After speculation there would be no inquiry into the claims of widespread physical & sexual abuse at the Kerelaw residential unit in Glasgow, the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council have now announced an independent inquiry will finally take place.
The Herald reports :
KEVIN SCHOFIELD and GERRY BRAIDEN
An independent inquiry is to be held into reports of mass physical and sexual abuse of children at a Scottish residential unit after the scandal was exposed by The Herald.
The Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council announced yesterday that they are to commission the investigation into Kerelaw School in Ayrshire.
A council report in the summer found that 40 care workers at the school preyed either sexually or physically on some of Scotland's most troubled youngsters, sometimes in the knowledge of colleagues and superiors, over many years.
The school, which was run by the city council, was closed in 2005 after an initial tip-off from a whistleblower within Kerelaw the year before.
Announcing the inquiry to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Adam Ingram, minister for children and early years, said: "I want to be assured that abuse, and allegations of abuse, on the scale and over that duration, cannot ever happen again in a residential setting in Scotland."
The inquiry will be chaired by Eddie Frizzell, a former head of the Scottish Prison Service and now a visiting professor of public service management at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.
Among its aims will be to examine the council's running of the school and the steps the local authority has taken since Kerelaw was closed, and identify recommendations to ensure similar incidents do not happen again.
Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, said the probe would allow officials to gain "a deeper insight" into the circumstances surrounding the Kerelaw abuse.
"An inquiry securing the participation of former pupils, staff, the inspectorates and stakeholders will assist in identifying any further measures to help better protect the children of Glasgow and Scotland," he said.
The council's own three-year investigation found that "a significant core of staff" at the school was directly involved in abuse and warned that some were still working in Scotland's care sector.
The report said: "The investigation shows that there was a significant core of staff, around 40 individuals, directly involved in the abuse of young people. However, a far larger number of staff had knowledge and information about abuse and potential abuse, and were unwilling or unable to address this abuse."
It added: "It is also clear that there have been deficiencies in the quantity, quality, visibility and assertiveness of external management."
Two former members of staff at Kerelaw were found guilty last year of physically and sexually abusing children in their care. Art teacher Matthew George was jailed for 10 years at the High Court in Edinburgh for a "horrifying catalogue" of offences, while John Muldoon, a residential care worker, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years.
The Crown Office dropped proceedings against 10 workers accused of abusing children at Kerelaw, although allegations against a further seven members of staff are still being investigated.
Mr Ingram said he wanted to make sure that the independent inquiry does not impede any criminal proceedings relating to Kerelaw. The minister also insisted that the inquiry will not interfere with a separate review of abuse at care homes, which is due to be submitted to the Government later this month.
An announcement on the full remit of the inquiry will be made next year and Mr Ingram said: "This is an occasion where I believe it is better to maximise the insight that we can gain from Kerelaw than rush headlong into matters. It is better for Scotland's most vulnerable children that we get this right than we get it swiftly."
A former head of Kerelaw yesterday welcomed the inquiry and said he hoped it would reveal the truth of what went on at the school.
Robert Forrest, who was in charge of the unit from 1981 until 1995, said: "I'm pleased that the investigation will look at how Glasgow City Council conducted its investigation and examine their stewardship of the school.
"However, I was disappointed that the minister naively just accepts the council's version that there was widespread, long-term abuse. I would hope that the independent inquiry would start off by questioning whether that was the case."