Former Labour minister Helen Liddell pledges 'fearless' review of Church abuse

By Andrew Learmonth
December 6, 2016

Helen Liddell served as Secretary of State for Scotland under Tony Blair

SCOTLAND’S bishops have asked former Labour minister Helen Liddell to take charge of making the Catholic Church a “safe place for all”.

Liddell will chair the independent review group responsible for implementing the recommendations of Dr Andrew McLellan’s report into the church’s failures over child protection. The former MP for Airdrie and Shotts promised the group would be “transparent and fearless”.

Back in 2013, the bishops had McLellan, a former Chief Moderator at the Kirk, chair a review and make “recommendations for improvement that will assist the Church in being a safe place for all”.

McLellan’s report, which was published last year, called for the Catholic Church to make an immediate apology to survivors and to rewrite all its safeguarding policies and open itself up to external scrutiny.

Liddell’s appointment comes just weeks after McLellan accused the bishops of ignoring his report.

In a letter to the Herald, McLellan said the Church appeared to be “confirming the worst fears of survivors and observers by appearing to ignore this report”.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, president of the Bishops’ Conference, said: “I am most grateful to Baroness Liddell for agreeing to become the first chair of the independent review group, which will review and audit the Catholic Church’s safeguarding work.

“In accepting the recommendation of the McLellan Commission to create an independent group, it was clear that a chairperson of national stature and proven competence would be required and I believe that, in Helen, these qualities are perfectly met.

“On behalf of the bishops of Scotland, I welcome her appointment and look forward to working with her as we continue to implement in full the safeguarding recommendations presented to us last year.”

Liddell said: “This group will be a transparent and fearless means of ensuring that the McLellan Commission recommendations are implemented in full. We owe it to the survivors to ensure that their suffering is never repeated.”

The Labour peer previously served as Secretary of State for Scotland in Tony Blair’s government, and had a stint at the British High Commission in Australia.

Writing in The Herald, Baroness Liddell said she was “horrified, humiliated and angry that the actions of a few in the Church I support have caused acute pain and suffering to innocent people”.

She said the review group, which she will appoint, will include “safeguarding professionals, specialists in the evaluation of organisations, a representative of Police Scotland and a canon lawyer”.

“This group will be a transparent and fearless means of ensuring that the McLellan Commission recommendations are implemented in full. We owe it to the survivors to ensure that their suffering is never repeated.

“Abuse has brought shame on the Church, and like tens of thousands of Catholics I want to prove to the survivors that we care. I will do my very best, with the help of a fearless and committed review group, to make sure this never happens again.

“We must ensure the McLellan Report is implemented in full. Judge us by our actions.”

Alan Draper, from the In-Care Abuse Survivors group, welcomed the appointment but was sceptical about how independent the group might be. He said: “We welcome the appointment of Baroness Liddell and hope she will ensure that the group is truly independent in its examination of the failures of the hierarchy to show compassion to survivors.

“We also hope that she will ensure there is genuine accountability for the failures of the past, and that the group will be at the forefront of recommending redress for the thousands of victims.

“The group needs to start with the failure to produce and publish the internal audit of allegations from 1947 to 2012. Because it was internal, it’s unlikely to admit the abject failure in its moral duty to protect thousands of innocent children. Perhaps Baroness Liddell should start again.”


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