A public inquiry is to be held to investigate historical abuse of children in care in Scotland, the education secretary Angela Constance announced yesterday.
The Scottish Government has promised to meet demands made over many years by abuse survivors for an investigation into crimes committed against children in the past.
Allegations of historical abuse have been made by former pupils at the Roman Catholic Fort Augustus School on the banks of Loch Ness. Other claims have been made by those who used to attend Nazareth House in Aberdeen and Larchgrove boys’ home in Glasgow.
In a statement to parliament, the new education secretary said the investigation would take the form of a statutory public inquiry and would be given the power to compel witnesses to appear and give evidence.
The appointments, including the chair of the inquiry, will be made following consultation with abuse survivors. Those meetings will begin next month.
Ms Constance said: “This parliament must always be on the side of victims of abuse. We must have the truth of what happened to them and how those organisations and individuals, in whose care the children were entrusted, failed them so catastrophically.
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“To get to that truth, we will be establishing a national public inquiry into historical abuse of children in institutional care. And to ensure justice is done, I can tell this chamber that where crimes are exposed, the full force of the law will be available to bring perpetrators to account.”
Abuse survivors’ representatives said the inquiry was a step forward, but added there was still work to be done to determine how broad the inquiry will be. The survivors’ meetings in the New Year will examine issues such as whether the investigation will include claims involving the late Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn and the late QC Robert Henderson. This summer, Mr Henderson’s daughter Susie waived her right to anonymity to allege that she had been assaulted by her father and Sir Nicholas when she was a child.
Ms Constance said Scotland’s most senior prosecutor, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, had been consulted and that “measures will be put in place to ensure that the inquiry does not compromise or interfere with ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions”.
Labour MSP and former senior police officer Graeme Pearson, though, said delays in setting up an inquiry had allowed much paperwork to be destroyed.
The government said that more time would be taken to select the chair of the inquiry in order to avoid problems that have plagued a similar investigation south of the Border.
Home Secretary Theresa May suffered the embarrassment of Baroness Butler-Sloss standing down as inquiry chairwoman in July amid questions over the role played by her late brother, Lord Havers who was attorney general in the 1980s.
Her replacement, Fiona Woolf, the then Lord Mayor of London, resigned in October following a barrage of criticism over her “establishment links”.
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