Tributes have been paid to the “candour and courage” of witnesses who have given evidence of abuse they suffered while in residential childcare.
The comments came from lawyers for Quarriers, Aberlour and Barnardo’s during closing statements of the current phase of Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry on Tuesday.
Both organisations offered apologies to those who suffered while in their care.
Witnesses have previously described routine beatings, emotional abuse and sexual assaults.
Some have told of physical and mental scars that remain decades later.
Kate Dowdalls QC, representing Quarriers, said: “During this case study, former Quarriers residents have come forward to describe events that are deeply personal and often distressing.
“Quarriers is grateful to them for their candour and courage.
“It’s important for those who provided residential care in the past and those who do so know to learn from the mistakes of the past to improve services in the future.”
Gordon Jackson QC, representing Barnardo’s, said: “Let me say from the outset, on behalf of Barnardo’s, their desire to recognise and respect the evidence we have heard from all applicants who were formerly in their care.
“They have shown great courage in coming to the inquiry at all, even more giving evidence in public.”
Steven Love QC said Aberlour’s staff had been “touched by the distress of survivors coming forward and their dignity” when giving evidence.
It was also heard unwritten rules in the residential care establishments allowed for poor practices to continue over decades.
In Care Abuse Survivors (INCAS) lawyer John Scott QC pointed to “patterns of abuse” that occurred in the establishments, saying children not being given gifts at birthdays is an example of an “accepted institutional policy and practice, if not in writing”.
He added: “What happened did not involve one or two abusers, it involved many abusers and took place over considerable decades.”
Stuart Gale QC, representing survivors’ group Former Boys and Girls Abused of Quarriers Homes (FBGA), described the scale of abused suffered by residents as “disturbingly high”, with humiliation and ridicule being “particularly repellent”.
Mr Jackson tried to explain that sexual abuse could have gone undetected in Barnardo’s establishments because such offences were seen as unthinkable.
“Sexual abuse did take place, one former member of staff has been convicted,” he said.
“Other applicants have given evidence that they suffered in this way. These things should never have happened, it may be worth asking why they were allowed to take place at all.
“We live in a time where these things are widely known to have happened.
“That wasn’t always the case. For most people such behaviour in the past was unthinkable.”
He added: “The thought that fellow staff members might have been behaving in these ways was simply not contemplated.
“Even when there were suspicions, there was reluctance to give voice to it.
“It was partially because the whole idea was so unthinkable that it was very difficult to face up to.
“That excuses nothing but perhaps gives some understanding of how these things happened.”
The proceedings brought an end to the latest phase of the inquiry, relating to residential child care establishments run by non-religious and voluntary organisations.
The inquiry before judge Lady Smith continues in March.