Religious orders to give evidence at child abuse inquiry

A number of religious organisations including the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland will be called to give evidence by the national child abuse inquiry, it has been confirmed.
Lady Smith held a preliminary hearing in JanuaryLady Smith held a preliminary hearing in January
Lady Smith held a preliminary hearing in January

Led by judge Lady Smith, the inquiry will hear from expert witnesses, the Scottish Government and survivors’ groups when the first phase of hearings gets under way in May.

Evidence will also be taken from large care providers including Quarriers, Barnardo’s and the Aberlour Child Care Trust, as well as faith-based organisations.

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The inquiry published a list of ten such organisations, including CrossReach, previously known as the Church of Scotland Board of Social Responsibility and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church.

A number of religious orders, including the Sisters of Nazareth; the Christian Brothers and the Benedictines, were also named.

The inquiry said it would take evidence on the history and governance of faith-based organisations and whether “there is any retrospective acknowledgement of abuse”.

In a statement, the inquiry said: “The evidence given at hearings will supplement written statements taken from witnesses in advance and documents which have been recovered by the inquiry team during the course of investigations.

"The inquiry will continue to take statements from survivors in private sessions and from a range of other witnesses, and is undertaking investigations into a large number of institutions. All evidence gathered will be carefully considered and decisions will then be made on what evidence is to be presented at a hearing.”

The first of the public hearings will take place in Edinburgh on May 31.

At a preliminary hearing in January, Lady Smith said more than 60 institutions were being investigated by her inquiry team.

The list included prestigious boarding schools such as Gordonstoun, Fettes and Loretto and residential homes run by religious groups.

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Speaking at the time, Lady Smith said: “We are determined to get to the bottom of any systemic failures that occurred. This is to enable us to assess, for example, the adequacy of the management and governance of these places, the systems for the placement of children and the systems for oversight, regulation and supervision of them.

“We are investigating what reports of abuse were made, whether any such reports of abuse were known about in official circles, what was done about them and, if nothing was done, why not?”

Lady Smith said the number of survivors who had so far come forward had grown significantly since the inquiry reported last June that 170 people had been in touch.