What is the Inquiry?

Our task has been set by the Scottish Ministers and written down in what are called our “Terms of Reference”.

We are looking at the abuse of children in care in Scotland. We look at what happened, why and where abuse took place, the effects of abuse on children and their families and whether the organisations responsible for children in care failed in their duties. We look at whether any failures have been corrected and if changes to the law, policies or procedures are needed.

At the end of the Inquiry we will publish a report with recommendations. We must present the report to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament.

Some statistics include

5,752,819

Pages of evidence analysed

407

Days of hearings to date

1,006

Witness statements published

Updated | 9th February 2024

How we work

We are independent. We always act independently of any person, group, organisation or body. We are not part of the Scottish Government. We are independent of Scottish Government.

We are committed to working in as open and transparent a manner as possible. That does not mean that we will provide a running commentary on our work; that is not how Inquiries work and would not be in the interests of those involved.

We ensure that all witnesses are treated fairly.

We carry out our investigations and hearings as part of what is called an “inquisitorial” process. This means we investigate the matters we have to look into and decide what is relevant rather than relying on others to choose what evidence to present to us. We investigate particular establishments and look more closely at some of them in ‘case studies’, when witnesses give evidence in public hearings. We pick the establishments we are investigating, which cover a range of care settings and different types of care providers, with reference to a range of factors, including allegations we have received, the nature of any such allegations, the existence of police investigations or convictions, information from previous non-statutory inquiries/reviews and on relevant information received from other sources.

We hear evidence at public hearings. We also gather evidence by obtaining witness statements and records and other documents. We can carry out our own research, and we can ask others to obtain information for us. We can ask experts to prepare reports.

An inquisitorial process does not involve putting anyone on trial. No one is treated by us as if they are facing a criminal charge. We can’t decide if anyone has committed a crime or is at fault in law, nor can we award damages or compensation. These matters can only be decided by the courts.

We can decide what facts are established.

The Chair of the Inquiry must act fairly when she makes any decision about how the conduct of the Inquiry and how it should proceed; she must also have regard to the need to avoid unnecessary cost.

Terms of Reference
Image of Lady Smith

The Inquiry Chair

Lady Smith was appointed a Judge of the Supreme courts in 2001 and was appointed to the Inner House in November 2012. She is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh (LL.B. Hons). Lady Smith was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1980 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1993. She served as a Temporary Sheriff from 1995 to 1999, was Chair of the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse from 1998 to 2000 and served as an Advocate Depute from 2000 until she was appointed a Judge.

Having a long standing interest in and experience of cases involving children and families, Lady Smith chaired the Advocates Family Law Group. Similarly, on account of her interest in and experience of cases involving breaches of duty by professional persons, she chaired the Advocates Professional Negligence Group.

Lady Smith has carried out a wide range of duties as a judge, including serving as the Scottish Employment Appeal Tribunal judge for eight years between 2004 and 2012, chairing the Scottish Tribunal Forum and chairing the Reserved Tribunals Group. Lady Smith was appointed as the first President of the Scottish Tribunals in July 2014.

Appointment of Lady Smith as Chair - letter
Picture of 2 people walking down a corridor

What we can do

The Chair of the Inquiry has a range of powers that she can use to ensure the Inquiry fulfils its Terms of Reference, and that its work is done as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The Chair has the power to require people or organisations to give evidence or to produce records and other documents. Giving evidence could be by appearing in person at a public hearing or by providing a written witness statement. If a person fails to do what is required of them, this may amount to a criminal offence.

The Chair has the power to restrict publication/disclosure of evidence or documents given, produced or provided to the Inquiry. This allows her to grant anonymity to certain classes of person who have given evidence to the Inquiry, which means that they cannot be identified in relation to their evidence to the Inquiry. She does this where she considers that it is necessary and appropriate to do so. The Chair has regard to the interests of such persons and to any risk of harm to them but she must also consider the public interest in disclosure.

The Chair, after reviewing evidence put before her, makes findings in fact i.e. she determines what facts can be established from the evidence which has been led. She does this by reference to the reference to the civil standard of proof, namely on a balance of probabilities. She may also make findings about what may possibly have happened, or about the strength of particular evidence. 

The Chair is required to make recommendations about, for example, systemic failures, and will do so in interim report(s) and/or in the final report, which will be presented to Scottish Ministers.

Information about our trauma informed approach

Core Participants

A core participant is a person or organisation who has a particularly close connection to the overall work of the Inquiry. 

A core participant is more involved in the process of an inquiry than a member of the public.

The Chair decides whether or not to designate a person or organisation as a core participant. She has to be satisfied that they have a direct and significant role in the work of the Inquiry and when deciding whether or not to grant any application for core participant status, she is required to have regard to (a) whether or not the person or organisation has played or may have played a direct or significant role in relation to matters to which the inquiry relates or has a significant interest in an important aspect of the Inquiry;  or (b) whether they may be subject to specific or explicit criticism.

If you want to be a core participant, you will need to make an application.  The relevant form is linked below.

SCAI have an additional process, known as “Leave to Appear”, which is required to participate in a particular case study or hearing even if the person or organisation who wants to participate is a core participant. The person or organisation does not need to be a core participant to be granted leave to appear for a case study or hearing and not all core participants are granted leave to appear. 

Click here to apply