Judge Lady Smith's appeal to child abuse victims and witnesses

Image source, Scottish government
Image caption,
Lady Smith was appointed to chair the inquiry after the resignation of Susan O'Brien QC

The senior judge appointed to lead the Scottish government's child abuse inquiry has urged victims and witnesses to come forward.

Lady Smith said she was determined to find out "what happened, where, how and why".

The inquiry will examine historical allegations of child abuse in Scotland.

It is expected to last four years, and will look at the extent of abuse of children in care and identify any systemic failures.

Lady Smith replaced Susan O'Brien QC as chairwoman of the inquiry after she quit the post in July citing government interference.

A second member of the three-person panel, Prof Michael Lamb, also resigned over similar concerns.

Public awareness

Lady Smith said: "I come to this role with 15 years of experience as a judge of the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary. I am personally committed to it and will discharge my duties independently, thoroughly and to the best of my ability.

"This independent inquiry was established in October 2015 for purposes which include the need to raise public awareness of the fact of children in residential care having been abused, to acknowledge and record the suffering of those children, to carry out investigations and to make recommendations.

"It will investigate how children were failed, what went so badly wrong, identify what makes residential care safe for a child and make recommendations about what we consider is required to ensure that now, and in the future, the welfare of children is truly paramount and children are properly protected. My fellow panel member, Glenn Houston, and I are committed to delivering a thorough and conscientious response to its remit."

Image source, Scottish government
Image caption,
Ms O'Brien and Prof Lamb, right, both quit the inquiry, leaving Glenn Houston, left, as the sole reaming inquiry member until Lady Smith's appointment

Lady Smith said restriction orders to protect the anonymity of witnesses and victims had been issued "where appropriate".

She added that the wide-ranging inquiry would look at the abuse of children in residential care in Scotland "over a period from within the living memory of anyone who suffered such abuse up to the end of 2014".

The judge said: "The inquiry will thus reach far back in time and has already gathered numerous accounts of abuse that happened many years ago. That work continues. It does so in private sessions which are taking place throughout the UK.

"We are determined to find out what happened, where, how and why, what was the conduct and what were the failings of institutions and others entrusted with the care and protection of children.

"I would encourage anyone who is able to provide information about such abuse or about the places where it occurred or about those responsible for them, whether as victim, witness or otherwise, to come forward. Talk to us. We want to hear from you."

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