Inquiry calls for overhaul of child protection services

An inquiry into one of Scotland’s biggest sex abuse
scandals in Fife has concluded that the protection of children in
the care of local authorities needs a comprehensive overhaul,
writes Reg McKay.

The inquiry was commissioned by Fife council following the
conviction of former care worker David Murphy, aged 70, for abusing
18 boys at St Margaret’s Children’s Home in Elie and
Linwood Hall School in Leven between 1960 and 1985. Last year,
Murphy was sentenced to 15 years in prison having admitted 14
counts of lewd and libidinous conduct and 16 counts of sodomy.

The inquiry, headed by Anne Black former social manager who
played a key role in the Orkney child abuse inquiry, and Ceri
Williams, a Fife solicitor who took evidence from 20 of
Murphy’s alleged victims, makes 41 recommendations in

Key proposals include the introduction of a whistleblowing
policy, all allegations by children in care to be fully
investigated and more stringent background checks on residential
child care staff. The report also found that social workers were
“shadowy figures” visiting infrequently. Further, Murphy had been
moved on from one residential child care unit following allegations
in 1970, and was allowed to continue working with children, leading
to further offences.

Black praised the many victims who contributed to the inquiry
and said: “It clearly took a great deal of bravery to discuss the
abuse that happened so long ago. We were impressed that this was
overcome in order that children in care now could have the benefit
of the survivors’ experience.”

Douglas Sinclair, chief executive of Fife council, gave an
unreserved apology to all the victims and said: “The previous child
care system failed these survivors and allowed a paedophile to
exploit his position of trust to abuse children in his care.” The
council has now offered 28 out-of-court settlements, and is
negotiating compensation to another five victims.

Meanwhile, child care campaigners are renewing their bid for a
children’s commissioner in Scotland to ensure the
recommendations of all child abuse inquiries are co-ordinated and
implemented nationally. Kathleen Marshall, visiting professor at
Glasgow University’s centre for the child and society and
co-author of last year’s report into the abuse of children in
former Lothian Region’s children’s homes, was among

Marshall said it was no surprise that child abuse inquiries
produced similar recommendations since they represented the
“particular dynamic” of children’s homes between the 1960s
and 1980s. Marshall said: “The children’s commissioner can
make sure that we get value for money for the effort put into
enquiries, and respond to the consistent messages coming from

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