John Swinney attacked for not expanding child abuse probe

The Scottish Government was last night accused of failing survivors of historical child abuse after Education Secretary John Swinney rejected their calls to expand the current inquiry to include youth groups and day schools.

John Swinney has rejected calls to expand the child abuse inquiry to include youth groups and day schools

Survivors said the government was ignoring the criminal behaviour of some institutions by refusing to increase the investigation’s scope to non-residential settings.

INCAS (In Care Survivors) had argued that extending the inquiry to local parishes, day schools and youth organisations would help uncover crimes committed by those involved with the Catholic Church and other groups.

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However, in a statement to Holyrood, Mr Swinney said the inquiry’s terms of reference would be amended to make clear it would include the abuse of children in care wherever that occurred, but it would not be extended to include all allegations of abuse in non-residential settings.

He suggested expanding the remit would mean the inquiry would take “many more years to conclude”.

However, the Deputy First Minister published legislation to get rid of the time bar, which currently requires those who want to raise a personal injury action for damages to do so within three years of the date on which the injuries were sustained.

But there was bad news for those seeking compensation for abuse carried out before 1964. The law of prescription extinguishes compensation claims of those abused before September 1964. Mr Swinney said there were “significant legal issues” making it impossible to overcome.

“I regret there is no legislative solution that can be found for pre-1964 survivors,” Mr Swinney told MSPs.

Mr Swinney said the inquiry would look at allegations made by those who were in a care setting where institutions had legal responsibility for the long-term care of children.

But he added: “That is different to the position in ‘non in-care settings’, such as day schools and youth groups, where others had a duty of care on a short-term basis but crucially were not in any way replacing the role of parents.

“Criminal behaviour should be referred to the police and I hope, where the evidence exists, this will be energetically pursued.”

Mr Swinney said some survivors had asked him to extend the inquiry’s remit, but other groups had said they “did not wish to see an extension that could prolong the timescale”.

Mr Swinney also announced a consultation with abuse survivors and others about possible financial redress, but his critics were angered the issue of compensation was delayed.

Alan Draper, parliamentary liaison officer for INCAS, said: “John Swinney himself had delayed the work of the inquiry, by his prevarication.

“We welcome the introduction of the Limitation Bill and a commitment to try to speed the process of the bill through parliament, but this is just the beginning … We do not need a wider consultation, we need to sit down as a working group to thrash out what is required.”

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the decision not to widen the scope of the inquiry appeared to be a “serious mistake”.

He said: “We welcome the minor clarification of the inquiry’s remit, however it does mean the vast majority of survivors of abuse will still be excluded from the scope of this inquiry, which will leave those survivors and their representatives frustrated.”