A SENIOR Catholic monk has admitted there was an "alarming failure" by brothers to protect children in care, a public inquiry into child abuse heard.

Brother Laurence Hughes, provincial of the De La Salle Brothers, also accepted there was a "disturbing lack of awareness" of abuse in schools run by the order in Scotland.

He apologised at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in Edinburgh for abuse inflicted by both those who were convicted of offences and other brothers who were not convicted.

As well as Michael Murphy, known as Brother Benedict or Brother Ben to children in his care at St Joseph's List D School in Tranent, East Lothian, being convicted of 15 charges of assault and indecent assault involving eight boys spanning the decade up to 1981, Brother Hughes accepted it was possible further abuse was carried out against children.

In the order's report to the inquiry Brother Hughes said: "The congregation acknowledges that abuse may not be confined to those with convictions."

Asked by inquiry chair Lady Smith if he accepted further abuse had taken place he answered "yes".

The inquiry continues.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Scotland, which earlier announced that Helen Liddell would chair the Independent Review Group (IRG) set up as a result of the McLellan Commission Report into the current safeguarding policies, procedures and practices within the Church in Scotland, has said the group has met for the first time.

The IRG is an autonomous body which will function separately from the Church and will review safeguarding standards and carry out independent audits as recommended by the McLellan Commission.

The group established working groups to develop and scope the future activities of the IRG.

Ms Liddell said: "The IRG is committed to ensuring the safeguarding procedures in the Catholic Church in Scotland meet the highest standards and it will conduct its business with transparency, vigour and compassion.”