Charities: ‘Ditch abuse inquiry head’

Charities: ‘Ditch abuse inquiry head’

Two Catholic charities raised fears of ‘bias’ when they launched a legal challenge against the choice of Susan O’Brien QC, above, to chair Scotland’s public inquiry into historic cases of child abuse.

According to this report, the Congregation of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth and the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul lodged a petition for judicial review at Edinburgh’s Court of Session objecting to the Scottish Government’s appointment of O’Brien.

Their action centres on O’Brien’s involvement in a case brought against the Poor Sisters of Nazareth at the House of Lords by two former residents of Nazareth House children’s home in Glasgow who alleged they were abused in the 1960s and 70s.

O’Brien acted as counsel for the former residents in their 2008 appeal which unsuccessfully challenged an earlier court ruling that the claims were time barred, or made too late.
Alastair Duncan QC, representing the charities, told the Court of Session:

The particular concern that my clients have is that Ms O’Brien had acted for individuals alleging abuse against them, that she had supported the allegations that were made by appearing as counsel for those individuals and that she is now being asked to adjudicate on the very same issues.

Duncan said the allegations that arose in the House of Lords case were “almost certain” to be heard again at the public inquiry.

On the same issue with the same parties, Ms O’Brien has moved from being an adviser to being a decision maker. She was the adviser on how to take these allegations past the time bar problem to a successful outcome for her clients against my client.

She is now to be the decision maker on that issue.

The House of Lords case did not involve the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul but that organisation has also been the subject of allegations of abuse, the court heard.

Duncan told judge Lord Woolman that O’Brien had acted in a number of other cases in connection with allegations of historic abuse.

He said the legal challenge was founded on an “apparent bias” rather than any assertion that she was actually biased against the charities.

The QC said:

That forms the basis of the objection – do the petitioners have a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of Ms O’Brien? What is the public perception? Is there the possibility of unconscious bias as viewed by the objective bystander?

Education Secretary Angela Constance announced O’Brien’s appointment last month and she is due to take up her post on July 1.

The inquiry will cover allegations of abuse of children in formal institutional care including faith-based organisations, children’s homes and secure care as well as those in foster care, long-term hospital care and boarding schools.

It will have the power to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence, and the Education Secretary previously pledged that where crimes are uncovered the “full force of the law” would be used to bring those responsible to justice.

Survivors of abuse were consulted on who should lead the inquiry after two people appointed to chair a similar UK inquiry both stood down.

Home Secretary Theresa May had ordered the probe as part of her commitment to uncover the truth about long-standing claims of child sex abuse by powerful figures.

10 responses to “Charities: ‘Ditch abuse inquiry head’”

  1. JohnMWhite says:

    The wicked cretins cannot leave it alone. They will use every trick in the book to stall and obfuscate the examination of their decades of abuse, revictimising those who suffered at their hands again and again. By their logic any lawyer who prosecutes a thief can’t possibly look into allegations of stealing, because they might be biased. Utter idiocy, and just a further insult to the people they have hurt.

  2. AgentCormac says:

    The ‘Poor Sisters of Nazareth’ and the ‘Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul’? Talk about hiding in plain sight!

  3. .Korgu says:


  4. Broga says:

    They are so panic stricken they lack the judgement that they should keep their opinions to themselves. “The ladies doth protest too much, methinks” to slightly paraphrase the quote from Hamlet. The fools look guilty even as they protest.

  5. dennis says:

    who better to pursue the charges with honesty Ms. Susan O’Brien QC.
    those in charge back in the day were biased, so why not some yin with your yang.

  6. jay says:

    Not to defend the church, but for credibility this seems a questionable legal problem. Someone who has represented plaintiffs on related cases would normally (in US at least) be restricted from such an office.

  7. Robster says:

    Can imagine what’s being said at charity HQ: “Sh*t, they’re on to us…” Too
    late to pray or fart in a phone booth..

  8. andym says:

    Over the past 50 years, the Catholic Church has evolved. It has gone from ignoring allegations , to crocodile tears, then onto using every legal trick to avoid penance-including in Milwaukie, deliberately going bankrupt having siphoned off the riches first. It’s all in the film Mea Maxima Culpa.

    The film had its world premiere 4th Feb 2103-Benny resigned on the 11th. I don’t think that was a coincidence.

  9. gedediah says:

    I hope they lose on this objection but I fear they may succeed. Apparent bias is legitimate grounds . The objection they’d really like to make is that such historical claims will be nigh impossible to evidence, largely, because the accused are mostly long dead . However, they forget that this is more about vindicating the suffering of the victims.

  10. Peterat says:

    Curious to ask the devout who supported these 2 charities if they would like to see their donations pissed away in this manner!