Apologies to survivors as child abuse hearing begins

Survivors outside the Scottish Child Abuse Inquriy. Picture; Lisa Ferguson
Survivors outside the Scottish Child Abuse Inquriy. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

Scotland’s national child abuse inquiry has heard a succession of apologies from organisations to survivors who say they were abused as youngsters in residential care.

Groups including Quarriers, Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, Sisters of Nazareth, De La Salle Brothers, the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and Crossreach, the social care arm of the Church of Scotland, were among those voicing regret for past cases of abuse or alleged abuse.

The apologies were offered in opening statements from a range of bodies as the public hearing phase of the far-reaching inquiry into historical allegations of the abuse of children in care got under way.

It followed remarks from chairwoman Lady Smith who said the process will be “painful” for many, but necessary to achieve “real, substantial and lasting change”.

In their opening remarks, representatives of Quarriers and the Marist Brothers offered “unreserved” apologies to anyone who was abused in their care.

Canon Boyle, representing the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, told the hearing in Edinburgh that Archbishop Philip Tartaglia had offered a “profound” apology in 2015 to those harmed as a result of the actions of anyone within the Catholic Church.

“That apology stands and is reiterated again today,” Canon Boyle said.

Laura Dunlop QC, representing Crossreach, said it was “inescapable” that the Church has provided a setting in which children have been abused in the past.

She said: “That is a matter of profound regret by all associated with the church’s social care organisation and indeed for all connected to the church in Scotland in any way.”

More than 60 residential institutions, including several top private schools, are being investigated by the inquiry.

Lady Smith began the public hearings by acknowledging that many children in Scotland have been abused in residential care over the years.

She said: “They suffered some terrible treatment inflicted by those to whom their care was entrusted. That is a matter of grave concern.”

Lady Smith said the number of people who have spoken to the inquiry of having been abused in care is “very far in excess” of 200.

John Scott QC, representing In Care Abuse Survivors (INCAS), said the inquiry has come too late for those who have already died, but added: “It is not too late for at least some acknowledgement and accountability, not too late for some compensation, not too late for other survivors to come forward.”

The inquiry has been taking statements from witnesses since last spring. It covers the period within living memory of anyone who suffered such abuse, no later than December 17, 2014.

The first phase of hearings is taking place at Rosebery House and is expected to last about seven weeks.

The inquiry continues.