The findings of an inquiry into child abuse at a former Fife residential school for boys have been described as “depressing”.
Over the course of three decades, vulnerable boys at St Ninian’s Residential Care Home in Falkland were subjected to horrific sexual, physical and psychological abuse which caused lasting damage.
“Children were betrayed by serious breaches of trust and, for many, it caused lasting damage,” said Lady Smith.
“The overall view I formed of St Ninian’s was depressing.
“It was a place where the Brothers who were perpetrators of abuse could pursue their abusive practices with impunity.
“Abusive Brothers had unrestrained access to the vulnerable children they wished to target.”
The abuse at St Ninians continued for virtually the entirety of the school’s existence and Lady Smith said this represented “serious failures in oversight, management, and governance”.
She said: “Fundamental deficiencies in training, and a serious lack of relevant life experiences, conspired to enable dreadful abuse of children, who were supposedly being cared for by the Order, to occur.”
The findings published today are the first in a series of three case studies examining the residential care of children provided by male religious orders in Scotland.
During the St Ninian’s case study, the inquiry considered evidence about the nature and extent of abuse of children in the Christian Brothers’ care.
The inquiry also examined the systems, policies and procedures in place, how these were applied and whether the abuse arose from systemic failures.
Hearings in the Falkland case study took place between June 4, 2019, and July 16, 2019, during which evidence was heard from 42 witnesses.
Lady Smith added: “The Order offered a genuine apology to survivors of abuse at St Ninian’s while recognising that ‘sorry’ has very little content of itself, and that what really matters is admission and recognition of what happened and that what happened was wrong.”
Lady Smith will take these findings into account when she analyses all the evidence gathered by the inquiry and decides what recommendations to make in her final report.
Applicants and other witnesses can continue to come forward to the inquiry with relevant evidence about the care provided by the Christian Brothers and this will be considered as part of the continuing process.
The findings from the Christian Brothers case study can be read in full on the inquiry website.