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Religious order admits ‘framework’ allowed abuse of children in care

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry was hearing closing statements into its investigation of the Christian Brothers’ residential institutions.


The inquiry is being chaired by judge Lady Smith (Nick Mailer)

The inquiry is being chaired by judge Lady Smith (Nick Mailer)

The inquiry is being chaired by judge Lady Smith (Nick Mailer)

A religious order that ran a childcare home in Fife has admitted the institution had a “framework” which allowed abuse to take place.

The comments came during closing statements in the latest phase of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) on Tuesday.

It has been investigating residential establishments run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers, with a particular focus on St Ninian’s in Falkland.

The inquiry has heard numerous accounts of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the institution.

Two former teachers at the home – Paul Kelly and John Farrell – were convicted of abusing boys in their care in 2016.

Alastair Duncan QC, representing the religious order, said: “It’s a possible to see within a wider context a set of circumstances and a framework for these men to vent their appetite for abuse.”

He added: “The congregation acknowledges that intolerable and unacceptable sexual abuse took place within St Ninian’s.”

The inquiry heard how those in positions of responsibility had inadequate training for their roles.

It was said there was a presumption the men’s religious background made them suitable.

Judge Lady Smith, chairwoman of the inquiry, said: “It’s as though being a member of the order gave them a certificate of goodness.”

Mr Duncan added: “A number of brothers in St Ninian’s paid little heed to observe that certificate of goodness and consideration of the rules they were supposed to sign up to.”

He added the congregation continues to offer its apologies to those who suffered while in its care.

Colin MacAulay QC, senior counsel to the inquiry, said there is a “powerful body of evidence” to support claims that sexual abuse took place at the home.

Mr MacAulay said: “If the evidence is accepted, there was abuse at St Ninian’s over a period of its existence.

“Some of that was particularly brutal. There’s also some evidence of children being humiliated.”

He added: “There’s also evidence of sexual brutality over the whole period of St Ninian’s existence.

“What’s beyond doubt in light of convictions in 2016 during its last four or five years, children were sexually abused in a particularly depraved way.”

There were attempts to normalise sexual abuseJohn Scott QC

The home cared for 858 boys between 1951 and 1983, most of which were aged between 12 and 16.

A statement read on behalf of John Scott QC, who represents the In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas) group, highlighted how unrestricted the men were in their abuse.

It said: “A particularly striking aspect of the abuse in this case study is that it appeared to happen in the open.

“Sexual abuse was a disturbing feature in this case study.

“There were attempts to normalise sexual abuse.”

The inquiry in Edinburgh begins a new phase concentrating on the Benedictines on Thursday.

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