Former boss of child abuse probe sues Scottish Government for £500,000 over claims she was forced to quit 30th January 2017, 7:31 pm
THE former boss of a child abuse investigation is suing the Scottish Government for £500,000 over claims they forced her to quit.
The inquiry into historical abuse has been dogged by controversy and saw Ms O’Brien quit last July
Ms O’Brien’s legal team claim her resignation came as Holyrood forces were attempting to have her SACKED, we can reveal.
The highly respected lawyer says they had earlier threatened to remove her which they called “the nuclear option”.
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry into historical abuse has been dogged by controversy and saw Ms O’Brien quit last July.
For the first time we can reveal details of papers lodged with the Court of Session.
They reveal a psychologist complained that Ms O’Brien made two inappropriate comments at a training session.
Dr Claire Fyvie of The Rivers Centre in Edinburgh claimed her comments were offensive to survivors and she was unfit for the role. But other survivor groups didn’t agree.
Ms O’Brien insists that her first comment was merely repeating the views of a survivor and were not her own.
And in the second instance she was referring to a newspaper story of a criminal case which had been misunderstood.
Dr Fyvie withdrew support for the inquiry following the comments.
She wrote to the inquiry stating: “My concerns lie almost entirely with the Chair of the Inquiry, Ms Susan O’Brien QC, and with the attitudes and beliefs she appears to hold with regard to survivors of child abuse.”
But Ms O’Brien points out that it took 11 weeks for the complaint actually to be made.
The Scottish Government then made moves to have her contract terminated.
They told her: “You can now no longer command the confidence of those for whose benefit the inquiry was established.
“If it became publicly known that you had made those remarks, then your position would be untenable.”
But her fellow panel members Professor Michael Lamb and Glen Houston both opposed her removal.
During a meeting with Deputy First Minister John Swinney they gave Ms O’Brien their full backing.
Professor Lamb stated he believed the government’s move to sack the chair compromised the independence of the later quit citing these reasons.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney
But First Minster Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: “We don’t accept Prof Lamb’s comments about the independence of the Inquiry.”
Neither Ms Sturgeon nor Mr Swinney asked Prof Lamb to explain the concerns he had before rejecting his comments.
Ms O’Brien stated the inquiry failed to even speak to Prof Lamb about his concerns.
She said this was “the last straw” and soon afterwards also stood down.
The legal paperwork states: “She (Ms O’Brien) considered that she had a duty to inform the public that the Inquiry’s independence was being actively undermined by the defenders (Scottish Government).”
Ms O’Brien also claims that ministers had no legal right to remove her from the role.
She is seeking £500,000 to cover loss in earnings and damage to her reputation.
The Scottish Government then moves to have her contract terminated
The inquiry is now being headed up by Supreme Court judge Lady Smith.
Many survivor groups have welcomed her appointment.
But others have questioned whether a serving judge is best to investigate the courts as the Inquiry’s remit requires.
The Inquiry’s Preliminary Hearing is due to take place at Parliament House in Edinburgh on Tuesday.
This choice of location has been slammed by critics as inappropriate.
They say the last time many survivors will have been there was to have their abuse cases dismissed.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said:
“Ministers have acted appropriately at all times to exercise the responsibilities that the Inquiries Act 2005 and other relevant legislation places on them and continue to be committed to the independence of the Inquiry.
“It would be inappropriate to comment any further on this matter since court proceedings are live.” https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/511395/former-boss-of-child-abuse-probe-sues-scottish-government-for-500000-over-claims-she-was-forced-to-quit/