Abusers could yet face justice as Crown Office re-examines cases
Social affairs correspondent
ABUSERS whose crimes come to light during the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry could still be brought to justice, even in cases which are decades old, Lady Smith has been told.
The Crown Office and Police Scotland both revealed to the inquiry that they are now undertaking major operations to review the way allegations of abuse were handled in the past.
Martin Richardson, on behalf of the Lord Advocate, said lessons could be learned from any mistakes made.
He said “A team of prosecutors has been established dedicated to reviewing decisions taken in the past in respect of allegations of abuse of children in care which were reported to the Crown Office by the police.
“Where further investigation with modern techniques is appropriate the cases are being reinvestigated and consideration given as to whether a prosecution can and should now be brought.”
Laura-Anne van der Westhuizen, appearing for Police Scotland, said that historically, investigations carried out into abuse had often been “episodic” in nature looking at incidents in isolation.
Policing has evolved and improved and the creation of Police Scotland had provided an opportunity to maximise expertise and skills in investigating child abuse, she said.
The new national child abuse investigation unit has been reviewing 180,000 files relating to possible instances of abuse, she said, adding “A team of officers is working continuously to reassess those files… That work is ongoing.”
The revelations came as the inquiry took additional statements from organisations classed as core participants, ahead of its second phase, which will include “case studies” of alleged abuse carried out at residential child care establishments run by Catholic Orders. The inquiry is currently examining the treatment of children at Smyllum Park Orphanage and Bellevue House in Rutherglen, both run by the order.
Solicitor Gregor Rolfe, counsel for the Daughters of Charity, reiterated an apology made by the order at the conclusion of the first phase of the inquiry to anyone who had suffered abuse in its care.
In June, Sister Ellen Flynn told the inquiry the Daughters of Charity could find no record of abuse taking place at Smyllum Park and had “no way of knowing” whether allegations made subsequently were true. She said Smyllum Park had been a “happy place” and the things which happened there were “good for the children”.
However Mr Rolfe said that since the first phase of the inquiry a former lay member of staff had come forward claiming a man volunteering at Smyllum abused two brothers in the 1970s.
The allegation has now been reported to police but had not been investigated at the time, reported to police, or to senior figures at the order. Mr Rolfe said these were failures for which the order apologised “unreservedly.”
Between now and December 11 the inquiry is expected to hear evidence from 17 former residents of homes run by the order. The inquiry will then hear evidence from witnesses in relation to the deaths of children at Smyllum Park, including a representative from Police Scotland, two medical experts and a genealogist.