The latest from the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has added a further ten institutions to the list of establishments under investigation, taking the total number under investigation to 96.

Four young offenders institutions are among the ten now added along with three local authority establishments, a religious school, an independent school and an industrial school, which became an “Approved” and then a “List D” school.

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Update on the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

On 16 January 2020, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its costs from its inception in October 2015 to the end of 2019. Cost in that period was £30,049,590.

SCAI’s work continues. Phase 5 public hearings, on investigations into the abuse of children whose departure from Scotland to countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand was part of child migration programmes, are due to resume in February 2020. This phase started on 3 December 2019 with evidence being heard that month by video-link from witnesses who were unable to travel to the inquiry.

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Scottish limitation litigation on the ‘fair hearing’ defence

The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Scotland Act 2017 retrospectively abolished the three year ‘time bar’ rule for personal injury claims arising from childhood abuse in Scotland but retained defences in the Act on ‘fair hearing’ and on ‘substantial prejudice’.

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Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry publishes further findings

Today, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its third case study findings.

The latest findings follow evidence heard between October 2018 and February 2019 on residential care establishments run by three voluntary providers (Quarriers, Aberlour Child Care Trust and Barnardo’s). This covers the period between 1921 and 1991. A link to the findings is here.         .

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Scottish Government launches outline of and public consultation on financial redress for child abuse

As noted in our blog of 2 September, the Scottish Government launched a pre-legislative public consultation on financial redress for historical child abuse in care.

This is one of two blogs which looks in more detail at the consultation. This blog looks at the underlying general principles of the proposed statutory financial redress scheme and our next blog will look at the proposed payments, the evidence required to support them and how they will be assessed.

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Scotland Considers Creation of Sexual Offences Court

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%.

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Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry announces further plans

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