The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry was established in October 2015 to inquire into cases of abuse of children in care in Scotland. It started with opening statements on 31 May 2017 and was to report and make recommendations within four years. But this deadline was later changed to "as soon as reasonably practicable". Concerns have been raised about mounting costs and delays in the Inquiry. 6 years after the start of the Inquiry, Lady Smith released a report which was critical of the previous Scottish Government for the 'woeful and avoidable' delay in setting up the Inquiry.
Supreme Courts of Scotland judge Lady Smith was appointed as chairwoman of the inquiry in July 2016. She is supported by a Secretariat ream, a legal team and Legal Council. The Solicitor for the Inquiry is Andrea Summers and is seconded from the Scottish Government to work in the Inquiry. Ms Summers was previously the Solicitor for the Penrose Inquiry.
Prior to the appointment of Lady Chair, the Inquiry had a chair, Susan O'Brien QC, and two panel members, Michael Lamb and Glen Houston. Mr Lamb resigned because of the Scottish Government continued interference.
The Inquiry investigated over 100 locations of over 50 residential care establishments for children where there were child abuse claims. Between 2018 and 2021 the Inquiry issued several reports including four case reports on care homes in Scotland.
In 2021 the Inquiry investigated several boarding schools for child abuse including some of Scotland's most famous private schools - Fettes College, Gordonstoun, Loretto, Merchiston Castle, Morrison's Academy (when it was a boarding school), Keil School and Queen Victoria School.
The Inquiry has not investigated the Crown Office and the prosecution of child abuse. The Inquiry has not investigated the success of the current redress scheme.
In October 2018 the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry issued a report that dealt mainly with children in the care of Smyllum Park orphanage, Lanark (1864-1981) and Bellevue Children’s Home, Rutherglen (1912-1961) run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul . Children were abused sexually and beaten with leather straps, hairbrushes and crucifixes. The children experienced "no love, no compassion, no dignity and no comfort." The inquiry report states that, for example:
- Children were sexually abused in Smyllum. Children were sexually abused by priests, a trainee priest, Sisters, members of staff and a volunteer.
- There was also problematic sexual behaviour by other children.
- Children were physically abused. They were hit with and without implements, either in an excess of punishment or for reasons which the child could not fathom.
- The implements used included leather straps, the "Lochgelly Tawse," hairbrushes, sticks, footwear, rosary beads, wooden crucifixes and a dog's lead.
- For some children, being hit was a normal aspect of daily life.
- The physical punishments meted out to children went beyond what was acceptable at the time whether as punishment in schools or in the home.
- Children who were bed-wetters were abused physically and emotionally.
- They were beaten, put in cold baths and humiliated in ways that included "wearing" their wet sheets and being subjected to hurtful name-calling by Sisters and by other children.
- Many children were force-fed.
The Daughters of Charity responded that the events and practices described were not in accordance with their values, and that they would give the report "our utmost attention". They apologised to anyone who suffered abuse while in their care.
In August 2018 police arrested and charged nuns and other former staff of Smyllum Park, eleven women and a man (later increased to 17), regarding alleged child physical and sexual abuse.
The Inquiry found in their report that, between 1933 and 1984, children who had been in the care of Sisters of Nazareth orphanages had encountered sexual abuse "of the utmost depravity."
The Sisters of Nazareth said “As we have said before, we apologise wholeheartedly and unreservedly to those who suffered any form of mistreatment."
Quarriers Homes were summarised in the Inquiry's report as institutions where children in their care suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Lady Smith said of the children that "scant regard was paid to their dignity".and they lived in "harsh, rigid regimes."
Quarriers also said that their former policy of sending children abroad was "misguided and wrong." The chief executive of Quarriers, Alice Harper, apologised and sad "Vulnerable children were sent away and we recognise that some also suffered physical and emotional abuse, including sexual abuse."
Aberlour was also reported by the Inquiry to be a child care institution where children suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Sally Ann Kelly, the chief executive of Aberlour, said ""We welcome today's interim findings from Lady Smith and wish to again reiterate our unreserved apology to those who suffered abuse while in the care of Aberlour."
The Inquiry concluded in their report that children in care of Barnardo's homes at Tyneholm, Balcary, Glasclune and Craigerne in Scotland in the 1950s and 1960s suffered emotional, sexual and physical abuse.
