Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry Concludes Children Were Abused at St Joseph’s College, Dumfries Between 1950 & 1981

Lady Smith has today, 10 November, published her findings in relation to the provision of residential care by the Marist Brothers at St Columba’s College, Largs, and St Joseph’s College, Dumfries between 1950 and 1981.

She concludes that children were abused at both boarding schools. The Inquiry also examined the systems, policies and procedures in place, how these were applied and whether the abuse arose from systemic failures.

The Order’s contribution to residential childcare in Scotland was one that exposed children to risks of sexual, physical and psychological danger. For many children, those risks materialised.

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.
“At St Columba’s, two particular Brothers with easy access to children were serial sex abusers. They sexually abused children of tender years with impunity. Some children also suffered sadistic treatment associated with sexual abuse.
“Their presence at St Columba’s for a period over 20 years meant that the sexual abuse of children there was a chronic problem that destroyed childhoods and had lasting impact.
“A culture of obedience, fear of severe punishment and the authority of the Catholic Church served to empower abusers, and, conversely, 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.”

Evidential hearings took place between 3 October 2019 to 5 November 2019, during which time the Inquiry heard from 43 witnesses.

These findings are the third and final 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, following the publication of the Christian Brothers and Benedictine’s Findings earlier this year.

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 on the Inquiry website: Case Study Findings – Marist Brothers — Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry