Scottish child abuse inquiry remit will not be widened, announces John Swinney

Written by Tom Freeman on 17 November 2016 in News

The troubled Scottish child abuse inquiry will remain focused solely on the abuse of children in care, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has announced

John Swinney - Scottish Parliament

The Scottish child abuse inquiry will not widen its remit to include non-residential incidents of abuse, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has announced.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Swinney said he had informed the chair Lady Anne Smith the only change to the remit would be to take into account abuse of children in care “wherever it occurred”.

The decision comes after survivor groups had called for children's' organisations, clubs and local parish churches to be included in the investigation.


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However, Swinney said: “To set a remit which would in practice take many more years to conclude, we would be failing to respond to those survivors of in-care abuse who have taken us at our word – in Government and in Parliament – that we will learn from their experience and, by addressing the systematic failures that existed, ensure it can never happen again.”

He also announced the Scottish Government’s first legislation of the new parliamentary term, which will remove the three-year time limit that prevents childhood abuse survivors from seeking civil damages in court.

The inquiry into abuse of children in care has been plagued with problems since it was launched a year ago. Smith took over in July after previous chair Susan O'Brien QC quit amid accusations of government interference. Swinney denied the allegation.

Scottish Labour’s Education spokesperson Iain Gray said failing to widen its scope may be a “serious mistake”.

“We welcome the minor clarification of the inquiry’s remit today, however it does mean that the vast majority of survivors of abuse will still be excluded from the scope of this inquiry, which will leave those survivors and their representatives frustrated,” he said.

Meanwhile the child abuse inquiry in England saw a barrister quit this week with ‘concerns’ about its leadership. Aileen McColgan resignation followed senior counsel Ben Emmerson's in September, a day after he was suspended.

The UK inquiry was launched in 2014 following revelations that the late TV presenter Jimmy Saville was a serial child sexual abuser.

Initially set up to investigate public bodies, its scope was widened to include MPs, local councils, and church organisations.

There have been many resignations from the inquiry, now under its fourth chair, Professor Alexis Jay.

Jay has produced a review of the work of the inquiry, but it has not been published. 

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