EVERY case of child abuse is truly appalling but we are only now coming to realise the true extent of it. Children’s homes, the BBC and football are being exposed and who knows where it will end? There’s much more to come: this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Victims have been treated shockingly. Not just in the dreadful indecencies perpetrated against them but in the denial or wilful disregarding of their suffering.

Though the crimes were committed by individuals, the failures were institutional. The harm that was suffered was personal but the attitudes that allowed it to happen were much more societal.

Prosecutions there must be and organisations must be held to account where there have been clear failures in their duty of care. Further investigations on a wider basis must also occur. But how many public inquiries does there need to be? And does a formal inquiry properly address the wider aspects of what went wrong in our society?

The Scottish Football Association is to set up what it calls an “independent review” of child abuse allegations which will focus on “processes and procedures” both currently and historically in football.

There are already Government inquiries, both north and south of the Border, into child abuse. The Scottish Government is probably wise not to extend its inquiry into abuse in institutional care to the football scandal. Though victims groups’ opinions vary, the existing Scottish inquiry has had a turbulent start and making progress is now essential.

However, the inquiry established by the UK Government, earlier than north of the Border, has proven problematic, too. The latest chair, Professor Alexis Jay, has been publicly criticised by some victims’ groups, as delays and restrictions on the remit arise. Yet she has an outstanding record in seeking to tackle abuse both sides of the Border. It’s clearly not her but the process at fault.

Calls for inquiries are going to continue to be made as abuse is discovered in other sports or different areas of our society. They’ll risk overwhelming a system already creaking.

The comments made by Cathy Jamieson, my predecessor as justice secretary, and who has considerable experience in children’s issues should be heeded. She has called for a national inquiry. That shouldn’t limit any other ones that are ongoing but it will at least allow for a collective consideration of what went wrong not simply in children’s homes or football but across society. Rather than reacting to each new exposure as they arise, having an overarching review seems sensible. For credibility and status, it has to come from parliament or government.

However, frustrations will grow as individuals are excluded from them, as they fall outwith with the specific terms of reference, perhaps due to the date of the incident or the place or nature of it falling beyond the scope. As with the current inquiries what should provide some solace risks exacerbating existing pain.

Nothing should deflect from criminal investigations and prosecutions following particular complaints. Equally, if there’s been clear negligence or failure then recourse through the civil courts should be available. However, is a statutory inquiry under the tight remits that apply the right course? They exclude many and become highly legalistic and both costs and delays mount.

Perhaps a commission would be a better course of action.

More flexible and less legalistic, it would seek to listen and learn. It could allow for individuals to detail the suffering they experienced and the effects it had upon them. For organisations to atone for failures without fear of it being viewed as an admission to be used against them. It would be able to range far and wide and listen to all who want to have their say on what happened to them. It would be free to look at the wider faults in our society, that turned a blind eye to what was happening and a deaf ear to the cries. It, too, would be complex but I fear formal legal inquiries will be both restrictive and the source of endless rancour.

Jack McConnell was right when, as first minister, he apologised for abuse that occurred in children’s homes. The fault wasn’t his but the apology was on behalf of all of us. Collectively we let down our children. Moreover, the words of the Conservative sports spokesperson Brian Whittle were wise. He cautioned about the need to protect those who contribute so much as coaches and volunteers in sport and who would neither commit nor condone abuse. If adults become afraid of working or volunteering with children, then collectively we’ll suffer.

Prosecutions there must be. But equally there must be a mechanism for listening to victims long ignored so we can address what went wrong in our society.