Scottish aid charity deals 'decisively' with claims of sexual misconduct
15 February 2018, 07:14
A Scottish international aid charity has confirmed it has dealt with two cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving children.
The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (Sciaf) said one case involved a junior staff member for a joint organisation with other UK and Irish Catholic charities in Ethiopia, and the other a volunteer in Burundi.
The Burundi incident involved the alleged rape in 2012 of a 15-year-old girl by a 45-year-old Burundian man who volunteered for a local partner organisation for Sciaf.
The Ethiopian man accused in the other incident worked in the shared office of Sciaf and its sister UK and Irish aid charities Cafod and Trocaire in 2016 when he was accused of sexual misconduct with a boy aged under 16.
Neither of the alleged victims were being helped by Sciaf and the incidents did not take place during any of the charity's projects.
Sciaf director Alistair Dutton said both incidents were dealt with "decisively" and reassured supporters that the charity has stringent safeguarding procedures.
He said the Burundi man was reported to police, arrested and suspended as a volunteer, and the local charity partner co-operated with the police investigation and provided counselling and legal advice to the girl's family. The case is since believed to have been dropped.
The 2016 incident was reported to the charity by police and the man was suspended immediately and has since been dismissed for gross misconduct following an internal investigation. The criminal case is continuing.
The charity said the Burundi partner organisation did not have a child protection policy in 2012 but has since put one in place and extra training has been given to staff in both locations, with general child protection policies updated.
Sciaf provides grants to partners to develop child protection policies which stipulate that all safeguarding cases must be reported to Sciaf with evidence to show that appropriate action is being taken.
"Sciaf is doing everything we can to minimise the risk of these events and to deal with them appropriately," Mr Dutton said.
"We commissioned a well-known and respected safeguarding expert in the sector to conduct an external evaluation for us. He reviewed all our child protection policies including these two cases and commended us for our policies but also the way we dealt with the cases.
"Sciaf helps about a quarter of a million people directly every year, that makes a massive difference for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
"In over 50 years we have had two cases reported to us relating to sexual misconduct and both were dealt with decisively.
"I want to reassure all our supporters that you can trust us, that we do have policies and procedures in place and that we do deal decisively with any hint of a safeguarding issue. I won't tolerate that in any part of our operation."
Sciaf has spoken out about the cases amid scrutiny of the UK aid sector after the Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal.
Oxfam has been accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into claims staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011.