Child Abuse Inquiry "Doomed"

29 June 2016, 08:24

An expert has resigned from the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, suggesting the review is "doomed'' due to government interference.

Cambridge professor Michael Lamb sent a letter to Deputy First Minister John Swinney saying repeated threats to the inquiry's independence have undermined its panel.

The inquiry was established to address seven decades of abuse of children in faith-based organisations, children's homes, foster care, long-term hospital care and boarding schools.

Public hearings are to begin in November, with the first session looking at the current provision of psychological support for abuse survivors in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has rejected the academic's claims.

Professor Lamb wrote in the letter seen by The Scotsman newspaper: "It has become increasingly clear over the last nine months that the Panel cannot act independently and that the Scottish Government intends to continue interfering in ways large and small, directly and indirectly.

"Continuing interference threatens to prevent the inquiry from investigating thoroughly and taking robust evidence of the highest quality.''

He said the Scottish Government had delayed or prevented the appointment of "crucial'' members of staff and officials had questioned decisions taken by the independent panel.

The psychology professor said the team's fact-finding "should not be constrained or micro-managed by one of the bodies whose actions or failures to act may ultimately be criticised''.

He concluded: "Repeated threats to the inquiry's independence have undermined the panel's freedom to address the terms of reference and have doomed the inquiry before the first witness has been heard.''

Professor Lamb had been appointed to assist inquiry chairwoman Susan O'Brien QC and third panel member Glenn Houston.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We entirely reject Prof Lamb's comments about the Scottish Government.

"The Scottish Government has a clear obligation to fulfil its responsibilities within the requirements of The Inquiries Act 2005 and other relevant legislation. Our primary focus remains on supporting the successful operation of the independent statutory Inquiry.

"Ministers are grateful to Prof Lamb for his work.''

Some survivor groups have said they are unhappy with the scope of the inquiry and have called on the government to widen the remit to include institutions such as the Catholic Church.

A meeting between ministers and abuse survivors is expected to take place next week, where discussions will focus on the progress of the inquiry and support available for victims.

The government spokeswoman added: "The Deputy First Minister has also written to survivors and their representatives about Prof Lamb's departure and assured them that his primary objective is to ensure that this does not impact on the progress that the independent inquiry has been making.''