Friday, February 08, 2008

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

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."


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


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.


Al said...

You are of course correct in all you say Peter, and Truth and Reconciliation is indeed an excellent concept for all those in Scotland who have suffered psychological, physical and sexual abuse under the "care" of Scotland's local authorities and for those who have suffered other terrible wrong-doing and injustice at the hands of Scotland's legal "profession" and, very often, our politicos.

But sadly, i don't hold out much hope for such a body, for the reasons i pointed out over here :

You see, when you have a "Justice" Secretary in post, who should NEVER have been appointed in the first place, who covers up the most heinous abuse and neglect of a brain damaged, sick and very vulnerable adult as he did over many years (from August 1999), and then, along with his senior SNP colleagues, even goes to the lengths of denying the existence of very harrowing, horrific, damning and incriminating case files and photographs so as to cover up for his wrong-doing, inaction and collusion in the appalling case concerned, then what chance is there really for "Truth and Reconciliation" for ANYONE in Scotland with that very cruel, heartless, wicked and corrupt "Justice" Secretary at the helm of Scotland's INjustice Department?

Comments would be most welcome Messrs Salmond, MacAskill, Duncan et al...

Alternatively, you know the contact details and telephone number for the central Edinburgh address concerned by now - some 12 letters and one year on from that first formal request for these very harrowing case files and photographs ... which, as per your most recent letter of Friday 1 February, you deny even exist.

Time for some greatly needed "Truth and Reconciliation" in this appaling case now ... Messrs Salmond and MacAskill.

? said...

again almost unworkable in Scotland - too many liars & crooks run the show as you know.

all the best

Anonymous said...

A lot of stuff from you this week Peter.Trying to tell us something ?

Anonymous said...

What happens when one of the many kiddie fiddler lawyers have to face their victims ?
Doubt that will be allowed to happen EVER

Anonymous said...

As the person says in the Scotsman I wonder what people will think of those who are identified and forced to face their victims after abusing them.

Peter Cherbi said...

#Al @ 8.17pm

I think you said everything I could, Al, and I agree with you entirely.

There needs to be big change in Scotland for this to happen, but with the legal establishment seemingly in control of just about anything they want to be in control of, change is almost impossible.

I remember in 2006, while Douglas Mill was trying to prop up his argument to maintain self regulation of the legal profession, he brought forward a lawyer from Zimbabwe to attest to dictatorship in that country.

Despite having the air of democracy in Scotland, I think our legal establishment can rival any dictatorship when it comes to disrespecting the rights of Scots.

That might be unpalatable for some, but its the truth.

#? @ 8.20pm

Yes I agree - but we have to try ...

Trying & failing only shows the system to be even more corrupt and self protective ...

#Anonymous @ 12.25pm

Yes - the Judiciary are out for blood to stop any reforms to the courts & the bench ...

One way for the Government to fight back, would be to simply bypass the judiciary and the legal profession - hold these 'truth & reconciliation' commissions, admit the guilt, do the honest thing, and cut out the lawyers interfering to prevent the abuse of people's rights being attended to simply so they can fill their bags of legal aid and clients money - or take a substantial cut of any compensation on offer.

Bypass the legal establishment if you want to get on in life - they will only make things worse so they can claim their share of the loot.

#Anonymous @ 1.37pm

I'm sure they would be let off the hook to do it again .. and if you have any names, please remember to pass them along to myself or one of Scotland's more brave newspapers who will surely attend to a story.

@Anonymous @ 5.06pm

The same as what happens when one of them goes to jail maybe ?

Name & shame the lot of them - no exceptions.

Anonymous said...

I agree.If its good for one application its good for all and it should be a way to cut round those leeching lawyers who claim to be doing whats best for the victim.In truth more for their own pocket.

I see the lawyers are banking on the slopping out payments already.Follow that one up please !

Anonymous said...

If it works everywhere else it should work in scotland if not it shows us to be a bunch of utter bastards.

Anonymous said...

Lawyers wont agree to face their victims because they are too bloody used to fleecing everyone.Lock the lot of them up !