Sex abuse survivors rage as inquiry judge pockets £2m while victims awarded £10k

Daily Record [Glasgow, Scotland]

July 17, 2023

By Marcello Mega

A Daily Record investigation has revealed Lady Smith was paid the same amount as some survivors receive in compensation.

Survivors of child sexual abuse have slammed the huge sums being earned by professionals involved in the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

A Daily Record investigation has revealed Lady Smith – the judge who has chaired the inquiry for seven years – was paid the same amount as some survivors receive in compensation for a lifetime of suffering for just two weeks of work.

Figures obtained from the Scottish Government show she has received just short of £2million in salary and pension contributions so far.

In another example, Johnny Gwynne, who retired on a police pension after 33 years, has been able to earn £34,193 for around 12 weeks work, at £561 a day, in his first six months as chairman of Redress Scotland, the body that sets compensation levels. This
is in comparison to paltry compensation sums – as little as £10,000 – awarded to victims for the abuse they endured.

Lady Smith’s earnings and pension contributions of £1.96million match the average award made to date to 40 victims.

And while Gwynne’s earnings for another 15 months before he stepped down in March this year are not yet public, his total pay-cheque would exceed £100,000 if he continued to work a similar proportion of days.

Set up in 2021, Redress ­Scotland has made awards of “more than £30million” to “more than 600 applicants” so far, an average of £50,000 per claim.

Ordinary panel members of Redress Scotland can earn more than £300,000 for a three-day week over the six years it is expected to sit.

Last night, Sandra Brown, of the Moira Anderson Foundation (MAF), a charity that supports those affected by child sexual abuse and their families, said: “These are eye-popping sums. The people we support are some of the most vulnerable in Scotland because abuse in childhood has life-long consequences.

“It must seem like a kick in the teeth to have their suffering valued by people who will emerge with much more than they receive for their ruined ­childhoods. Something’s out of sync.”

MAF has supported thousands of survivors since opening in 2000, 860 of them last year, many abused in institutions under scrutiny at the inquiry.

Sandra added: “Lady Smith is a judge and has handled the inquiry with compassion and grace and her position commands a high salary but how does it feel to be a victim awarded £10,000 for a ruined childhood and all that followed and know she will earn that in a fortnight?”

Dave Sharp, who was abused in care and has battled addiction and homelessness as a result, said: “It’s appalling. There doesn’t seem to be a limit on money paid to the professionals. But they can decide that my abuse was worth £100,000, or as pitiful a sum as £10,000, or somewhere in between.

“The Scottish Government is good at finding work for the rich and powerful, but not so good at ­recognising that every child who was abused lost their childhood and it marked them for life. How can you value that, and what qualifies anyone to say what our abuse was worth?”

Eileen Munro, 60, who survived neglect, physical and sexual abuse while in care and has been diagnosed with PTSD because of multiple traumas, said: “I feel totally sickened.

“I know there has to be a process and professionals involved have to be paid, but the ­decision makers have decided our suffering, no matter what it involved, is worth a maximum £100,000.

“You could have been abused every day of your childhood, been beaten, sexually abused, forced to eat stale food, even your own vomit, and it’s £100,000 at most.

“Yet some of those deciding, and in most cases setting the figure lower, can earn huge sums. Can they and the Scottish Government not see that it’s problematic, that it’s yet another punch in the gut to us?”

Redress Scotland was set up by the Scottish Government, independent of the SCAI, and it was projected that it would run until 2027.

It can award £10,000, £20,000, £40,000, £60,000, £80,000 or £100,000 to those who come forward to the inquiry. Ordinary panel members are paid £390 a day, most sitting part-time.

A panel member sitting three days a week for 45 weeks of the year for six years would earn £315,900, more than six times the average award paid so far.

Abuse victims who have given evidence to the inquiry also have to go through their ordeals again with their lawyers to prepare statements for Redress Scotland.

Eileen added: “You hope with every retelling that it might be the last time. I’ve made statements to the police twice and made further statements to the inquiry team. That involved days and days of reliving the worst times in my life. Ministers and their advisers must realise we are retraumatised every time.”

Last month, the Record revealed that Lord Hardie had been paid more than a £1million to chair the toothless Edinburgh Tram Inquiry. His report is not yet published more than five years after hearings ended.

Transport Scotland had refused to divulge the information, and Lord Hardie also wanted the matter kept private but Scotland’s Information Commissioner sided with the Record.

Lady Smith’s fees and Gwynne’s early earnings were provided by the Scottish Government, which funds the inquiry and released the information promptly.

The inquiry publishes its total costs to date every quarter, and the figure to the end of June, to be released in the next few days, is expected to take it beyond £70million.

Lady Smith’s approach from the chair during the SCAI has met with widespread approval from victims.

Many have noted that she has been quick to cut down representatives of organisations, including the Catholic Church, that appeared resistant to accepting that abuse had occurred.

The Scottish Lib Dem’s justice spokesperson, Liam McArthur, said: “Given the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved, the right professional support must be secured if the ends of justice are to be met. While that inevitably comes at a cost, it is also crucial that victims feel they have been put front and centre throughout this process.”

The Scottish Government said: “The SCAI was established in 2015 to address abuse of children in care.

“It is one the widest-ranging ­independent statutory public inquiries undertaken in Scotland and is vitally important in recognising the harm that has been caused to survivors of abuse in care.

“It is also crucial in ensuring lessons are learned to protect children in future. Lady Smith’s significant judicial experience, including as a Judge of the Supreme Courts, has allowed her to provide robust and sensitive leadership.”