Scotland to get public inquiry into historical institutional child abuse

Written by Tom Freeman on 17 December 2014 in News

Inquiry will have statutory powers

A statutory public inquiry is to be held to examine historical cases of abuse of children in care in Scotland, Education Secretary Angela Constance has announced.

Appointments to the inquiry, including its chair, and further details of its remit will be made by April, the Cabinet Secretary told parliament.

“We must have the truth,” Constance said, “and as a society we have an opportunity to confront the mistakes of our past and to learn from them. It will not be easy but only by shining a light on the darkest recesses of our recent history will we fully understand the failures of the past, enabling us to prevent them happening again.”

Campaigners have been calling for an inquiry for some time, including the Scottish Human Rights Commission. The inquiry will be given the power to compel witnesses to appear and give evidence.

Scottish Labour’s new shadow education spokesman Iain Gray welcomed the announcement but said it had taken too long. “It is ten years since Jack McConnell apologised, on behalf of the Scottish people to the survivors of institutional child abuse,” he said.

All sides agreed survivors who have campaigned and those who have until now been unable to speak out must have faith in the process going forward.

Police Scotland said they would co-operate fully with the inquiry once it is convened. Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, the lead officer for Major Crime and Public Protection, said: “Since April 2013, Police Scotland has worked to introduce even greater consistency and co-ordination to child abuse investigations and how we respond to serious sexual crime. In the New Year, we will introduce a National Child Abuse Investigation Unit which will see specialist investigators working with local officers on the most serious cases. This will further heighten our capabilities in keeping people safe.”

The inquiry into historical child abuse cases in England has been dogged with complications. Two chairs have resigned over links with establishment figures, and Home Secretary Theresa May this week acknowledged it should have statutory powers. 

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