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Catholic Church "must address past wrongs"

Catholic Church
Catholic Church

The Catholic Church in Scotland must address the wrongs of the past, according to an independent review of its handling of abuse allegations.

A commission led by the Very Rev Andrew McLellan has recommended that the church's safeguarding guidelines be updated and has called for survivors of abuse to be prioritised.

Mr McLellan, a former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and one-time chief inspector of prisons, was tasked with evaluating the procedures in place to protect vulnerable children and adults and ensure that the church is ''a safe place for all''.

At a press conference in Edinburgh to set out the findings of his 11-member commission, he said: "Nothing in our independent report is more important than our first recommendation: that support for the survivors of abuse must be an absolute priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland."

The commission has also recommended that a public apology is made to survivors of abuse within the church.

It was set up in November 2013 by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland in response to a series of scandals, including the resignation of disgraced cardinal Keith O'Brien.

He stepped down from the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February 2013 after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.

As part of its work, the commission heard from victims of abuse but its remit did not extend to investigating or ruling on current or historical allegations.

Its members included Malcolm Graham, Assistant Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Ranald Mair, chief executive of Scottish Care, and Kathleen Marshall, former Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Alongside the review, the Catholic Church in Scotland published details of diocesan safeguarding audits from 2006 to 2012 giving a breakdown of incidents reported during that time.

A total of 46 allegations were made, of which 55% related to sexual abuse, 19% to physical abuse, 11% were allegations of verbal abuse and 15% were in connection with emotional abuse.

Of those accused, 56% were priests, 22% were volunteers, 11% were parishioners and the remainder were staff or other people connected to the church.

There have been no prosecutions in relation to 61% of all cases reported, the church said.

Details of incidents are now published annually, with 15 allegations made in 2013, six of which were historical.

It also announced a third measure of a review of all cases of historic abuse allegations between 1947 and 2005, to be published at a later date.