Nun had ‘no reason to disbelieve’ abuse claims from inquiry witnesses

A senior nun has apologised “unreservedly” to those who told an inquiry they were abused at children’s homes run by a religious order.

Sister Anna Maria Doolan said she had “no reason to disbelieve” claims from witnesses surrounding their past experiences at Nazareth House institutions in Scotland.

The nun, the current regional superior of the Sisters of Nazareth order, said it had been “painful” to hear the historical allegations emerge at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI).

Her statements came as the inquiry heard up-to-date figures on the hundreds of complaints, civil actions and investigations that have been raised concerning the homes since the late 1990s.

Over the last eight weeks, the inquiry has been looking specifically at four now-defunct children’s homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth in Scotland.

The inquiry has been told of a catalogue of alleged abuses by nuns at those institutions decades ago.

Asked for her general reaction to the evidence, Sister Doolan told the hearing: “It’s been very painful listening to the evidence from the applicants and the alleged treatment that they got during their time in care with the sisters.

“I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to them very wholeheartedly, that if they did experience abuse or mistreatment during their time in the care of the sisters, I’d certainly want to apologise for that.

“We wouldn’t want any child to be treated badly or have bad memories of their time, which many of them seem to have.”

She continued: “I’m apologising unreservedly if any of those things did happen to them in our care. We wouldn’t want that to happen to any child.”

The inquiry has been told of certain past convictions of people associated with the homes.

Asked for her view on the wider evidence from alleged victims she heard when she attended the inquiry herself, the sister said: “I’m not saying I disbelieve them. That’s their record of their experience of their time in care with us.”

Pressed further on the question by chair Lady Smith, she went on: “I believe what they told (the inquiry).

“They gave their evidence under oath so I have no reason to disbelieve them. Listening to the effect it’s had on their lives afterwards, it’s very painful for us to listen to that, to think any of our sisters were the cause of that and didn’t live up to our values.”

Colin MacAulay QC, senior counsel to the inquiry, told the probe that a previous figure of 109 complaints of abuse at the homes has now risen to 122.

They mostly relate to the Aberdeen home although the home in Cardonald, Glasgow, is “not too far behind,” the inquiry heard.

There are also 270 civil actions – 117 of them concerning Aberdeen – and records of 113 police investigations, the hearing was told.

The earliest complaint and court action were raised against the order in 1997, the inquiry heard.

Christine Hughes, an archivist for the Sisters of Nazareth, told how all her work lately has related to the ongoing inquiry and the police investigations that have emerged since the probe began.

“Over the last four years, almost all my work has been related to work for public inquiries and police inquiries,” she revealed, saying that included hearings in England and Northern Ireland.

She agreed the documents held by the order relating to the Scottish homes were “patchy” and confirmed the records available for individual children were “sparse”.

“Considering the number of children, there aren’t very many that have reached the archive,” Ms Hughes said.

The inquiry’s public hearing in Edinburgh will continue on Tuesday next week.

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