Lady Smith to lead independent public inquiry.
A senior judge, the Right Honourable Lady Smith, will lead Scotland’s independent public Inquiry into the abuse of children in care from next month.
Lady Smith’s appointment was announced by Deputy First Minister John Swinney in a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee. Lady Smith has been a Judge since 2001 and was appointed to the Inner House in November 2012.
Mr Swinney said:
“I am pleased that Lady Anne Smith has accepted my invitation to be Chair of Scotland’s independent public Inquiry into the abuse of children in care. Lady Smith will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the leadership of the Inquiry, from her significant service both as a QC and as a judge, her extensive involvement in the work of tribunals and as President of the Scottish Tribunals and her role in leading the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse.
“Her leadership, independence and sensitivity will be key to the Inquiry’s progress. It is in the nature of Lady Smith's background as an experienced Judge that the Inquiry will be taken forward without fear or favour to identify how individuals and institutions failed many of Scotland’s most vulnerable children. We must ensure children are effectively protected as a result of what we learn from the Inquiry.
“This is one of Scotland’s widest-ranging public inquiries ever, examining not only the abuse of children formally placed ‘in care’ in institutions, but also allegations of abuse in foster care, in long-term hospital care and in boarding schools. At the request of a number of survivors, I have agreed to consider the scope of the terms of reference. In the coming weeks I will give this matter further thought, including discussion with Lady Smith, and also taking account of last year’s consultation responses.
“Scotland must have an in-depth independent Inquiry that pursues critical lines of evidence to uncover the truth. It must also be sufficiently focused in scope to deliver clear, meaningful recommendations that help prevent a repeat of the systemic, institutional failings which saw children abused by the very individuals entrusted by the state and others to care for them over an extended period. Survivors, and indeed the wider public would expect no less.”
Lady Smith said:
“Protection of the innocence and wellbeing of children is of fundamental importance to a healthy society. The duty of institutions entrusted with the care of children to afford that principle the highest priority is indisputable.
“Sadly, many children placed in residential care in this country have, over a period stretching back years, not been afforded the protection they deserved. Their voices now require to be heard and questions of when, where, how and why it happened require to be fully addressed.
“Consideration also needs to be given to determining whether further changes in current practice, policy or legislation are required to ensure children in care in Scotland are protected from such abuse. Real efforts must be made to try to effect healing, repair, restoration of dignity and hope for the future. It is, accordingly, very important that the work of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry continue and it is for these reasons that I welcome the invitation that has been extended to me by the Deputy First Minister and have today given my commitment to being its Chair.”
Lady Smith’s appointment as Chair of the independent Inquiry will take effect from August 1st. It follows the resignation of the previous Chair earlier this month.
Lady Smith will be relieved of her duties as an Inner House judge but may sit occasionally if workload permits. A biography of Lady Smith can be found here.
On July 15th the Inquiry issued an update on its work, which can be read here.
Anyone who is or has been affected by historical child abuse in care can find out more about support through the Scottish Government website.
The Child Abuse Inquiry is one of the widest-ranging public inquiries ever held in Scotland, and includes all forms of abuse, including sexual and wider physical assault. A statutory public inquiry with powers to compel was one of several commitments made by the Government in response to the ‘InterAction’ process. Further information is available here.