Scotland politics

Senior judge Lady Smith to head Scottish child abuse inquiry

Lady Smith Image copyright Scottish government
Image caption Lady Smith has been a judge for the past 15 years

Senior judge Lady Smith has been appointed as the new chairwoman of the Scottish government's child abuse inquiry.

It follows the resignation of Susan O'Brien QC, who quit the post earlier this month citing government interference in the inquiry.

A second member of the three-person panel, Prof Michael Lamb, also resigned over similar concerns.

The inquiry will examine historical allegations of child abuse in Scotland.

It is expected to last four years, and will look at the extent of abuse of children in care and identify any systemic failures.

But it has been criticised from the start by survivors of abuse, and was left with Glenn Houston as its only panel member after both Ms O'Brien and Prof Lamb resigned within days of each other.

Image copyright Scottish government
Image caption Ms O'Brien and Prof Lamb, right, both quit the inquiry, leaving Glenn Houston, left, as the sole remaing inquiry member until Lady Smith's appointment

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said Lady Smith - who has been a judge since 2001 and was appointed to the Inner House in 2012 - would bring a "wealth of knowledge and experience" to the leadership of the inquiry.

He said: "It is in the nature of Lady Smith's background as an experienced judge that the inquiry will be taken forward without fear or favour to identify how individuals and institutions failed many of Scotland's most vulnerable children.

"We must ensure children are effectively protected as a result of what we learn from the inquiry."

Lady Smith said many children had not been given the protection they deserved after being placed in residential care.

'Restoration of dignity'

She added: "Their voices now require to be heard and questions of when, where, how and why it happened require to be fully addressed.

"Real efforts must be made to try to effect healing, repair, restoration of dignity and hope for the future.

"It is, accordingly, very important that the work of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry continue and it is for these reasons that I welcome the invitation that has been extended to me by the deputy first minister and have today given my commitment to being its chair."

Mr Swinney said at the time that he had accepted Ms O'Brien's resignation after starting the formal procedure to remove her from her post.

He said complaints had been made about Ms O'Brien "revealing views" during a training session for inquiry team members.

Child abuse trauma experts judged that two comments made by Ms O'Brien had "indicated a belief system that is incompatible with the post of chair of such an inquiry".

The two comments were revealed in a series of letters published by the Scottish government.

'Repeated threats'

Ms O'Brien accepted she had made the comments, but said they were "acceptable in the context in which they were made" and that she would "never underestimate the gravity of child abuse".

She said she had "accurately reported, without endorsing, what a survivor had said to me about their attitude to their own abuse" during the training session.

She further claimed the Scottish government had "sought to micro-manage and control the inquiry", and had "undermined" her and threatened to sack her when she resisted.

Prof Lamb also said he had resigned because of "repeated threats to the inquiry's independence", which he said had "undermined the panel's freedom" and "doomed the inquiry before the first witness has been heard".

Mr Swinney has said he rejects any charges of interference in the independence of the inquiry, and that the government wants a "robust independent inquiry that can operate without fear or favour."