Scotland

Historical abuse inquiry announced by Scottish government

The Scottish government has announced a statutory public inquiry into the historical abuse of children in care.

Education Secretary Angel Constance said the inquiry would have powers to force witnesses to give evidence.

She said abusers would "face the full force of the law" where it brought to light evidence of crimes.

The move followed scandals involving child abuse at institutions including those run by the Roman Catholic church.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Constance said the full remit of the inquiry would be confirmed by the end of April 2015, following discussions with the survivors of abuse, which would begin in January.

She said: "This parliament must always be on the side of victims of abuse.

"We must have the truth of what happened to them and how those organisations and individuals into whose care the children were entrusted, failed them so catastrophically.

"And to get to that truth, we will be establishing a national public inquiry into historical abuse of children in institutional care."

Ms Constance added: "To ensure justice is done, I can tell this chamber that, where crimes are exposed, the full force of the law will be available to bring perpetrators to account."

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Ministers said parliament must always be on the side of the victims of abuse

The education secretary also confirmed measures would be put in place to ensure the inquiry did not interfere with any on-going criminal investigations or prosecutions.

And Ms Constance said she would "take on board" calls from campaigners to set aside the legal time bar which stopped historical cases coming to court.

Her announcement came 10 years after former First Minister Jack McConnell offered an apology to victims of abuse in children's homes, but at the time stopped short of agreeing to a full public inquiry.

The move was welcomed by Scotland's centre of excellence for looked after children, based at Strathclyde University.

Prof Andy Kendrick, head of the university's school of social work, said: "It is a testament to survivors that we have reached the point of an inquiry. This follows a long campaign by survivors to achieve justice."

'Hideous crimes'

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray also welcomed the inquiry, adding: "In truth, it should have happened sooner."

Conservative MSP Nanette Milne said: "I hope it will provide an opportunity to expose the perpetrators of such hideous crimes against children in Scotland and to learn lessons to prevent this abuse of children in care ever happening again."

Alison McInnes, of the Liberal Democrats, told MSPs that victims had "long cried out" for an inquiry but said they must get proper support when interacting with it.

Previous inquiries into institutional child abuse in Scotland have included the Shaw Review, which in 2007 called for a new centre to help victims, and the 2009 probe into the treatment of vulnerable youngsters at the former Kerelaw Residential Unit in Ayrshire.

Police Scotland, which is opening a child abuse investigation unit in the new year, said it would "fully co-operate with any inquiry which is convened".

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites