Fears over Holyrood child abuse inquiry direction

SURVIVORS have claimed a Scottish Government inquiry into historical child abuse cases appears to be moving away from holding to account those who were responsible for crimes against them.

Incas have reservations over the Scottish Government's inquiry. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

An organisation representing more than 300 survivors is deeply concerned at the way SNP ministers are setting up the long-awaited investigation into abuse carried out in residential homes, schools and religious institutions.

In Care Abuse Survivors Scotland (Incas) believes the approach being taken by the Scottish Government will lead to abusers escaping blame.

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In particular, survivors point to a document produced by the government which talks about the importance of protecting the human rights of all involved whether they are victims or staff in institutions. It says: “To support this approach, and with everyone’s human rights as a priority, we propose the inquiry is about establishing the truth rather than attributing blame.”

The idea the investigation should shy away from attributing blame has infuriated Incas. Its lawyers have argued that the path being followed by the SNP administration is incompatible with the Inquiries Act 2005, the legislation governing statutory inquiries.

Simon Collins, lawyer for Incas, warned the inquiry would be a “sham” if it did not address who was responsible for abuse carried out over the years.

He said: “For the survivors of abuse, there is no doubt about what happened and there is no need for an inquiry to establish that they were abused.

“What is more significant is that lessons are learned, blameworthy practices acknowledged and avoided in the future and, where appropriate, abusers brought to justice.

“The right to protection of reputation is not a screen for an abuser to hide behind and the inquiry should not shirk from blaming those who deserve to be blamed.”

Mr Collins said section 2(2) of the Inquiries Act 2005 said investigations should “not be inhibited” by “any likelihood of liability” .

The government’s intention to hold an inquiry into the historical abuse of children was announced by education secretary Angela Constance at the end of last year.

Allegations of historical abuse have been made by former pupils of the Roman Catholic Fort Augustus School on the banks of Loch Ness. Other claims have been made against Nazareth House in Aberdeen and Larchgrove boys’ home in Glasgow.

A government spokeswoman said Ms Constance was “absolutely clear where crimes are exposed, the full force of the law will be available to bring perpetrators to account and that the Lord Advocate has been consulted to ensure the inquiry does not compromise or interfere with on-going criminal investigations and prosecutions.”