Chair of Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry Resigns citing Government Interference

Chair of the Scottish Abuse Inquiry, Susan O’Brien QC has resigned. BBC Child abuse inquiry chairwoman Susan O’Brien QC resigns [2]

This follows the resignation last week of Professor Lamb, a Panel member. BBC Scottish child abuse inquiry witnesses ‘deserve answers ‘ [5]

Both resignations are in protest at Government interference in the Inquiry.

scottish panelGlenn Houston on the left is the only panel member left as Professor Michael Lamb and Susan O’Brien QC, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry have resigned.

More updates and letters are here about the resignation [3]

Below is the resignation letter from Susan O’Brien QC, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry resignation letter to John Swinney MSP Deputy First Minister. Apologies for poor formatting which was lost in transfer. I have attempted to reinstate some. For the original see pdf download [1]

Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry P.O. Box 24085 Edinburgh EH7 9EA

John Swinney MSP Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills St Andrew’s House Regent Road Edinburgh EH1 3DG 4 July 2016

Dear Deputy First Minister Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

I am writing to resign as Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry with immediate effect. I do so with great regret. I am well aware of the shock and disappointment which my resignation will cause to the survivors who have waited so long for an Inquiry. I consider that I owe them an explanation, and therefore I expect you to make this letter public,

In his letter of resignation dated 27 June 2016, Professor Lamb complained that the Inquiry, as currently set up, is not able to operate in a manner which is properly independent from Government. I agree with him. Scottish Government officials have sought to micromanage and control the Inquiry, and I have resisted this. What Professor Lamb did not say, but he knew, is that my position as the independent Chair of this Inquiry has been actively undermined by some Scottish Government officials over the past months. One even went so far as to threaten what he called “the nuclear option”, by which we understood he meant my removal, in January 2016, during a dispute about funding for statement taking.

On 20 May 2016 the Scottish Ministers initiated formal proceedings to remove me as Chair.

This was precipitated by a letter dated 9 May 2016 from a health professional who had been acting for the Inquiry in a consultancy capacity. This letter was sent to the Inquiry, and at the same time circulated within the Scottish Government.

She complained of “the attitudes and beliefs … with regard to survivors of child abuse” which the author said I “appear to hold”.

The author based this claim on two remarks which had been made by me in passing at a private training session on 22 February 2016. The first remark was intended to highlight the variety of responses which survivors have to their own experience, including coping strategies which they may use when dealing with it. I accurately reported, without endorsing, what a survivor had said to me about his attitude to his own abuse. The second remark was a reference to newspaper reports of a recent trial, which quoted criticism of the Crown said to have been made by the presiding Sheriff. He had decided to grant an absolute discharge in a case where a teacher had been charged with indecent exposure. The reports wrongly suggested that that there had been no facts indicating that a serious offence had been committed. The writer’s complaint arises from a misunderstanding of what I knew about the case at the time, and my purpose in referring to it when discussing the reports with legal colleagues who had been prosecutors.

The author of the letter of 9 May accepted that “these remarks may have been well intentioned” but insisted, some 11 weeks after they had been made, that they were “totally unacceptable and indicate a belief system that is incompatible with the post of Chair of a child abuse Inquiry”.

Separately, the author of the letter also alleged that decisions on matters regarding the Inquiry’s “strategies and processes ….are being made unilaterally by the Chair, with no regard to the advice of professional colleagues or external consultants.”

In the letter of 10 May, on behalf of the Chair and the other panel members, Senior Counsel to the Inquiry rejected the characterisation of the Chair “as a person whose attitudes, values, and beliefs are incompatible with the post of Chair of a public inquiry into child abuse”. He noted that “decisions about the Inquiry’s Protocols or procedures were taken after extensive discussion with the two panel members and a total of five lawyers, in addition to the Chair. Every word was approved and signed off and agreed by the two panel members and myself as leading Senior Counsel to the Inquiry”.

On 16 May 2016, I was asked to resign by Scottish Government officials on the basis of the letter of complaint of 9 May 2016. I refused to do so, as I have done nothing wrong.

On 20 May 2016, I was advised that Scottish Ministers were “initiating proceedings” against me under reference to s12 of the Public Inquiries Act 2005. The only issue was the letter of 9 May. The basis for their case was that “… you can now no longer command the confidence of Ministers, and may at some unforeseen point in the future lose the confidence of those for whose benefit the inquiry was established” It was also said that “if it became publicly known that you had made those remarks, then your position would be untenable.” At that stage, I had not even been asked for an explanation.

On 25 May 2015 my fellow panel member Prof Lamb made written representations to you to support me, and warned that he thought that the Section 12 proceedings seemed “to be predicated on the assumption that (the Scottish Ministers), rather than the Panel, should control the Inquiry.” He also warned that the proceedings called into question “the declared and necessary independence of the Inquiry.Your intervention will thus undermine the legitimacy of an historically important inquiry.”

On 26 May 2016, I wrote to propose a meeting with yourself, saying that it was important that you learned about the position of the Inquiry from the whole panel of three, before reaching your decision on my dismissal. Subsequently I received legal advice not to attend the meeting.

On 30 May 2016, the second panel member Mr Glenn Houston also wrote to you, supporting me in the position of Chair. He noted that “there would be a significant risk of loss of public trust and confidence in the integrity of this Inquiry should the Chair be removed from office.” He suggested a “brokered resolution” by way of a meeting between the writer of the letter and myself. I agreed to this, but it did not happen.

3 On 31 May 2016, Mr Houston and Prof Lamb met you, and expressed their support for me. Prof Lamb pointed out that the independence of the Inquiry had been compromised by the proceedings. Mr Houston said that “he was concerned that progress could be stalled, delayed, or placed in jeopardy due to the section 12 proceedings.” Prof Lamb advised you that he would resign if you came to the decision to dismiss me.

