Children in care suffered sexual abuse of ‘utmost depravity’, inquiry finds

Some children at homes run by a religious order were subjected to sexual abuse of the “utmost depravity”, an inquiry has found.

Residential institutions run by the Sisters of Nazareth (SoN) were “places of fear, hostility and confusion” for many children, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry said.

The inquiry published its findings into residential institutions run by SoN between 1933 and 1984 on Thursday, concluding that children suffered abuse and sexual abuse there.

During the hearings, one survivor told the inquiry that she was raped by a priest and repeatedly abused by a nun at the Nazareth House home in Kilmarnock while another witness said that a girl jumped from a building to her death after getting “battered” by a nun.

The inquiry was told of a catalogue of alleged abuses by nuns at four now-defunct institution, including physical abuse, force feeding and humiliation.

Lady Smith, chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said: “The Nazareth Houses in Scotland were, for many children, places of fear, hostility and confusion, places where children were physically abused and emotionally degraded with impunity.

“There was sexual abuse of children which, in some instances, reached levels of the utmost depravity.

“Children in need of kind, warm, loving care and comfort did not find it. Children were deprived of compassion, dignity, care and comfort.

“It was suggested in evidence that applicants may have colluded to present fictitious accounts about their time in their care, fuelled by resentment towards their families and an appetite for compensation. I reject all such suggestions.”

The inquiry considered evidence about the nature and extent of any abuse of children in care at institutions run by the SoN in Scotland, with a particular focus on Nazareth Houses in Aberdeen, Cardonald, Lasswade and Kilmarnock.

It also examined any systems, policies and procedures in place at these institutions, and how these were applied.

The inquiry, taking place in Edinburgh, heard evidence from 39 witnesses about their experience in Nazareth Houses during the 27-day case study, while two witnesses also spoke to the experiences of their family member.

A further 29 witness statements were read into the proceedings and the inquiry also heard audio evidence from a witness who made a recording prior to her death about being abused whilst in care at Nazareth House, Kilmarnock.

Applicants and other witnesses continue to come forward to the inquiry with relevant evidence about the care provided by SoN and this will be considered as part of the continuing process.

The aim of the inquiry is to consider the extent to which institutions and bodies with legal responsibility for the care of children failed in their duty to protect children in care in Scotland or children whose care was arranged in Scotland, from abuse, and in particular to identify any systemic failures in fulfilling that duty.

It will also consider whether further changes in practice, policy or legislation are necessary in order to protect children in care in Scotland from such abuse in future.

It will report the outcome of its investigations to Scottish ministers and make recommendations to them.

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