Historical abuse: Third activist dies waiting for inquiry to begin

By Kathleen Nutt
May 20, 2015

Alan Draper of Incas: Long delays are not helping survivors

A THIRD member of a campaign group that has been fighting for a judge-led statutory inquiry into historical abuse of children has died while waiting for the inquiry to get under way.

The 34-year-old man, who had been abused as a child, took his own life earlier this month after a failed legal battle.

The sad news emerged as, in a separate development, The National can reveal a key announcement initially planned for the end of April regarding the inquiry has been beset by a further delay.

Ministers put back a statement last month until after the General Election with the indication it would be made in the Scottish Parliament by the end of May.

But last night it emerged it will not be made until later, and no definite date has been set.

Alan Draper, parliamentary liaison officer for In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said the longer the delay continued, the more survivors began to suspect they would not agree with some of the terms of reference of the inquiry.

“Survivors are wondering who we can begin to trust. We hear all these nice words but the nice words haven’t translated into positive action.

“We wonder what is going on, why the reasons for the delay?” he said. “I feel all this delay is not helping anyone. Why can’t the government be open and transparent?”

The 34-year-old who died earlier this month had tried to raise a civil action in connection with the abuse he suffered, but was told his case could not be heard because of the time-bar rule that restricts civil actions from being raised within three years of the incident taking place.

Last month, The National revealed two Incas members had died since Education Secretary Angela Constance announced in December an inquiry would go ahead.

Elizabeth McWilliams, who was in her late seventies, passed away in April after being left traumatised by her childhood in care and had been actively involved in the support group In Care Abuse Survivors. She died in her home in Glasgow after many years suffering from ill-health.

A second member of the group died earlier in the year, but he had not spoken publicly about his abuse and his name was not given to The National.

Draper has already said the ageing profile of the group’s members added to the sense of urgency to the campaign for justice.

“Many of our members are getting older and are in poor health. For years we have been saying to the Scottish Government ‘you need to do something now’ to acknowledge how so many people have suffered and repair some of the damage before more survivors pass away,” he said.

Mother-of-four McWilliams had spoken out to newspapers and broadcasters about the sexual and physical abuse she suffered at Quarriers in Bridge of Weir where she grew up between 1939 and 1954.

She told one newspaper: “I’ve lived in a world of silence and shame to suit society. I would like to leave this world without the pain I’ve got. Give me the apology I deserve for the atrocities I’ve suffered. I want the closure once and for all.”

A Westminster inquiry has been the subject of a series of controversies over who the UK Government named as its head, with two of those appointed having to stand down after protests from survivors.

The Scottish Government is currently deciding the form of its historical abuse inquiry and it is expected to investigate abuse in children’s homes, residential schools and religious orders in Scotland dating back decades. But Incas also wants the inquiry to investigate allegations of abuse in church parishes as well as claims that Scottish institutions carried out medical experiments on vulnerable children and adults without consent.

Incas does not give details of the allegations, but in the past claims have been made that children were victims of the practice at Lennox Castle Hospital, East Dunbartonshire.

Former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell apologised to children who were abused while in care in a key statement he gave to the Scottish Parliament in 2004.

After his apology, an investigation was carried out by Tom Shaw, a former chief inspector of education and training in Northern Ireland. His report, published in 2007, estimated that about 1,000 children were physically or sexually abused in the country’s care homes between 1950 and 1995.

Chris Daly, a former resident of Nazareth House, in Aberdeen, first made the demand for a public inquiry at Holyrood’s petitions committee in 2002.

Subsequent petitions have since followed, and at one point survivors – frustrated at what they saw as a lack of Scottish Government action – marched down the Royal Mile to Holyrood.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Cabinet Secretary has committed to returning to parliament this month.”


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