On 2 June 2016, in a lengthy letter, it was explained to you on my behalf that the legal basis for the s12 proceedings was fundamentally flawed, and failed to respect the fundamental constitutional and Convention law requirement that Inquiries into allegations of individual and institutional sexual abuse must actually be, and be seen to be, structurally independent from Government. Your attention was drawn to the distinctions between s 12(3) (a) and (d).

On 17 June, further written representations were made on my behalf. Some correspondence ensued, but there was no substantive response from the Scottish Government to the legal arguments which had been put forward to the effect that the whole Section 12 process was unlawful as well as unjustified. Both my fellow panel members were aware of all that was happening.

On 22 June, I met you, and you heard further representations.

On 28 June 2016, I met you and answered your questions. I reassured you that I did not underestimate the gravity of child abuse. I would never do so. I fully appreciate that it can devastate peoples’ lives.

On 28 June 2016, Prof Lamb’s resignation letter of 27 June 2016 became public knowledge.

On 30 June 2016, the First Minister told the Scottish Parliament: “We don’t accept Prof Lamb’s comments about the independence of the Inquiry.” As at 4 July, I have not received your final decision on my proposed dismissal.

I wish to make it quite clear that I agree with all the points Professor Lamb raised in his resignation letter of 27 June 2016. I am very concerned indeed that his letter has not been followed up by a request for more detail, and a careful investigation into what he said. I consider it to be totally unacceptable for such a serious issue to be brushed aside by the Scottish Government.

You have had ample warning of Prof Lamb’s and my own concerns about the integrity of the Inquiry process and the need for its structural independence from Government, to ensure that it can consider all matters fearlessly and impartially, even when Government supported institutions might be in line for criticism. The panel has made this position clear, not only during the s12 process, but by way of letters from the Inquiry to the sponsor team and others within government over a matter of months. As recently as June 2016, the panel’s formal request for a decision from you which would enable it to bring in an outside Solicitor to replace a Scottish Government employee, has been blocked. The Inquiry’s work has already been hampered by the approach of officials who seem to believe that they can control the Inquiry’s decision making, particularly when it relates to proposed expenditure. Structural changes, for example to the way in which the Inquiry budget is managed, could retrieve the situation, but I now have no confidence that the Scottish Government is willing to address the problem. This means that the Inquiry cannot carry out its statutory function in a manner which is compatible with the Convention rights of the survivors. Its work will have no value unless it is the product of a truly independent approach to the issues which are articulated in its Terms of Reference.

Moreover, since you have approached the dismissal of a Chair so casually, on the basis of misunderstandings and inaccurate allegations about my “attitudes and beliefs … with regard to survivors of child abuse”, I have no confidence that you would not try to dismiss me again another time, even if you decide against dismissal now. This compromises my ability to carry out my duty to ask questions and reach conclusions fearlessly.

In short, I cannot reassure the public that this Inquiry will be conducted independently of Government. My trust that the Scottish Government will actually respect the independence of the Inquiry has gone. You have therefore left me within no alternative but to resign. I do so with a heavy heart, as I am clear that there is a real need for this Inquiry to take place.

I would like to thank the Inquiry team for all the hard work they have put in. I also wish to place on record my particular thanks to Mr Glenn Houston and Prof Michael Lamb for their invaluable advice, and for their unstinting support, particularly since we received the letter of 9 May 2016.

Yours sincerely

Ms Susan O’Brien QC

This clearly leaves the long awaited and much anticipated Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in disarray and survivors have no idea what is happening. The Government is obviously interfering and inevitably and maybe quite correctly this will be taken as a method of covering up high level child sexual abuse.

Survivors and campaigners are now calling on John Swinney to resign as Deputy First Minister for precipitating this shambles.


Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.

  • The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
  • Other useful sites are One in Four [C]
  • and Havoca [D].
  • Useful post on Triggers [E] from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.
  • Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G] and Meditation [H] may be useful.
  • Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma [J]
  • Survivors UK for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men [K]
  • Voicing CSA group [L] helps arrange survivors meetings in your area


[1] 2016 Jul Scottish Government Letter of Resignation Of Chair of Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry pdf download

[2] 2016 Jul 4 BBC Child abuse inquiry chairwoman Susan O’Brien QC resigns

[3] 2016 Jul 4 Scottish Government Latest updates Resignation of Inquiry Chair

[4] 2016 Scottish Government Information on Panel Members

[5] 2016 Jun 29 BBC Scottish child abuse inquiry witnesses ‘deserve answers ‘

[A] Sanctuary for the Abused


[C] One in Four

[D] Havoca

[E] SurvivorsJustice Triggers post

[F] SurvivorsJustice Blog

[G] Jim Hopper Mindfulness

[H] Jim Hopper Meditation

[J] 2016 Jan 5 Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma

[K] Survivors UK website for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men and twitter

[L] Voicing CSA website – helps arrange survivors meetings in your area. Voicing CSA supports the IICSA and VSCP and works to help adult survivors of child sexual abuse find their voice

This is all written in good faith but if there is anything that needs to be corrected please email scottishinquiry


the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – Edmund Burke

He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers.” Charles Peguy

To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men – Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Original Article:

Editors Notes:

I would remind you that this blog is produced free for the public good and you are welcome to republish or re-use this article or any other material freely anywhere without requesting further permission.

News & Views welcome always published as long as NO bad language or is not related to subject matter.

To keep online information secure, experts recommend keeping your social media accounts private, changing your passwords often, and never answering unsolicited emails or phone calls asking for your personal information. Need help and guidance visit and leave a comment

Ace News Services Site Links Listed Here:

AceTweet This News