Police response to historic child sex abuse claims ‘totally unacceptable’, inquiry told

A man killed himself after his allegations of being sexually abused as a child in care were dismissed by police, a former director of Barnardo’s Scotland has claimed.

Hugh Mackintosh told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry on Thursday he was approached by the former resident during the mid-1980s with claims against an ex-worker.

The then-assistant director said he believed the man’s account to be “absolutely accurate” so he went to police with the information, but their investigation was “totally, totally unacceptable”.

Mr Mackintosh, now aged in his early 70s, said: “It went absolutely nowhere – I followed it up. I wasn’t overly impressed by the feedback I got from police.

“I thought it was totally dismissed. The feedback to me was the boy, young man, was gay himself.

“I thought it was totally, totally unacceptable.”

The worker concerned had already been dismissed from the East Lothian Barnardo’s home before the allegations surfaced.

His removal came after a similar residential establishment in London had raised concerns about alleged abuse during his time there.

Mr Mackintosh, who was director of Barnardo’s Scotland from 1991 until 2007 and was assistant director for 10 years before that, said the former resident killed himself once the police probe was over.

The inquiry is currently investigating residential childcare establishments run by non-religious and voluntary organisations.

Mr Mackintosh also spoke of establishments which had a “closed culture” which could make it easier for abuse to take place.

The inquiry heard many of the workers were unqualified and did not have proper training for difficult situations such as restraining a child.

Another of Barnardo’s premises, Thorntoun in Kilmarnock, was said to have an “initiation ceremony” for new boys which involved pupils putting them into a cold bath.

Mr Mackintosh said he faced resistance from the home when he ordered it to stop, as it prevented “worse things” from happening.

He told how he did not feel welcome by the management team when he first took up his assistant director post, but he was not scared to “ruffle a few feathers” in order to tackle key issues.

He said: “Barnardo’s Scotland had this kind of ‘we’re a very caring division, very caring management team’ (attitude).

“I didn’t find it very caring. I found it had a rather inappropriate sense of humour.

“There was a culture I didn’t find particularly kind or enjoyable.”

The former director said during the 1980s, he found management would not challenge workers in the organisation’s residential units.

It was heard there was a lack of openness and teams were “reviewing themselves”.

The inquiry, before Lady Smith in Edinburgh, continues on Tuesday.

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