Phase 2 of the public hearings at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry drew to a close last week and the Chair, Lady Smith, took the opportunity to review what it had achieved to date and to outline the next steps of the inquiry’s work.
The inquiry presently has investigations into 69 institutions ongoing but her closing address confirmed that it is in the course of and will be investigating ‘a significant number of other institutions’. The details will follow shortly.
The timeframe of the inquiry has been extended indefinitely in order to allow more survivors to come forward and give evidence.
Lady Smith has also recently sought the agreement of the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, to extend the period of time in which she is to report to Scottish Ministers. The deadline has now been extended from the end of 2019 to as soon as ‘reasonably practicable’ acknowledging that it would not be possible to meet the original date.
It is anticipated that Lady Smith will publish the first of a series of interim reports in the near future. This will look at institutions run by the Daughters of Charity.
The inquiry will resume in October 2018 and the next case studies will be in relation to the provision of residential care by three non-religious voluntary organisations; Quarriers Homes, Aberlour Childcare Trust and Barnardos. Thereafter, there will be a case study looking at the provision of care by male religious orders and a further study reviewing the arrangements for children to be cared for outside of Scotland under child migrant schemes. The unfinished parts of the phase 1 hearings will also be returned to.
It has been reported that the survivor campaign group In-Care Abuse Survivors (Incas) has called on the inquiry to investigate Lennox Castle Hospital near Glasgow. Allegedly, during the Cold War children and vulnerable adults were experimented on there without consent. The experiments were said to be run by Porton Down research laboratory. However, the Ministry of Defence is apparently ‘not aware’ of such tests or the existence of any evidence in support of the allegations. It remains to be seen whether it will be included within the new investigations.
Any suggestion that the Scottish Inquiry was nearing conclusion seems wide of the mark. A further initiative designed to encourage greater participation includes a television advertising campaign that is due to run later in 2018.
England & Wales
Meanwhile in London at IICSA, the inquiry’s first public hearings into allegations of child sexual abuse of children in custodial institutions have started. They will run from 9-20 July.
This investigation will examine the prevalence and culture of child sexual abuse in custody as well as the institutional responses to those allegations. It will also question what the current safeguarding and child protection policies in institutions responsible for detaining children are, as well as any inspection and regulatory regimes.
The specific institutions to be considered are HM’s Young Offender Institutions at Feltham and Werrington, Medway and Rainsbrook Secure Training Centres; Vinney Green Secure Unit; and Aycliffe Secure Centre.
Authored by BLM associate, Sarah Firth