A Scottish High Court judge, Lord Matthews has stated that Scotland is considering the creation of a dedicated sexual offences court.
The number of sex crimes being prosecuted in the Scottish courts has increased massively over the last decade. Despite that, conviction rates remain significantly lower than other crimes. In 2017/18 the acquittal rate for rape was 55% and was 33% for sexual assault, in comparison with an overall acquittal rate for all crimes of 6%.
SCAI is now sitting again to hear evidence in public session from Tuesday 10 September 2019. Between 10 September and 5 November 2019, SCAI plans to conclude hearing evidence and submissions for its Phase 4 case studies on residential care establishments run by male religious orders.
An independent review into the abuse of children within Scottish football was announced by the Scottish Football Association (the SFA) in 2016, and an interim report was published in 2018 which reported that the safety and wellbeing of children needed to be prioritised at every level of the sport.
It is now understood that the final report, which is not expected to be published until next year, will call on clubs to accept responsibility for the abuse suffered by some children in the past. It is understood that Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell and Hibernian are among the clubs involved. It is also reported that the clubs involved will be called upon to offer genuine and sincere apologies to the survivors of the abuse. Solicitors acting for survivors are also pressing for the clubs to offer compensation, following the example set in England by Manchester City.
Today, Scottish Government launched a pre-legislative consultation on a redress scheme for childhood abuse in care.
A link to the consultation webpage is here. The consultation closes on 25 November 2019. Scottish Government has committed to introducing a Bill for a redress scheme in spring 2020 and for the legislation to be passed, assuming parliamentary approval, before March 2021. Royal Assent and possibly also a commencement order would then be needed to bring the Act’s provisions into force.
The Advanced Payment Scheme (APS) is open to anyone who was in care as a child and was abused in care in Scotland before December 2004. Payments will be made on a discretionary basis to those who have a terminal illness or who are age 70 or over.
The APS has worked well with the first payments being made within three weeks of its launch.
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has announced plans for hearing further evidence in 2019 and 2020. In chronological order, SCAI plans to:
- By late 2019 – complete evidence for the presently ongoing Phase 4 hearings on child care establishments run by male religious orders.
- Before the end of 2019 – start Phase 5 hearings on child abuse arising in child migration programmes. SCAI has, in fact, already taken evidence by video link from Australia on 21 and 23 January and 25 March 2019 from three witnesses whose evidence is relevant to this phase.
- Spring 2020 – return to complete Phase 1. This phase is on the background and context to SCAI’s work including the history and governance of institutions and expert evidence on the legislative and regulatory framework for children in care.
- Summer 2020 – start Phase 6 hearings on provision at 7 Scottish boarding schools. Details of these schools can be seen on SCAI’s webpage here.
SCAI has also indicated an intention to investigate foster care. The current plan is for evidence to be heard on that, presumably at a Phase 7, around the end of 2020.
Separately, a call has been made by a traveller rights activist for SCAI to open up a new phase focussing on the experience of Scottish child travellers. It remains unknown whether SCAI’s work will be specifically extended for that, with previous calls to extend the remit of the Inquiry (to non-residential care) not having been implemented by the Scottish Government. It is also worth emphasising that SCAI is investigating the abuse of children in care, including children whose care was arranged in Scotland. Scottish child travellers who were in care or had their care arranged in Scotland are, therefore, already covered by SCAI’s remit.
When it was set up in October 2015, SCAI was tasked with reporting to Scottish Government by October 2019. The timescale has been extended to “as soon as reasonably practicable” after then. To date, SCAI has produced two sets of findings, both of which are on evidence heard at Phase 2. No recommendations have yet been published. With evidence now scheduled to run at least until the end of 2020, it may be some considerable time yet before SCAI’s work is done.
Frank Hughes, partner and Fiona McEwan, associate
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.