Baroness Liddell to head investigation into child abuse in the Catholic Church
Scotland’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference from eight dioceses including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paisley, Dundee, Aberdeen, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Galloway and Argyll and the Isles.
By Bill Heaney
A detailed investigation into historic child abuse in establishments connected with the Catholic Church in Scotland – and with the clergy and religious who were appointed to run them – was launched today.
The announcement from the Scottish bishops followed a meeting today (Monday) of the Independent Review Group established by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.
An official statement from the Church said that “stakeholders” from throughout the Catholic Church were involved.
They agreed to announce and prepare for a professional audit of safeguarding in two Catholic dioceses in Scotland to be conducted by Social Care Institute for Excellence and Children in Scotland.
The dioceses “randomly chosen” from the eight in Scotland are the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, and the Diocese of Galloway.
An official statement said: “The outcome of this detailed work is intended to ensure full implementation of the McLellan Commission’s recommendations and put in place a robust system of safeguarding for children and vulnerable adults that can be measured against the best international standards.”
The Independent Review Group chair is Helen Liddell, a former Labour MP, BBC TV reporter, MP and trade union official, who was an adviser to the late Robert Maxwell when he bought the Daily Record.
Her husband, Dr Alistair Liddell, was a director of Polaroid at Strathleven Industrial Estate in Dumbarton.
Dame Helen is now a member of the House of Lords at Westminster.
She said: “”We cannot eliminate the pain of those who experienced abuse in the past, but we can put in place not just procedures but a culture that both supports them and protects all those who most need our care and compassion in future.
“I chair a group of outstanding and experienced professionals who are committed to making sure children and vulnerable adults come to no harm when in the care of the Church.
“They have reviewed in considerable detail the self-administered audits of all the Scottish Dioceses and that knowledge, together with the professional audits announced today, will form the basis for putting in place procedures that meet the requirements of the McLellan Commission recommendations and that can stand up to the most rigorous analysis.”
The McLellan Commission was set up by the Catholic Church under the chairmanship of Dr Andrew McLellan, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland who later became Director of Prisons in Scotland.
The Commission’s report was launched at a press conference in Edinburgh with no bishops present and at which no open forum for questions from the media was allowed.
Reporters were invited to meet Dr McLellan for one to one interviews in private, but the next day’s newspapers dismissed the Commission’s report as “a whitewash”.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, pictured left,a past president of the of the Bishops’ Conference – he has been succeeded by Bishop Hugh Gilbert, a Cistercian monk, made a short statement from the pulpit during the lunchtime Mass in St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow apologising to victims of abuse.
More recently, there have been shocking revelations about abuse in religious institutions during the Child Abuse Inquiry being conducted by High Court Judge Lady Smith in Edinburgh.
It was announced there that prosecutions were in the pipeline following testimony given by witnesses from as far away as Canada about the abuse they had suffered.
Baroness Liddell I am grateful that the Bishops Conference of Scotland have recognised the independence of the Review Group and have agreed to these procedures. The results of the audits will be made public at the same time as they are released to the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.”
The Social Care Institute for Excellence is described in the media release as “an independent charity which advises on safeguarding, social care, health, housing and support to children and adults. https://www.scie.org.uk
The members are: Helen Liddell (Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke) Chair, pictured below right, is a former Member of Parliament and Secretary of State for Scotland. She is a member of the House of Lords.
Bartolomeo Biagini is an educational consultant with extensive experience of leadership of children’s services, inspection and review. He was formerly a lead HM inspector of education with responsibility for inclusion and was involved in child protection inspections.
Gordon Jeyes OBE was the UK’s first Director of Children’s Services and retired recently as the first Chief Executive of Ireland’s Child and Family Agency (Tusla).
Roisin McGoldrick is a former member of the McLellan Commission. She is a registered social worker and is currently employed as a teaching fellow in the School of Social Work and Social Policy at Strathclyde University.
Lesley Ann Russell is an experienced charity trustee and manager, specialising in organisation change, management of risk and safeguarding.
Donald Urquhart is the National Safeguarding Adviser to the Scottish Episcopal Church. He is a retired police officer and has worked as both a lead officer and an independent chair of child protection committees in Scotland.
Lisa Markham is a safeguarding professional with extensive experience including work within the Catholic Church.
The McLellan Commission’s eight principal recommendations, announced by Dr McLellan, pictured below left, were:
Support for the survivors of abuse must be an absolute priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland in the field of safeguarding.
The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland should make a public apology to all survivors of abuse within the Church.
The “Awareness and Safety” manual should be completely revised or rewritten.
That there must be some external scrutiny and independence in the safeguarding policies and practices of the Catholic Church in Scotland.
Effectiveness and improvement must be measured at every level of safeguarding in the Church.
A consistent approach to safeguarding is essential: consistent across different parts of Scotland and consistent across different parts of the Church.
Justice must be done, and justice must be seen to be done, for those who have been abused and for those against whom allegations of abuse are made.
The priority of undertaking regular high-quality training and continuous professional development in safeguarding must be understood and accepted by all those involved in safeguarding at every level.
The Catholic Church in Scotland must set out a theology of safeguarding which is coherent and compelling.