An update on work at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry including publication of findings on Scottish Government evidence

On 29 September 2021, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its sixth set of case study findings, this time on evidence heard between 17 November and 4 December 2020 relating to Scottish Government and, in particular, the 13 year delay in the setting up of a child abuse inquiry in Scotland after a petition calling for such an inquiry was submitted to the Scottish Parliament. The findings describe this delay as “woeful and wholly avoidable”, adding that “Scottish Government failed to grasp the fundamental importance that survivors appropriately and justifiably attached to their need for justice, accountability and redress.” The delay between the submission of the petition in 2002 and the decision at the end of 2014 to hold an inquiry is found to have been caused by a variety of factors including “some ineptitude”, “some confusion on the part of ministers and officials”, “officials controlling the process up to the point of trying to prevent there being an inquiry” and “both ministers and officials failing to listen to and engage with survivors”. A link to these findings is here. The current Scottish Government has responded to these findings by apologising “unreservedly that it did not respond more appropriately and sooner to the concerns of survivors of abuse in care who called for a public inquiry”, also noting that “Responding to survivors of abuse in care spanned different administrations between 2002 and 2014.”

Also on case study findings and as confirmed in an autumn 2021 SCAI newsletter, here, SCAI will shortly publish a seventh set, with this set on institutions run by the Marists.

In other news, SCAI has moved to new premises at Mint House, 20 West Register Street, Edinburgh where it will hear further evidence on boarding schools from 6 October 2021. SCAI last sat to hear evidence in May 2021 when the focus was on boarding school provision at Loretto School in Musselburgh and Morrison’s Academy in Crieff. Evidence from 6 October will relate to Gordonstoun School in Elgin, Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, Keil School in Dumbarton, Fettes College in Edinburgh and Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh.

SCAI hopes to start hearing evidence as part of a foster care case study in spring 2022, including on children who were boarded out as well as children who were placed in foster care by a Scottish local authority. It remains to be seen whether any more case studies will follow after the foster care one. SCAI previously confirmed investigations into 4 young offender institutions, 3 local authority establishments and 3 further schools but has not yet confirmed whether evidence will be heard in public on any of those.

SCAI was established as a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 on 1 October 2015 with an overall aim of raising public awareness of the abuse of children in care (under 18) for the period “within living memory” of any person who suffered such abuse to no later than 17 December 2014. SCAI’s work will conclude with a report to Scottish Ministers. This report was originally to be delivered by October 2019 but the deadline for it was extended before the COVID-19 pandemic to “as soon as reasonably practicable” after then.

SCAI publishes a running total of its costs quarterly. SCAI’s total cost from 1 October 2015 to 30 June 2021 was £46,874,090. Updated expenditure should be published around 15 October 2021.


Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate at BLM

frank.hughes@blmlaw.com / fiona.mcewan@blmlaw.com

Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry to resume hearings, taking evidence on boarding schools

Lady Smith, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has announced that evidential hearings for phase 6 of SCAI’s work will start on Tuesday 16 March 2021. This phase will examine the abuse of children in boarding schools. This phase was originally scheduled to start in the second half of January 2021 but was postponed because of the renewed COVID-19 lockdown. For the phase 6 hearings, SCAI will be based at its headquarters at Rosebery House in Edinburgh and will hear from witnesses both in person and remotely by video link.

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Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry hears evidence on Scottish Government handling of child abuse

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) is currently hearing evidence on the actions of central government on issues arising from the non-recent abuse of children in institutional care. These hearings are also exploring the reasons why calls for a public inquiry throughout the period between August 2002 and December 2014 were turned down by Scottish Government.

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Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry releases spring / summer 2020 newsletter

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.

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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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Scottish claims and litigation

In recent blogs, we have considered the Scottish Government’s plan for a statutory redress scheme. One of the evolving issues is whether engagement with the statutory scheme should be to the exclusion of a claimant’s ability to issue civil court proceedings. Scottish Government is committed to establishing the legislative framework for a redress scheme before the end of March 2021.

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Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI): an update

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.

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Royal Commission recommendations for advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment services

Volume 9 of the Final Report of the Royal Commission (RC) examines what the commission has learned about the advocacy and support and therapeutic treatment service needs of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts, and outlines recommendations for improving service systems to better respond to those needs and assist survivors towards recovery.

There is a continuing need and demand for advocacy and support, and therapeutic treatment services. However there are barriers to help-seeking and effective service responses and it is noted that inadequate service responses can re-traumatise survivors of child sexual abuse. The Final Report seeks national leadership to reduce stigma, promote help-seeking and support good practice. To these ends, there are nine recommendations, many of which require additional Australian government, state or territorial government funding:

  1. Dedicated community support services.
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches.
  3. Support services for victims and survivors who are disabled.
  4. A legal advice and referral service for victims and survivors.
  5. A national website and helpline as a gateway to accessible advice and information on childhood sexual abuse.
  6. Existing sexual assault service gaps to be addressed.
  7. Primary Health Networks to facilitate joined up, collaborative care and support services.
  8. Government, state and territorial government agencies to ensure relevant policy frameworks and strategies recognise the needs of victims and survivors and the benefits of implementing trauma-informed approaches.
  9. A national centre to raise awareness and understanding of the impacts of child sexual abuse, support help-seeking and guide best practice advocacy and support and therapeutic treatment.

Whilst some of these are jurisdiction specific many are likely to be similarly recommended by the IICSA and the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

As ever the potential block on ensuring these recommendations are actioned will be the availability of government funding.


Hughes_Frank Written by Frank Hughes, partner at BLM

Scottish Limitation Abolition Bill and Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry Update

The Scottish Parliament has confirmed that it will debate the Limitation Abolition Bill, at Stage 1, in the afternoon of Thursday 27 April.

In other news, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, whose cost from its set-up on 1 October 2015 to 31 March 2017 has recently been confirmed at over £5.7m, has now set the timetable for Phase 1 of its Public Hearings. Commencing on 31 May there are evidence sessions scheduled to 9 June covering: Continue reading