On 10 November 2021, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its seventh set of case study findings, link here. This set is about two residential schools run by the Marist Brothers, St Columba’s College in Largs and St Joseph’s College in Dumfries between 1950 and 1981, and is based on evidence heard from 43 witnesses between 3 October and 5 November, both 2019.
The main finding is that children at both schools were sexually, physically and emotionally abused, with both schools found to have had “flawed systems that allowed abusers driven by sexual motives to have easy access to children in their care... A culture of obedience, fear of severe punishment and the authority of the Catholic Church” are found to have “empowered abusers, and, conversely, rendered many victims powerless in the belief that their complaints of abuse would not be believed.” Such reports of abuse as were made “were not taken seriously or investigated as they should have been. In a few cases, action was taken, usually moving a Brother on to another post elsewhere. None of the reports of serious abuse made to Brothers were passed on to the police at the time.”
On record-keeping, Lady Smith, chair of SCAI, notes that “Registration books of the sort that would record details of pupils, such as when they were admitted to the schools and when they left, have not been found for either school.”
On inspection, the findings identify gaps which “demand an explanation”, with Lady Smith also making the point that “The adequacy of inspection regimes generally is a topic that SCAI intends to consider at a later stage.”
The findings also record that the Marist Brothers “provided a sincere apology for the abuse suffered.”
As with the previous six sets of case study findings, no recommendations are made in the seventh set. Recommendations are likely to be included in SCAI’s final report to Scottish Ministers.
Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate
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