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Child abuse victims hail major step forward in fight for justice.



Tuesday 28 October 2014.

The victims of historic abuse in children's institutions have welcomed as a major step forward new government pledges to help secure justice for survivors.

MIchael RUSSELL: Committed to helping child abuse survivors.

Ministers yesterday used a major event in Glasgow, hosted by the Scottish Human Rights Commission, to spell out a raft of commitments to victims and campaigners.

Among the pledges were those to develop a reparation and support fund for survivors, a review of why survivors are not able to access civil justice, consideration for an apology law and funding for appropriate forms of commemoration. Education Secretary Michael Russell, who was among a number of high-ranking ministers in attendance, also promised to carry out a prompt review of the added value of carrying out a national inquiry into historic abuse.

Professor Alan Miller, chair of the commission, which has long called for such an inquiry, said: "Child abuse is a serious breach of human rights with lasting and significant harmful consequences.

"The commitments made today mark an important milestone towards securing justice for survivors of historic abuse. Implementation of these commitments cannot come a minute too soon and we urge the Scottish Government to put them into action with the utmost urgency.

"We welcome the Cabinet Secretary's promise to carry out a prompt review of the added value of a national inquiry and that the door remains open to such an inquiry taking place."

A signal of the seriousness of intent at the meeting, co-hosted by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland, was the attendance not just of Mr Russell but of three other ministers covering the justice, public health and children's portfolios.

David Whelan of the group representing survivors of abuse in homes run by Quarriers said after the meeting: "This is a major step forward. We support the commitments given today. We still have to work out the detail, but we are committed to working with all parties to implement this."

There was also a pledge from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to improve training for prosecutors in historic abuse cases, of which Mr Miller said: "Survivors of abuse - those whose rights have been breached and who the state failed in its duty to protect - must continue to be at the heart of further decisions about how to secure justice and appropriate remedies."

Mr Russell spoke with representatives of various groups of survivors of historic abuse, along with Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson, Aileen Campbell, the Minister for Children and Young People and Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs.

The event brought together representatives from the Scottish Government, local authorities, religious bodies, care providers and others to finalise an action plan to deliver justice for abuse survivors.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: "We want to do our utmost to see that the needs of survivors of abuse are addressed in terms of justice, perhaps by a public inquiry and the abolition of the time bar for cases before the courts, and the work of reparation.

"We will continue to engage with the process including the discussions about the setting up of a support fund to assist survivors."

Mr Russell said of the two-year reconciliation process known as InterAction: "The Scottish Government is committed to working with survivors and other key stakeholders on how a fund could work, and is committed to funding an appropriate commemoration to victims who suffered abuse in care."