Lothian schools for disabled kids investigated by abuse inquiry

A HIGH-level abuse inquiry is to investigate allegations at three Lothians schools for disabled children.

Thursday, 13th September 2018, 9:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th September 2018, 9:20 pm
Donaldson's School for the deaf in Linlithgow is among 86 other deaf and blind schools in Scotland being probed. Picture: TSPL
Donaldson's School for the deaf in Linlithgow is among 86 other deaf and blind schools in Scotland being probed. Picture: TSPL

The Royal Blind School in Morningside, Donaldson’s School for Deaf Children in Linlithgow and Harmeny School, Balerno, were named yesterday.

Set up in 2015, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is now looking into alleged past abuse at 86 institutions nationally.

Mark O’Donnell, chief executive of Royal Blind, said: “We are very saddened to learn that the Royal Blind School has been added to the list of establishments which are currently the focus of an investigation by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. We will be fully cooperating with the process.

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“I would like to reiterate our unwavering commitment to safeguarding all of our service users and the pride that we take in ensuring their rights and dignity are observed at all times – something which is consistently demonstrated in the formal inspection reports across all of our services.”

Visually impaired rapist, David Penman, 42, was convicted last June of sexually assaulting eight of his fellow pupils at the school during the 1980s.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard how Penman committed rape and sexual abuse on girls and boys.

In 2014, Janice MacNeill, chief executive of Donaldson’s School, was sacked following an inquiry into how allegations of a sex assault committed by one of her staff was handled.

Board members demanded to know why staff waited nearly four years to take action against youth worker William Docherty – later convicted of indecently assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a birthday party.

Laura Battles, chief executive officer of the Donaldson Trust, said safeguarding children is now “a number one priority”, recognised by Education Scotland.

“We will fully cooperate with the Inquiry’s investigations,” added Ms Battles.

“As a charitable trust founded on the principle of caring for vulnerable children, we completely support the aims of the inquiry in uncovering any historic cases of abuse to help protect children in the future.”

A spokesman for Harmeny Education Trust said: “As our primary purpose is to care for and educate some of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people, we fully support the process. We will be as cooperative as we possibly can.”

Lady Smith, chair of the inquiry, urged anyone with relevant information about any of the three institutions to contact her team.

“It doesn’t matter whether you have already made a report to the police or to anyone else and it does not matter whether or not you have been involved in any other investigation,” she said.

“You can still talk to us and we want to hear from you. I am well aware that it can be difficult and very emotional to talk about experiences in care and I want to take this opportunity to give an assurance that we have a dedicated witness support team here who will help and support anyone providing evidence to us. They will do so throughout the process.”