Third Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry panel member resigns

John Swinney said he will not be appointing a new panel member after a third resignation from the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry
John Swinney said he will not be appointing a new panel member after a third resignation from the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has been hit by another resignation, leaving it with just one panel member.

Glenn Houston said he has accepted two other public appointments and resigned from the panel to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

He is the third original panel member to resign from the inquiry.

Susan O’Brien QC quit following claims she had made comments that were ”offensive” to survivors while p rofessor Michael Lamb stepped down after saying the review is ”doomed” due to interference by ministers.

Ms O’Brien was replaced by senior judge Lady Smith, who will now lead the inquiry on her own.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is examining historical allegations of the abuse of children in care and has been taking statements from witnesses since last spring.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said a successor to Mr Houston will not be appointed and the inquiry will ” take the same format” as every other public inquiry established in Scotland under the Inquiries Act 2005.

Mr Houston said: “Due to a change in priorities in my working life, last year I applied for positions as a non-executive director to the boards of two public-sector organisations, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and the Disclosure and Barring Service.

“I have now been successful in those applications and the appointments have been made.

“Lady Smith and I have discussed the potential that at some future time, a perception of conflict of interest may arise between these appointments and my work as a panel member on the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

“After careful consideration of both the time commitment required to fulfil these new roles and the potential, however small, for perceptions to arise of conflict of interest, I have tendered my resignation to the inquiry.

“I remain fully supportive of its work, which I believe is on course to complete the important tasks which have been set for it, and I wish it very well for the future.”

Staff for the inquiry are said to be working to contact people in countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand who may have suffered abuse in Scotland, or after being sent abroad as part of past care arrangements.

At a preliminary hearing last month, Lady Smith stressed the inquiry is independent of government, police, prosecutors and other organisations.

The inquiry covers the period within memory of anyone who has suffered abuse, not beyond December 2014. Public hearings will begin on May 31.

Lady Smith said: “Mr Houston has made a valuable contribution to the work of the inquiry during his time as a panel member and I am very grateful to him for his support.

“I fully understand his decision and wish him well in his new ventures.”

Mr Swinney said: “I want to thank Mr Houston for his service.

“I know this was not an easy decision for him to reach but he can be very proud of the contribution he has made to the establishment of the Child Abuse Inquiry and to ensuring its continuing progress.

“Following consideration of the matter, at this stage in the inquiry’s work, I have decided not to appoint a successor. Lady Smith will continue as chair of the inquiry and as sole panel member.”

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: ” With all three of the original panel members gone, one of them accusing ministers of interference and one suing the Scottish Government, survivors’ confidence in the process has been tested to say the least.

“John Swinney must now reassure the survivors that the inquiry will not be further delayed but should also bring on more panel members to ensure the inquiry can carry out its remit efficiently.

“What is important is that the inquiry proceeds promptly so survivors can feel a sense of justice.”

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