OSCR refutes Wellbeing Scotland’s ‘totally exonerated” claim over paedophile ring reporting

CHARITY regulators have refuted claims it ‘totally exonerated’ a child abuse charity over claims it failed to report a paedophile ring to the police.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator began a probe into Wellbeing Scotland’s governance over ten months before it was alleged that police had had no record that the voluntary organisation had reported a huge sex abuse ring – one of the biggest in Britain – to them.

The Alloa-based charity, previously known as Open Secret, was being investigated by the OSCR while the charity’s chief executive and former Labour MSP candidate Janine Rennie said she had documentary proof of having reported details of rings of paedophile abusers.

The charity said it had been been exonerated over the allegations regarding the failure to report allegations.

READ MORE: Details of three child sex abuse rings handed to police in wake of football scandal

But the OSCR has said that the investigation was over the general governance of the charity and was not directly related to the questions of whether it did or did not report a paedophile ring.

The OSCR confirmed it had not found any misconduct or failure by the charity trustees to meet their duties, that no formal action has been taken but made some undisclosed recommendations.

It said: “OSCR has concluded its investigation, during which we had the cooperation of the charity trustees. We did not find that there was misconduct or failure by the charity trustees of Wellbeing Scotland to meet their trustee duties, and we have not taken any formal action or published a statutory report. We have made some recommendations to the charity trustees and the charity is engaging with us around the implementation of these.”

The OSCR then clarified: “OSCR’s inquiry related to the overall governance of the charity, and did not relate to the specific allegations [relating to failure to report].

“We cannot comment further on the content of the recommendations or where we are with them, given that these are the subject of ongoing work with the charity’s trustees.”

Wellbeing Scotland spokesman Jack Irvine said in response to the OSCR’s statement: “We are delighted that OSCR has totally exonerated Wellbeing Scotland. However, we are still mystified as to why OSCR should have got involved when it was clear the charity was the subject of complaints grounded in malice. We are also distressed, as are our stakeholders, that this totally unnecessary investigation was dragged out over such a long period. Covid is no excuse.


OSCR headquarters in Dundee

“There can now be no confusion either in the media or in Police Scotland as to whether Janine Rennie reported to Police Scotland, details of rings of paedophile abusers. She did, and that is now acknowledged. Sadly, there is still no clarity on who made wild allegations that Wellbeing Scotland had failed to report knowledge of these paedophile rings and it would be a useful exercise to determine who wasted so much time and resources for Wellbeing Scotland, Police Scotland and OSCR.”

Wellbeing Scotland also said the OSCR upheld a complaint about the length of time of the investigation which began at the end of 2020.

OSCR said that the complaint was “partially upheld” and added: “Inquiries can vary in length due to the time it takes to obtain all of the necessary evidence we need to make a considered judgement on whether regulatory action is necessary.”

The national child abuse charity said that in 2016 they had uncovered a huge paedophile ring in Falkirk.

It believed it had evidence that a paedophile ring thrived in central Scotland during the 1970s, after more than 350 men and women in Falkirk reported that they had been sexually abused by different people when they were children.

Then known as Open Secret, a charity that supports abuse victims, it revealed hundreds of residents — most now in their forties — had come forward saying that they had been raped and molested by multiple abusers.

Many of the victims were in sports clubs, including football and swimming groups, when they say the abuse occurred. Dozens more were in care when the abuse is alleged to have happened.

At the time Ms Rennie said that the “number of people in Falkirk who have come forward is shocking”.

It was believed at the time that the rings were previously flagged up to Police Scotland, but did not lead to an investigation.

The report came as police forces across the UK, including Police Scotland, investigated allegations of historical child sex abuse in football.

OSCR contacted the charity’s solicitor and board member, Mr Patrick McGuire of Thompsons Solicitors with their statement over their findings.

Mr McGuire added:”The length of the OSCR investigation implied a decree of seriousness or guilt. However the delays were partly down to Covid, partly due to the large volume of information Wellbeing Scotland voluntarily provided and partly to down to fault on the part of OSCR. OSCR have upheld a complaint about the length of time that the investigation took.

“Janine Rennie did provide Police Scotland with details of rings of multiple abusers. Janine Rennie, other staff and a board member met with Police Scotland where they provided information on alleged abusers and the clients who reported them. The number of potential abuse rings were more than one. Wellbeing Scotland provided Police Scotland with a redacted database showing the number of clients who had reported abuse by multiple abusers.”

Open Secret said at the time that it had had a two-hour meeting with a police delegation led by Detective Chief Inspector Gary Boyd, the man at the helm of the Forth Valley Division’s Public Protection Unit dedicated to investigating sexual crimes. During the meeting details emerged of the three alleged paedophile rings in Scotland.

Ms Rennie told the Herald at the time: “What is really important moving forward is to ensure they get justice. We are trying to get as much intelligence out there to make sure that there is information that the police can act on.”

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