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%.
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
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 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.
On 30 May 2019, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its second set of findings.
The findings follow evidence heard between April and July 2018 during part of Phase 2 of SCAI’s public hearings. The findings are on residential care establishments run by a religious order between 1933 and 1984.
On 25 April 2019, an advance payment scheme opened for certain survivors of childhood abuse in Scotland. A link to this Scottish Government scheme is here. From 10am on 29 April 2019, a free telephone support line will be open for applicants on 0808 169 9740.
Key points of the scheme are that:
Overview of present position
SCAI’s work, which started in October 2015, continues. SCAI is to report, with recommendations, to Scottish Ministers as soon as reasonably practicable after October 2019.
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 no later than 17 December 2014.
To date, SCAI has heard evidence in public during three phases. One set of findings relating to one part of one of the phases has been published. Further findings are anticipated shortly. Various expert reports have been commissioned and published.
The cost of SCAI to end 2018 was £19,737,688. Expenditure is published quarterly.