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 in-care child abuse redress bill at the second of three legislative stages

On Wednesday 10 February 2021 the Education and Skills committee at the Scottish Parliament will start to consider proposed amendments to the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill.

In total, 107 amendments have so far been proposed. Further amendments could be proposed both during the current Stage 2 of the Scottish legislative process and also during the final third stage. Amendments made during Stage 2 could even be overturned by amendments at Stage 3. As is often the case, Stage 2 is being undertaken at committee level rather than by the Scottish Parliament sitting as a whole in chamber. Assuming that the bill proceeds to Stage 3, the parliament as a whole would consider and vote on any further proposed amendments before debating and deciding whether to pass the bill.

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Scottish parliamentary committee publishes Stage 1 report on Scottish in-care redress bill

On 9 December 2020, the Education and Skills Committee at the Scottish Parliament published a 127 page report on the Scottish in-care redress bill after hearing evidence over a number of sessions (link here). The Scottish Parliament, sitting in chamber, will debate and vote on the general principles of this bill on 17 December 2020.

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Scottish Government – Public Consultation – Proposals on redress payments, evidence and assessment

In our last blog we looked at the general overarching principles of the proposed statutory financial redress scheme (“the Scheme”) in Scotland.

In today’s blog we intend to look at the proposed redress payments, what evidence will be required and how the redress payable will be assessed.

It is the Scottish Government’s intention that the Scheme will provide for a combination payment approach which could have two possible stages much like the Lambeth Redress Scheme.

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Scottish Limitation Abolition Bill

The third and final legislative stage of the Bill to retrospectively abolish limitation for cases of personal injury arising from childhood abuse took place in the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament on 22 June 2017.

A proposed amendment to require Scottish Ministers to prepare a financial report on the likely impact on public bodies and their ability to meet any obligations arising from the retrospective provisions of the Bill was rejected.

Following that rejection, the Bill was unanimously passed. Royal Assent to the Bill is now anticipated, whereupon it will become an Act of the Scottish Parliament. Its provisions will thereafter come into force by way of Scottish ministerial regulations.


Frank Hughes and Siobhan Kelly, partners, BLM

 

Scottish Limitation Abolition Bill passes Stage 1

Yesterday, after Stage 1 Debate, the Scottish Parliament approved the motion “that the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill.”

For pre-1964 abuse survivors, who will not benefit from the Bill should it become an Act, the Scottish Government have committed to a formal process of consultation and engagement, led by CELCIS (Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland). This will be with relevant parties on the question of financial redress for in-care survivors, including redress for survivors abused prior to 1964.

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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

Scottish Limitation Abolition Bill

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has endorsed the general principles of the Bill proposing the retrospective abolition of limitation in cases of childhood abuse. Nonetheless, significant issues of detail and relevant concerns have been flagged in the Committee’s Stage 1 Report. This is now for further consideration by the Scottish Government. We summarise the position taken by the Committee on pre-26 September 1964 abuse then list the issues which have been flagged for further attention. Continue reading

Scottish Limitation Abolition Bill: third evidence session

The third, and final, evidence session on the Bill to retrospectively abolish limitation in cases of childhood abuse took place today before the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing MSP, gave evidence. We summarise that as follows:

Background to the Bill

The Minister explained that various reform options were considered before the present Bill was drafted. Those included: giving guidance on the exercise of judicial discretion to allow a claim to proceed though raised late; the extension of the limitation period; and even wholesale abolition of limitation. It was ultimately decided that the present Bill was the most proportionate way to proceed to meet the specific aim of improving access to justice for survivors.

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