Scottish child abuse inquiry chair resigns over “unacceptable comments" allegations

Written by Tom Freeman on 4 July 2016 in News

Outgoing chair says the Scottish Government cannot respect independence of child abuse inquiry

Susan O'Brien QC has resigned as chair of the Scottish Government’s child abuse inquiry, claiming plans to remove her over an official complaint about “unacceptable” comments was ministerial interference.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the complaint had brought to light “serious concerns” and he had started the formal procedure to remove her from office.

In her resignation letter, O’Brien said government interference had left her with “no alternative” but to step down.


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Her departure comes a week after psychology professor Michael Lamb also resigned from the inquiry, saying it was “doomed” because of "repeated threats to the inquiry's independence”.

“I agree with him. Scottish Government officials have sought to micromanage and control the inquiry, and I have resisted this,” O’Brien said.

In their complaint, the Rivers Centre for Traumatic Stress claimed O’Brien had made remarks which “may be well intentioned” but “are totally unacceptable and indicate a belief system that is totally incompatible with the post of chair of a child abuse inquiry”.

O’Brien said the complaint arose from “a misunderstanding” of the specific case she had referred to.

She had been asked to resign over the complaint on May 16 but had refused as “I have done nothing wrong”.

“In short, I cannot reassure the public that this Inquiry will be conducted independently of Government.

“My trust that the Scottish Government will actually respect the independence of the Inquiry has gone. You have therefore left me within no alternative but to resign. I do so with a heavy heart, as I am clear that there is a real need for this Inquiry to take place.”

Swinney said: “This government absolutely rejects any charges of interference in the independence of the inquiry.

“The issues that concern the government are about having a robust independent inquiry that can operate without fear or favour, fulfilling our responsibilities set out in the Inquiries Act 2005 and other relevant legislation and ensuring that the Chair’s departure has as little impact as possible on the progress of the work needed.”

The statutory public inquiry into historical abuse of children in care in Scotland began in October. 


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