State schools must be included in child abuse inquiry, says campaigner

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A petition has called for an inquiry into the abuse of children at state schools (Ian West/PA)

An inquiry into the abuse of children in care in Scotland should be extended to include victims at state schools, MSPs have heard.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee on Thursday, campaigner Maryanne Pugley said by excluding victims, the pain caused would be compounded and passed on to the next generation.

Ms Pugsley has also called for a review of the law of corroboration, which means two separate sources of evidence are needed for a case to go to trial.

Speaking of her own experiences, Ms Pugley told MSPs she was “sexually and emotionally abused” by a teacher in a state school in Scotland between the ages of 12 to 15 in the late 1970s.

She said it was not until the 1990s, when she was in her mid-20s, that she realised that what she had experienced was child abuse.

After the case was reported to the local authority, an in-house investigation was launched, although it was not reported to police.

Ms Pugley said the accused was suspended for a few months before being moved to another local authority, where he continued to teach until around six to seven years ago.

She said when she attempted to establish what the outcome of the investigation was and whether there would be a prosecution, she said she was told there was not enough evidence for the procurator fiscal.

In 2016, Ms Pugley said she summoned the courage to revisit the abuse to try to make sense of what had happened.

Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry
Lady Smith chairs the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (Nick Mailer/PA)

After phoning the in-care inquiry, Ms Pugley said she was told she did not meet the necessary criteria.

She then phoned a charity in Edinburgh, who signposted her to police, which resulted in the launch of another investigation.

Ms Pugley said that at every point of the investigation, she was having to relive the sexual and emotional abuse she had suffered.

A finding concluded police had no previous record of the case being reported to them in the 1990s, with no written records held by the local council or the reason why the accused was relocated.

Ms Pugley warned failings in the system could mean abusers who are retired or are out of the state schools system could potentially still be tutoring or working with vulnerable children.

She said: “As as adult, I have worked in schools and I consider it my civic duty to raise this petition.

“I have reached out to so many in trying to seek justice – asking for help with this petition – and I have received very little support.

“I tried to find a Victim’s Commissioner in Scotland, but to no avail, and ended up writing to the Victim’s Commissioner of England and Wales, Baroness Newlove.”

She said: “I cannot turn my back on the failings that, to me, seem blatantly obvious and have the potential to affect vulnerable children, not only due to the gaps that had been in our safeguarding procedures, but because those that have been victims of child abuse need to have their voices heard.

“To be told that you do not meet the criteria of the current inquiry, nor are you eligible to apply for the support that is offered alongside it is very damaging.

“This exclusion is only going to compound the pain that will be carried over to the next generation.”

Responding to suggestions the inclusion of state school abuse cases could lengthen the time taken for the inquiry, Ms Pugley said it is important that all victims of abuse are listened to.

She said: “When it comes to children and when it comes to our schools, I think it has to be prioritised because we’re talking about our next generation.

“I don’t think it’s something that as a nation we can ignore. If you’re not listened to, you stay feeling the victim.

“I believe very, very strongly that as a society we have to enable those victims to come forward and make that transition into a survivor and the only way, as I can see it, you can do it is to give them a voice.”

Ms Pugley added: “If we do not have this inquiry, we’re not going to be able to truthfully say that we have found every predator out there.

“My case proved that there was still someone in the system.”

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