The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is reminding solicitors that statements prepared by the inquiry which have not been redacted by the inquiry cannot be used in claims or litigation arising from allegations of historical abuse of children in care.
The inquiry has become aware that witness statements prepared by the inquiry may have been passed to solicitors’ firms from people who have given evidence about their experiences whilst in care.
Applicants are always advised that they are not permitted to disclose their inquiry statement to anyone. Disclosure of inquiry statements is a breach of a statutory restriction order made by the chair of the inquiry, Lady Smith, under s 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005.
The general restriction order protects the identities of applicants, but also protects others including their families, other children in care, and alleged abusers. It also covers any evidence given to the inquiry, including inquiry witness statements.
Lady Smith advises that: “Applicants’ statements will inevitably identify their peers, relatives and/or persons alleged to have abused them, and whilst an applicant is free to waive his or her own anonymity, they cannot waive any other person’s right to anonymity.
“That means that they cannot disclose their inquiry statements as these will inevitably identify others whose identities are protected by my order.
“If any applicant were to provide a copy of their statement to their solicitor, they would thereby have breached my order. Further, if a solicitor were thereafter to disclose an inquiry statement to anyone else – for example counsel, expert witnesses or the Scottish Legal Aid Board – the solicitor would be breaching my order.
“However, we are aware that, in practice, applicants may not always follow the guidance we give them, and they do pass statements to those representing them.”
Lady Smith has requested that if unredacted inquiry statements are disclosed they are securely shredded. Inquiry statements have a clear heading and should be easily identifiable.
Redacted statements are published on the inquiry website.
Any queries relating to the issue should be sent to the inquiry’s legal team, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org