Martin Crewe, the head of Barnardo's Scotland said in 2020: "We absolutely apologise for what happened to those individuals. Any instance of abuse is absolutely unacceptable.”
Lady Smith's report concluded that St. Ninian's (a residential school run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Catholic organisation) was a "a place of abuse and deprivation" particularly from 1969 until the school closed in 1983. The Christian Brothers were able to "pursue their abusive practices with impunity" and the evidence against them was "shocking and distressing." Children in care suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
Michael Madigan, a representative for the Christian Brothers said the congregation acknowledged with ‘deepest regret’ that children had been abused.
Two teachers at the school were convicted in 2016 for abusing boys in their care. One of these, Michael Murphy, a former monk at St. Ninian's and St. Joseph's school in Tranent, was convicted in 2021 of a further 29 offences against boys at these schools between 1961 and 1981. Murphy subjected boys, some as young as seven or eight, to electric shocks, and brutal beatings and whippings. One victim described how Murphy pushed him into a hole filled with urine and excrement. Another said Murphy made him eat his own vomit. One more victim reported that Murphy crushed his hand and little finger in a vice. This later caused gangrene and the finger had to be partially amputated.
Dave Sharp, a survivor who gave evidence during this case study has been critical of the study outlining that he was prevented from giving evidence about being trafficked as a child.
Fettes College accepted that one of its teachers in the Junior school sexually molested young boys in the 1970s and admitted liability. After refusing to prosecute the individual until January 2021, the Scottish Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service later in 2021 agreed to seek his extradition from South Africa where he was then living.
Both schools were run by Benedictine monks.
Lady Smith concluded: "Children were sexually abused at both schools. A number of monks were serial sexual predators and, because of the movement of monks between Fort Augustus and Carlekemp, they were able to target victims at both schools. Children were cruelly beaten by sadistic monks at both schools, and some beatings had sexual overtones. Children were humiliated and punished inappropriately and excessively. Some children complained to monks in positions of responsibility about being abused. They received either non-existent or inadequate responses."
The school was closed in 1993.
The enquiry found 82 cases of bullying and 11 alleged incidents of abuse at Gordonstoun. The Principal of the school, Lisa Kerr, said she was shocked to learn that former pupils had been sexually and physically abused while at school and admitted that, in the 1970s-1980s, there had been severe bullying. Some former pupils described incidents of sexual abuse and rape in the decades up to the 1980s. Kerr said "It's been devastating to see the impact of abuse at Gordonstoun has had on them."
At the time of the inquiry Scottish Police were investigating three former teachers at Keil School for abusing children. A teacher of drama and English who taught in the late 1980s and 1990s (he had been jailed for sexual abusing a boy at a previous English school), another teacher who was at the school from 1991-1997 (who committed suicide after being accused) and a third teacher who was there from 1991-1997. The school acknowledged that there had been child abuse at the school from 1997-2000.
The school closed in July 2000.
Loretto school admitted that pupils were sexually, physically and emotionally abused by Guy Ray-Hills a French teacher in the 1950s and 1960s. By the time of the enquiry in 2021 Ray-Hills had died.
A lawyer for Merchiston Castle school said at the inquiry that "it was clear with at least one former member of staff the dots were never to be joined. The school profoundly regrets and sincerely apologises for the fact that such experiences were endured by some pupils." He offered an "unreserved apology" on behalf of the school. The headmaster,Jonathan Anderson admitted that there had been abuse at the school between 1930-2014.
Former pupils at the school described how teachers took"delight" in caning children. One ex-pupil described how,when he was 12 or 13, his wrist was broken because of the savage beating he got from a teacher.
Morrisons apologised to former pupils who, from the 1950s - 1990s,, had been emotionally and physically abused at the school.
A lawyer representing the school apologised and expressed deep regret to former pupils who had been abused. One former pupil said, that when he was 13, he was physically and sexually abused by an older boy at the school. He reported this to the headmaster who did nothing and he was afterwards subjected to even more vicious bullying and sexual abuse. He was not supported by teachers who ostracised him. The school admitted that abuse had occurred.
Survivors of child abuse have critcised the Inquiry for not investigating sports and leisure clubs or attending faith based organisations on a day to day basis.
A survivor have criticised an Inquiry report as a cover up as he was not allowed to give evidence about being trafficked to Ireland while in care.