Scottish Government expected to announce historic child abuse inquiry

By Gerry Braiden (The Herald Scotland)
December 15, 2014

Plans to hold public inquiry into historical child abuse in Scotland are expected to be announced this week, it has been reported.

Ministers are expected to confirm a high-profile investigation into allegations of abuse carried out in care homes and educational institutions, amid reports this will included claims against religious orders and high-profile members of the Scottish establishment.

The Scottish Government said former Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Mike Russell has given a update Parliament in any decision on an inquiry before Christmas, with his successor Angela Constance due to make a statement on Wednesday.

The announcement is expected to confirm a timetable, although the precise terms of reference have yet to be drawn up.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "A month ago Mr Russell updated Parliament on the Government's response to the Scottish Human Rights Commission InterAction process for survivors of historic cases of abuse in care.

"At the same time he made clear that Ministers will reach a decision by Christmas on whether a further public inquiry will be convened. That included an undertaking to listen to views on all sides of the debate, to ensure that whatever decision is made is well-informed and meaningful. Those commitments will be met."

Allegations of historical abuse have been made by former pupils at the Roman Catholic Fort Augustus School on the banks of Loch Ness. Hundreds of children are said to have been abused at Nazareth House in Aberdeen. Allegations of cruelty have also been made by those who were at Larchgrove boys home in Glasgow.

There have been reports the inquiry will examine allegations involving the late Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn and a prominent member of the legal establishment, Robert Henderson QC.

This summer Henderson's daughter Susie waived her anonymity to allege she had been assaulted by her father and Fairbairn, both of whom are now dead, from the age of four.

Alan Draper, an academic who compiled a report for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland on how to deal with historical child abuse, told the BBC he anticipated that this could be a "momentous week".

He said: "Clearly we have been fighting for decades and what we require is a full public inquiry preferably led by a judge with statutory powers, that's absolutely essential."

He added he hoped the inquiry would bring a "cascade of change" and that the time bar that stopped historical cases coming to court would be set aside.

Frank Docherty, the founder and honorary chairman of Incas (In-care Abuse Survivors), said: "We've waited 15 years and what we want is a full public inquiry into all the abuse, in all the institutions in Scotland."