Information about talking to the Inquiry about your experience
1. Feeling safe with the Inquiry
We want you to feel safe when you speak to us. Talking about child abuse can be painful and distressing. This is to be expected. Our witness support team will answer any questions that you have about speaking to us.
Before you give evidence to us, you will be given a witness support team contact. This will be someone you have spoken to already. They will stay in touch with you about the process of you giving evidence to the Inquiry. Your witness support team contact will talk with you about where is easy and safe for you to meet with the Inquiry. They will explore with you how we can know if the experience of talking to us is becoming too much, and they will stay with you when you tell the Inquiry about your experiences.
The witness support team will be able to complete an application with you over the phone when you contact us or can send you an application form for you to complete. The information you give us will be handled securely and with sensitivity.
2. Application form
In order for the Inquiry to take your evidence we need you to fill in an application form.
This form asks for some basic details, such as your name and address. It asks for some brief information about where the abuse took place and how long you were in that care setting. You do not need to give full details of the abuse you suffered.
Once you have given us your application form you we will assess it to see if your experiences are within the Inquiry's Term of Reference
If you are within the Term of Reference we will offer you a private session to discuss your experiences.
3. Private session
You can tell the Inquiry about your experiences at what we call a “private session”. A witness statement will be prepared after a private session which records your experiences.
It may take us time to arrange a private session near you. This does not mean that your experiences are not important to us. When we are ready to meet with you, your witness support team contact will get in touch with you to discuss where is easy and safe for you to meet us for a private session.
What happens at a private session
Three members of the Inquiry team will meet you at the private session. Two are statement takers. They will help you speak about your experiences and memories. Your witness support team contact will also be present. You can go at your own pace and have breaks whenever you want. A private session usually takes a few hours.
You can bring someone to support you at the session – many people do. We want you to feel safe when you speak to us.
Before the session it may help to think through what you would like to speak about, so you can share your experiences to the best of your ability and within the time available.
It helps the Inquiry if you can speak about your life before going into care, your time in care, whether you reported the abuse you tell us about and your life after care. It is up to you how much you want to say about these things.
We record private sessions to help us prepare a clear and accurate witness statement of what you have said at the session.
4. Statement review
At the statement review you will meet one of the statement takers, from your private session, together with your witness support team contact. You can bring someone to support you at the review if you want.
We will ask you to look over the statement. You can discuss any changes to your draft statement that you want. When you are content with it, we will ask you to sign it.
Once you have signed the witness statement we will destroy the recording of your private session as we don't need to use it anymore.
You can’t withdraw your witness statement once you have signed it. But you can make a further statement if you want to say something more or different.
Your witness statement will be your evidence to the Inquiry. It will be a formal, permanent record of what happened to you. We will use your statement to help us look into abuse of children in care in Scotland. For most people this is the end of their process of giving evidence to the Inquiry.
5. What happens next?
For some people their witness statement will be the whole of their evidence to the Inquiry.
Some people will be asked by the Inquiry to give evidence at a public hearing. Not everyone who has given a witness statement to the Inquiry will be asked.
At your private session or review meeting with the Inquiry you will have been asked if you are prepared to give evidence at a public hearing. People who tell us they were abused will not be made to give evidence in public about their own abuse.
Before a public hearing the Inquiry decides who it will ask to give evidence at that hearing. If we want you to give evidence, we will contact you about this.
6. Public hearings
Public hearings are more formal than private sessions. The Inquiry’s panel members will be in the room listening to all the evidence. Legal Counsel to the Inquiry will also be in the room. Counsel decide which witnesses will give evidence at public hearings, and normally they ask the witnesses all the questions. Core participants and/or their lawyers may be in the room. Members of the public and press are usually in the room. If you are giving evidence at a public hearing your identity will be kept private, unless you decide otherwise. In addition you can ask to give evidence:
- in private (with only key people in the room)
- from behind a screen; or
- by video link from another room
The Inquiry will do whatever it can to help you feel safe and comfortable.
Every witness, when giving evidence, must promise to tell the truth. To do that the Chair will put each witness on oath or affirmation.
The Chair will not allow any witnesses to be questioned aggressively. What you say may, however, be tested in questioning as a matter of fairness to others. For example, you may be asked about evidence given by other witnesses, or about what is in records that are different from what you have said in your evidence.
7. I would like to speak to the Inquiry.
The witness support team are here to help you speak to the Inquiry. If you would like to talk about coming forward to give evidence, or if you have any questions about the Inquiry, you can call the witness support team on 0800 0929 300 (Freephone), during the following hours:
- Monday to Friday, 1000-1600.
You may find the answer to your query here in our Frequently Asked Questions.
You can also contact the witness support team by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also contact the witness support team by post: PO Box 24202, Edinburgh, EH3 1JN