On 9 June 2020 the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) released a spring / summer 2020 newsletter. This is the seventh SCAI newsletter (link here). This newsletter gives reassurance that SCAI has not stopped working during the COVID-19 (C-19) crisis albeit public hearings – including on child migration and, separately, boarding schools – are postponed until further notice.
In May 2020 SCAI started to trial a small pilot scheme with certain applicants giving statements remotely. SCAI continues to explore options to enable case study evidence to be heard remotely during the C-19 crisis. Hearing evidence remotely would not be new for SCAI albeit new during the current pandemic. SCAI previously heard evidence remotely by video-link with Australia in the context of the child migration case study and, in a different context, from convicted former teachers who gave evidence by video-link from prison. In the recent newsletter, Lady Smith, chair of SCAI, emphasises that “our trauma informed approach must remain at the heart of everything we do.”
SCAI has been working from October 2015 to raise awareness of the abuse of children in care (under 18) for the period ‘within living memory’ to no later than 17 December 2014. SCAI’s work was originally intended to last four years ending with a report to Scottish Ministers by October 2019. Before the C-19 crisis, Scottish Ministers extended that deadline simply to ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’. The C-19 crisis may well mean that the report to Scottish Ministers will be delivered even later than originally envisaged when the timetable was extended. SCAI reports quarterly on costs, both on the immediately preceding quarter and on the totality of SCAI’s work to the date of costs reporting. The next scheduled costs report is due around 15 July 2020.
So far SCAI has published three sets of case study findings but has not yet made any recommendations. SCAI continues to analyse the evidence from the 2019 case study hearings on male religious orders and intends to publish findings drawn from this evidence “as soon as possible.”
It is not the function of SCAI to deal with matters of statutory redress, civil compensation or criminal culpability. On redress, Scottish Government remains committed to introduce a statutory redress scheme to replace the Advanced Payment Scheme which opened on 25 April 2019. Scottish Government intention remains for the statutory redress bill to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament so that it may complete all three legislative stages at the Scottish Parliament before dissolution ahead of the 6 May 2021 Scottish parliamentary election.
Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate