Inquiry Into Historical Abuse Begins
1 October 2015, 07:11
A public inquiry into the historical abuse of children in care in Scotland will formally start its work today.
The Scottish Government pledged to ''shine a light in the dark corners of the past'' earlier this year when it announced Susan O'Brien QC would chair the inquiry.
It will cover allegations of abuse of children in formal institutional care including faith-based organisations, children's homes and secure care as well as those in foster care, long-term hospital care and boarding schools.
The inquiry, which could take up to four years, covers the period "within living memory'' up to December 17 last year - the date Education Secretary Angela Constance announced it was being established.
It will have the power to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence, and Ms Constance previously pledged that where crimes are uncovered the ''full force of the law'' would be used to bring those responsible to justice.
During the start-up period, those who believe they may have information to share are being asked to make initial contact with the inquiry, and organisations with records that may be of interest are being asked to take the necessary steps to ensure they are preserved.
Ms O'Brien said: "Today is a significant first step in starting up the work of the Historical Child Abuse Inquiry.
"From the outset, I am keen to ensure that survivors know that we will listen carefully to their experiences and that we will work hard to understand the lessons of the past in order to ensure that we keep our children safe in the future.
"Once the Scottish Government has appointed the inquiry panel members, and I have had a chance to discuss the issues with them, we will set out in detail the ways in which we will run the inquiry and take evidence from witnesses.
"Counsel to the inquiry will be in touch with survivors' representatives during October to make sure that their views are considered before that happens.
"It would be helpful if all other interested parties made themselves known to the inquiry now, so that their views can also be taken into account.''
A dedicated website - www.childabuseinquiry.scot - has also gone live today to keep the public updated on the work.
The Scottish Government also said it plans to lift the current three-year time bar for civil action in cases of historical child abuse since September 1964 but the body that represents Scotland's top lawyers has spoken out against the proposals.
The Faculty of Advocates claimed the existing system, where claims dating back more than three years are examined on a case-by-case basis, provides ''fairness to both parties''.