SURVIVOR groups have described Scotland’s crisis-hit child abuse inquiry as “fundamentally tainted” by the recent resignations of two key figureheads as a new chairwoman was appointed to run the investigation.

Senior Judge Lady Anne Smith will lead the independent inquiry into child abuse in care after Susan O’Brien, QC, quit the post earlier this month amid claims of Government interference.

READ MORE: Lady Smith appointed chair of crisis-hit child abuse inquiry

A second member of the three-person panel, Professor Michael Lamb, also resigned over similar concerns, claiming it was “doomed” due to alleged intrusion by the Scottish Government, which launched the probe.

Details of the concerns raised by the two former panel members are not yet known.

While some survivor groups welcomed Lady Smith to the role, one of the leading campaign groups, In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), condemned the lack of consultation over the new appointment. Alan Draper, parliamentary liaison officer for Incas, said they were given “five minutes notice” by the government selection. 

“We are not aware of Lady Smith’s ability at this stage, but we will be investigating.”

And Incas chairman Helen Holland has raised concerns that a third panel member, Glenn Houston, is to remain in post despite his colleagues’ resignations.

Ms Holland said: “It would make more sense to start afresh with a clean slate. Mr Houston’s position is untenable. 

“If the inquiry is to instil confidence in survivors, the process has to be transparent and independent of government and anyone with a question mark over them has to be replaced.”

And she said: “It is nothing personal against Mr Houston but on a point of principle he could do the same thing by resigning. The inquiry is fundamentally tainted.”

The public inquiry is described as one of Scotland’s widest-ranging ever, examining not only the abuse of children formally placed “in care” in institutions, but also allegations of abuse in foster care, in long-term hospital care and in boarding schools. 

READ MORE: Lady Smith appointed chair of crisis-hit child abuse inquiry

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has pledged to consider widening the scope of investigations at the request of a number of survivors.

Lady Smith, who will take up her new role next month, has been 
a judge since 2001 and was appointed to the inner house of the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest court, in 2012.

She has chaired the Advocates Family Law Group and the Advocates Professional Negligence Group, and was appointed as the first President of the Scottish Tribunals in July 2014.

David Whelan, spokesman for the Friends of Boys and Girls Abused by Quarriers group, welcomed her selection.

He said: “She is clearly a senior judge with vast amounts of experience and we believe she will uphold the impartiality and independence of the inquiry.
“It’s our position that we want to ensure that everybody’s rights are upheld throughout the inquiry – and that includes those who are accused – and we believe Lady Smith can ensure these conditions are met.”

Following her appointment, Lady Smith said: “Many children placed in residential care in this country have, over a period stretching back years, not been afforded the protection they deserved.

“Their voices now require to be heard and questions of when, where, how and why it happened are required to be thoroughly addressed.”

READ MORE: Lady Smith appointed chair of crisis-hit child abuse inquiry

The Scottish Government said it does not recognise the concerns raised about Government interference in the inquiry and remains happy with Mr Houston’s appointment as a panel member.