Scottish child protection charities say inquiries provide an opportunity to shed light on the darkest corners of the UK establishment
Scottish children’s charities have welcomed news that a “wide ranging” public inquiry will be held into historical child sex abuse allegations which have rocked the UK establishment.
Home Secretary Theresa May unveiled major probes that will look at alleged abuse at the heart of the Westminster government, the BBC and the NHS in England and Wales.
The announcement comes amid suggestions that cases of historic abuse have been covered up at the heart of the UK government.
These follow on from the inquiry into the conduct of sex abuser Jimmy Saville – some of whose victims were attacked at the BBC and in hospitals.
The Labour Party in Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to set up its own inquiry, to run in tandem with the UK probes.
Announcing the reviews in the House of Commons on Monday, the home secretary said there would be two inquiries.
This inquiry should allow victims the chance at last to be heard and their concerns and experiences taken seriously
The first would be a wide-ranging inquiry – similar to that into the Hillsborough disaster – led by an independent panel of experts on law and child protection.
The second – which is to be led by head of the NSPCC Peter Wanless – would cover how police and prosecutors handled information given to them, she told MPs.
Scottish children’s charities said this was a unique chance to shed light on some of the darkest corners of UK public life – and the chance to address the many wrongs that victims have suffered must not be passed up.
Alison Todd, chief executive of Children 1st, said: “This inquiry should allow victims the chance at last to be heard and their concerns and experiences taken seriously.
“It is really important that all allegations of child abuse are investigated and victims know they have been heard. The panel must look into how this abuse could have gone undetected and unreported for so many years.
“All findings must be acted upon as well as putting the subsequent learning in place to ensure this can never happen again.
“We must also remember that most sexual abuse happens in the family home and any learning should be applied so that all victims are able to be heard.”
Barnardo’s Scotland chief executive Javed Khan said: “The sexual abuse of children by people in the public eye has shocked and sickened the nation. High-profile abusers have hid decades-long abuse of children behind a genial public façade. They were able to abuse child after child with impunity because for a long time their fame made them untouchable.
“There is much greater awareness of, and much less tolerance of child abuse now than there was 20 to 30 years ago. However, the outrageous failure of agencies to work together to protect children remains a serious problem and continues to lead to children being failed.
“The public need to be reassured that no-one is above the law when it comes to child abuse. Any allegations, whether they are current or historical, must be taken seriously and fully investigated by the police.
“Children who have suffered sexual abuse bear the emotional scars for the rest of their lives. Anyone who has used their power to escape punishment for committing sexual crimes against children must now be brought to justice.
“The inquiry should not seek to duplicate the many current reviews underway. It should look at whether there are overarching lessons which can prevent similar abuses in the future.”
The Labour Party issued a challenge to the Scottish Government to open a similar inquiry, specifically covering Scotland.
Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, Graeme Pearson MSP, said: “The SNP now stands alone in its refusal to implement a full and proper inquiry into instances of historic child abuse.
“The Scottish Government must finally agree to reassess their stance and bring forward proposals to answer the demands for justice from survivors.
“Those affected by historic institutional child abuse seek true accountability, an acknowledgement of responsibility and an apology from those organisations still in existence, alongside comprehensive recommendations for the future in terms of prevention.
“In addition to the provision of counselling services and appropriate prosecutions, there is also a need to address who, when and on what authority decisions were taken to destroy records in respect of victims’ histories.
“The Scottish Government must take responsibility for the issue and instigate an inquiry to ensure that these horrific crimes will never be repeated in Scottish institutions.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is not for the Scottish Government to investigate alleged offences in Westminster. However, if Mr Pearson has any information on this or any other alleged abuse then this should be passed to the police.
“The Scottish Government has already commissioned independent inquiries into abuse in 2007 and 2009. These explored why such abuses happened in the past and have contributed to major improvements in the protection of young people in care. These reviews were commissioned to meet the particular challenges faced by the care system in Scotland.
“We would encourage anyone affected by these issues to contact SurvivorScotland for information on how to get help and support.”