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Third resignation from Scots abuse inquiry

Abuse panelImage copyright Scottish government
Image caption Glenn Houston (L) was the only original member of the inquiry panel after Susan O’Brien QC and Michael Lamb resigned

A third senior figure on the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has resigned.

Glenn Houston, who was the only original panel member, cited personal reasons for his departure.

He remained on the inquiry team last year after the resignation of the chairwoman, Susan O’Brien QC, and panel member Michael Lamb.

One survivors’ group said it was “indicative of a crisis” in the inquiry which is examining allegations of child abuse in residential accommodation.

Andi Lavery, spokesman for the survivors’ group White Flowers Alba, said victims were rapidly losing confidence in the inquiry’s credibility.

The inquiry is due to report in late 2019.

It has been plagued by problems since it was set up in October 2015. More than £3.5m has been spent on it during this period.

‘Change in priorities’

As well as the original chairwoman quitting last July, a second panel member, Prof Michael Lamb, also resigned, claiming the inquiry was “doomed”.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he had accepted the resignation of Mr Houston and thanked him for his positive contribution.

Mr Houston said a “change in priorities” in his working life meant he had applied for positions at the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and the Disclosure and Barring Service.

“I have now been successful in those applications and the appointments have been made,” he said.

“Lady Smith and I have discussed the potential that at some future time, a perception of conflict of interest may arise between these appointments and my work as a panel member on the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

“After careful consideration of both the time commitment required to fulfil these new roles and the potential, however small, for perceptions to arise of conflict of interest, I have tendered my resignation to the inquiry.”

‘Unacceptable’ comments

Mr Houston added that he had been “honoured” to be appointed to the panel.

Mr Swinney said: “I want to thank Mr Houston for his service. I know this was not an easy decision for him to reach, but he can be very proud of the contribution he has made to the establishment of the Child Abuse Inquiry and to ensuring its continuing progress.”

A successor to Mr Houston will not be appointed to the inquiry.

In July 2016, senior judge Lady Smith was appointed as the new chairwoman of the inquiry following Ms O’Brien’s resignation.

Ms O’Brien stood down after being told she faced the sack over “unacceptable” comments about child sex abuse victims.

The QC complained of government interference in the inquiry which she said had “undermined” her. Prof Lamb had earlier quit the panel over similar concerns.

But the Scottish government denied it was interfering with the probe and Lady Smith has also insisted that the investigation will be fully independent.

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