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Children abused in residential care provided by Marist Brothers

Children were abused in residential care provided by the Marist Brothers at St Columba’s College, Largs, and St Joseph’s College, Dumfries between 1950 and 1981, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has found.

The Inquiry examined the provision of residential care systems at the boarding schools, the policies and procedures in place, how these were applied and whether the abuse arose from systemic failures.

Lady Smith, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said: “I heard about many aspects of St Columba’s and St Joseph’s that were shocking and distressing.

“Marist Brothers in positions of trust at both boarding schools violated their monastic vows and breached the trust of children and their families.

“Both schools had flawed systems that allowed abusers driven by sexual motives to have easy access to children in their care,” she added.

Evidence was heard from 43 witnesses between 3 October 2019 to 5 November 2019.

Lady Smith said that two particular Brothers at St Columba’s with easy access to children were serial sex abusers. They sexually abused young children and some also suffered sadistic treatment associated with sexual abuse.

The two Brothers were at St Columba’s for a period over 20 years and this meant that the sexual abuse of children there was a chronic problem that destroyed childhoods and had lasting impact.

Lady Smith outlined how a culture of obedience, fear of severe punishment and the authority of the Catholic Church served to empower abusers and rendered many victims powerless in the belief that their complaints of abuse would not be believed.

“Failures to respond adequately to reports of abuse represented serious failures in care,” said Lady Smith.

These findings are the third in a series of three sets of case study findings in relation to the provision of residential care for children by male religious orders in Scotland.

Lady Smith added: “When complaints of abuse were made the response was inaction or, in some cases, movement of Brothers. The safety of children did not feature as a consideration.

“The Marist Brothers were not qualified or trained in how to care for children in their residential care. The establishment of residential schools may have been well meaning but, in the absence of robust protective systems, the outcome for many was the creation of abusive environments. Systemic failures allowed sexual predators easy access to vulnerable children.”

Lady Smith will take these findings into account when she analyses all the evidence gathered by the Inquiry and decides what recommendations to make in her final report.

Applicants and other witnesses continue to come forward to the Inquiry with relevant evidence about the care provided by the Marist Brothers and this will be considered as part of the continuing process.

The findings from this case study can be read in full here .

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