October 2015 saw the start of the Scottish inquiry chaired by Susan O’Brien QC and in January 2016 FACT was pleased to be asked by the inquiry then known as the Scottish Historical Child Sex Abuse Inquiry, to meet with them to discuss what we wished to see from the 4-year inquiry. We attended a meeting in January in Edinburgh. The main points we made were it is time inquiries acknowledged that False Allegation are a reality, must be taken into consideration and it should be publically acknowledged that they do happen alongside true allegations. This we felt would at least go a small way to giving a clear message to the Police who investigate and the public who so often judge that objectivity and not pre-judging are essential. This is even more important in relation to child sexual abuse as emotions run high and a huge amount of influence has already been applied to public opinion. There is a danger that without this the inquiry will inadvertently give the message that all allegations are true resulting in more innocent people suffering.
Recently we have seen a rising awareness of false allegations in the media following a number of high profile allegations being dropped including that of Lord Bramall following admittance by the police that they should not have ‘believed’ just on the strength of what someone said before proper investigation. We see at last some glimmer of hope that the problem is being recognised as real even though many ‘ordinary’ folk have been suffering for years. Much discussion is also ongoing concerning the ability to conduct a fair trial for historical cases going back decades where it is very difficult to produce proof or to mount a defence. Convictions are often based on one person’s word against another. This is bringing about an increasing public awareness that historical cases are notoriously unsafe. Interestingly the Scottish inquiry announced at the beginning of February 2016 that it was removing the word ‘historical’ from its name even though it’s terms of reference remain the same:
1. To investigate the nature and extent of abuse of children whilst in care in Scotland, during the relevant time frame
2. To consider the extent to which institutions and bodies with legal responsibility for the care of children failed in their duty to protect children in care in Scotland (or children whose care was arranged in Scotland) from abuse, and in particular to identify any systemic failures in fulfilling that duty
3. To create a national public record and commentary on abuse of children in care in Scotland during the relevant time frame
4. To examine how abuse affected and still affects these victims in the long term, and how in turn it affects their families
5. The Inquiry is to cover that period which is within living memory of any person who suffered such abuse, up until such date as the Chair may determine, and in any event not beyond 17 December 2014
6. To consider the extent to which failures by state or non-state institutions (including the courts) to protect children in care in Scotland from abuse have been addressed by changes to practice, policy or legislation, up until such date as the Chair may determine
7. To consider whether further changes in practice, policy or legislation are necessary in order to protect children in care in Scotland from such abuse in future
8. Within 4 years (or such other period as Ministers may provide) of the date of its establishment, to report to the Scottish Ministers on the above matters, and to make recommendations
As false allegations are on the increase we must be getting nearer the time when we see inquiries set up into the large number of false allegations that are taking place which in turn will be asking what did the earlier CSA inquiries not do? We would also ask the Scottish government to set up a survivors fund for victims of false allegations and their families to run alongside the survivors fund for victims of child sexual abuse.
SCSAI website HERE