National Confidential Forum, due to launch this year, which will allow former care residents to have their voices heard and be directed towards the vital support they need. The forum will publish independent reports which will contribute to the important record of survivors experiences and inform future practice in care.”