Today, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) will resume hearing evidence as part of Phase 4 of its public hearing sessions.
Phase 4 is on residential care establishments run by male religious orders. Previously in this phase, opening statements and evidence were heard over nine days between 4 and 20 June 2019 relating to one establishment run by a particular order. Part of the evidence heard on 20 June was given by a convicted abuser currently serving a ten year jail sentence. A video link from Dumfries Prison to SCAI in Edinburgh was used for that purpose. The man concerned was accompanied by a solicitor when giving his evidence. He was advised in advance by SCAI’s Chair, Lady Smith, of his right not to answer any question where his evidence may incriminate him beyond his present conviction. He was also warned that any evidence given by him could be used in the context of any future criminal proceedings. It could also be used in future civil cases. The man continues to maintain his innocence. He explained that he has made an application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission for his case to be reviewed.
It is worth emphasising that SCAI is not entitled to make any findings of criminal guilt nor make any awards of redress or civil compensation. Rather, SCAI’s overall aim is to raise public awareness of the abuse of children in care (under 18) for the period “within living memory” of any person who suffered such abuse to no later than 17 December 2014.
The taking of evidence by video conference from a convicted abuser is a novel approach by SCAI. Whilst the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England & Wales received evidence from Peter Ball (Anglican investigation), who had been convicted of abuse, his evidence was presented in writing.
Closing submissions regarding the particular order under investigation so far during Phase 4 were heard on 16 July.
Opening statements and evidence to be heard from today concern two establishments run by a different male religious order. Closing submissions in that regard are anticipated later this month.
SCAI will then next sit to hear evidence in public session, at a further part of Phase 4, in September. That will be on two establishments run by another male religious order.
Phase 4 looks likely to conclude with evidence relating to various establishments run by yet another male religious order. No timescale has yet been set for that.
SCAI’s total expenditure from its creation in 2015 to 30 June 2019 was £23,232,097.
Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate