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Truth & Reconciliation in Scotland – A concept to heal & end issues of injustice & abuse

08 Feb

Over the years, Scotland has seen many abuse scandals in residential homes throughout the country – many reported in the media, many more probably not.

To address these issues, which have been poorly covered, dare I say, covered up by previous administrations, the Scottish Government has announced there is to be a ‘truth & reconciliation’ body which will be set up to “publicly acknowledge” the abuse inflicted upon thousands of children in residential homes in Scotland – reports the Scotsman newspaper.

You can read more from the Children’s Minister Adam Ingram’s announcement about the aims of the ‘truth & reconciliation’ commission on abuse against children here : Truth & Reconciliation and you can read the Scotsman’s report on this story here

Personally, I am all for the idea of ‘Truth & Reconciliation’ as long as any Commission created to handle the serious issues, has the necessary power, impartiality, transparency & accountability to actually do something for the victims of, in this case, the terrible abuse against children which should never have been allowed to happen.

Less of the delay, prevarication, adjusting of remits to protect the guilty or those with the most to lose – issues which we have been so used to encountering in just about every inquiry into events in the past in Scotland, instead, we should be seeing more of things like substantive action sooner rather than later, honesty, and a will to put things right by doing the right thing … now that is what ‘truth & reconciliation’ is all about.

There are many other areas of injustice such a proposal of ‘Truth & Reconciliation’ could be applied to, and I have as you know, asked the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to implement such a ‘Truth & Reconciliation’ Commission for victims of legal abuse – which covers injustice at the hands of the legal system and legal profession itself.

So far, Mr MacAskill has been reluctant to implement or at times, even acknowledge my request, or even that the issue exists, due it seems to too much interference from his former colleagues in the legal profession, perhaps too much favoritism towards his fellow lawyers – which has often spilled out into his debates & speeches in the Scottish Parliament itself, and of course, the worries from the likes of the legal establishment and even the judiciary that acknowledgement of the wrongs of Scots Law itself, by those who serve it or use it as a business model, against members of the public who have in many cases had their lives totally obliterated, is a step too far to take in the public interest.

You can see how Kenny MacAskill and the Parliament treated my request for ‘truth & reconciliation’ for victims of legal abuse here : Law Society kills Petition PE1033 amid calls for review of injustice & regulatory sins of the past.

Sadly, as you can see, the Law Society once again intervened and ordered the issue closed – Parliament and the Justice Secretary complying like wee poodles to the lawyers orders … no thought for Scots who have been thoroughly abused by by their esteemed friends in the legal system though.

“Truth & Reconciliation’ is a model which should be applied wisely to many areas of injustice in Scotland, and there are many areas which qualify for it’s application : physical abuse, legal abuse, human rights abuse, and many more.

With Adam Ingram’s announcement the concept is now to be used in Scotland, there should be a wider application of this policy to clear up Scotland’s injustice of the past in all areas of injustice, which would do a lot of good for the country as a whole and see a new chapter turned in the way people are treated, against the old chapter of allowing people to be mistreated.

The Scotsman reports :

Truth forum ‘will give a voice’ to victims of Scots care homes abuse

By Michael Howie
Home Affairs Correspondent

A TRUTH and reconciliation body will be set up to “publicly acknowledge” the abuse inflicted upon thousands of children in residential homes in Scotland, the Scottish Government has announced.

The move could see the perpetrators of abuse being brought face to face with their victims, in many cases several decades after the offences occurred.

It could also result in formal apologies from the Catholic Church, Quarriers, local authorities and other groups which ran children’s homes at the centre of Scotland’s abuse scandals – and promises to lift the lid on the full extent of the atrocities.

However, the concept of a truth and reconciliation forum is also a tacit admission that many abusers will never be brought to justice – a fact that enrages many who still bear the psychological scars of their abuse.

A consultation will be held over the detail of the project, led by Shona Robison, the public health minister, with officials set to examine the famous Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, as well as other schemes in New Zealand and Northern Ireland.

Announcing the plan, Adam Ingram, the children’s minister, said: “None of us should forget the physical, emotional and sexual abuse that has taken place in Scotland’s residential care homes, perpetrated by the very people who should have been providing support. It would be inexcusable for us not to confront what happened. It’s time for us to demonstrate our commitment through actions.”

Ms Robison added: “The move towards a Scottish truth and reconciliation forum will benefit victims of historical abuse by providing them with a platform to voice their experiences whilst giving public acknowledgement to what happened.

“For many (abuse] survivors, an acknowledgement of the abuse they suffered would be more beneficial than monetary compensation.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said the scheme could lead to reports being published into the extent of abuse in children’s homes, although individuals’ identities would be kept secret.

The administration also announced a national “hub” service to assist victims in accessing help such as psychiatric services, better training for residential child-care staff and a review of the law to address shortcomings in public records held on children in care.

The move follows a review of historical abuse of children in residential care by independent expert Tom Shaw, a former chief inspector of education in Northern Ireland. The report was triggered in 2004 when the then First Minister, Jack McConnell, publicly apologised to children who were abused while in care.

But hundreds of victims from residential schools and homes such as Nazareth House, Quarriers, Kerelaw and De La Salle have been unable to come to terms with the physical, psychological and sexual abuse they suffered and are angry at the lack of public acknowledgment and concern for their suffering.

With abuse dating back, in some cases, as far as the 1930s, relatively few people involved have been prosecuted, while evidence is often difficult to corroborate.

Kathleen Marshall, Scotland’s children’s commissioner, said: “Most people desperately want to be heard. They want an apology. This could provide that opportunity.”

‘Now it’s time for us to be heard’

ELIZABETH McWilliam no longer wants to hide in the shadows, struggling on her own to cope with abuse she describes as “atrocities”.

“We’ve been the silent minority. Now it’s time for us to be heard,” says the 70-year-old, one of hundreds of children abused by staff at Quarriers homes in Scotland in a period spanning decades. She says that she “just wants the truth”. But reconciliation is another thing.

“I will never forgive and forget. The government must make these people face up to what they’ve done.”

But she says a truth and reconciliation forum could help Scotland to move on from the shame of its past. “This is a new dawn, a new horizon for children in care now,” she says. “We’ve got to look forward to the future.”

However, Adeline Spence, 45, from Glasgow, is less convinced.

Ms Spence, who was abused by nuns at Nazareth House children’s home in Cardonald, said: “I don’t know what difference it will make. These people need to be taken to court.”

‘OUR NATIONAL SHAME’

THE abuse inflicted on children in residential care was described four years ago as Scotland’s “national shame” by the then First Minister, Jack McConnell.

Adam Ingram, the children’s minister, has already announced an inquiry into allegations of – and convictions for – child abuse at Kerelaw, a residential school and secure unit in Ayrshire that sparked Scotland’s biggest child abuse investigation before it closed in 2005. However, that was just the latest in a succession of abuse scandals in residential institutions for children.

The list has grown in recent years. It includes: Larchgrove, a council-run children’s home in Glasgow; Blairs College, a seminary in Aberdeen; St Ninian’s, a school run by monks, the De La Salle Brothers, in Gartmore, Stirlingshire; and Nazareth House, a chain of Catholic children’s homes.

and now the release from the Scottish Government :

Truth and Reconciliation

07/02/2008

A Scottish Truth and Reconciliation Forum is to be set up to support adults who suffered childhood abuse, initially focusing on the needs of survivors of historic abuse in residential care.

The move was among a package of support for adult survivors of abuse announced by Children’s Minister Adam Ingram today.

Mr Ingram unveiled plans for:

* A Scottish truth and reconciliation model
* A national service framework to support survivors of historic in-care abuse
* Improvements to the residential child care system, including better staff training and development
* A review of the law to address shortcomings in public records held on children in care
* The specific remit of the joint Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council inquiry into abuse at Kerelaw residential school

Mr Ingram said:

“None of us should forget the physical, emotional and sexual abuse that has taken place in Scotland’s residential care homes – perpetrated by the very people who should have been providing support.

“The system let these young people down in the most terrible way and it would be inexcusable for us not to confront what happened.

“It’s now time for us to demonstrate our commitment through actions and that’s why we’re driving forward with the measures announced today.”

Minister for Public Health Shona Robison, who will oversee the creation of the forum, said:

“The move towards a Scottish truth and reconciliation forum will benefit victims of historical abuse by providing them with a platform to voice their experiences whilst also giving public acknowledgement to what happened to these children.

“Through close working with survivors and the organisations that represent them, we have come to understand that for many survivors an acknowledgement of the abuse they have suffered would be more beneficial than monetary compensation.

“It is on this basis we have begun to explore the use of a truth and reconciliation model. I hope that through that process there will be an opportunity to give survivors a chance to speak about their experiences but also learn lessons to ensure that children in the future are better protected.”

Survivor Scotland member Helen Holland, who suffered abuse in residential care during her childhood, said:

“What many survivors want is acknowledgement of what happened to them and a truth and reconciliation forum can help them to achieve that.

“What we are now seeing is actions, not just words and that has to be positive.”

Today’s announcement is the Scottish Government’s response to recommendations in a review of historical abuse of children in residential care by independent expert Tom Shaw.

2. Scotland’s truth and reconciliation forum will give survivors the chance to speak about their experiences, establish the facts and learn from the suffering to help protect children in the future.

Ministers are supportive of proposals for a national framework of advocacy, mediation and counselling services to help in-care abuse survivors which are being considered by reference group Survivor Scotland. Subject to the group’s endorsement and Ministerial approval, funding will be made available.

The Scottish Government has asked the National Archives of Scotland’s Keeper of the Records to carry out a review of the legislation on public records.

Information on the Independent Kerelaw Inquiry

Ministers have accepted recommendations from the Scottish Law Commission that prescribed personal injury claims (pre-September 1964) cannot be revived.

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Posted by on February 8, 2008 in Politics, Scotland, Scots Law, Scottish Law

 

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