Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry: update and review

It was announced last week that the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) will hear evidence from two convicted abusers. This evidence will be heard via video link from prison during mid-June and early July. It will form part of the current Phase 4 of SCAI’s public hearings into residential care establishments run by male religious orders. The two men involved were sentenced to five and 10 years in jail in 2016 for assaulting pupils at a school in the late 1970s and 1980s.

This is a novel approach by SCAI.  It is our understanding that this has not been done before at either the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England & Wales or the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland, which formally closed in July 2017.  Whilst IICSA received evidence from Peter Ball (Anglican investigation), who had been convicted of abuse, his evidence was presented in writing.

SCAI has, though, taken evidence by video link before. On 21 and 23 January and 25 March, all 2019, it heard evidence by video link from Australia from three witnesses whose evidence is relevant to the child migration case study.

SCAI began work on 1 October 2015. It was due to report to Scottish Ministers by the end of October 2019 but is now to do so “as soon as reasonably practicable” after then.

Between 31 May 2017 and 7 June 2019, SCAI has heard evidence and submissions in public session on 131 days.

SCAI’s overall aim is to raise public awareness of the abuse of children (under 18) in care for the period ‘within living memory’ of any person who suffered such abuse to no later than 17 December 2014. The restriction to abuse ‘in care’ does not apply to IICSA’s work.

SCAI is investigating 86 institutions, hearing evidence in phases. A summary of SCAI’s work to date, together with some horizon-gazing, is shown in this table:

Phase number Dates Summary
Phase 1 May 2017 – November 2017 then April 2019 Opening statements were made from core participants and those granted leave to appear. Evidence was taken and reports obtained from expert and academic witnesses, including on matters dating back to 1990. Evidence was also taken from the Scottish Government, survivor groups, core participants and those granted leave to appear.
Phase 2 November 2017 – January 2018 then April 2018 – July 2018 Case studies were held on residential care establishments run by religious organisations. Two sets of findings have been published, on 11 October 2018 then on 30 May 2019.
Phase 3 October 2018 – February 2019 Case studies were held on residential care establishments run by non-religious and voluntary organisations. No findings have yet been published.
Phase 4 June 2019 – July 2019 then from October 2019 Cases studies are being held on residential care establishments run by male religious orders.
Phase 5 2020? Case study into the child migration programmes (noting, as mentioned above, that three witnesses have already given evidence by video-link on this)
Speculation: Phase 6? 2020? Although not yet confirmed, we anticipate that this phase will involve case studies on some, or all, of the 17 “care provider” institutions who were added in September 2018 to SCAI’s list of 69 institutions already under investigation at that stage.
Speculation: Phase 7? 2020? Lady Smith, SCAI Chair, has publicly expressed an interest in “hearing more about relevant events in the period between the lodging of the petition by Chris Daly in 2002 in which he called for a public inquiry and the announcement of such an inquiry in late 2014”. Evidence from relevant officials and relevant government ministers on these matters could be heard during a Phase 7.

Written by Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate


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