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International Inquiries into Institutional Abuse

This page contains some examples of investigations into institutional abuse of children from around the world.


The Law Commission of Canada  published its report, Restoring Dignity : Responding to Child abuse in Canadian Institutions in 2000. The report had been commissioned by the Minister of Justice to help governments respond to the claims and lawsuits arising out of abuse suffered in institutions where children had been placed. Allegations of abuse in over 70 institutions began to emerge in the 1990s. 


The Waterhouse Inquiry was ordered by the then Welsh secretary William Hague in 1996. It was in response to allegations of abuse in children’s care homes in North Wales, throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The official report, Lost in Care, was published in February 2000 and led to the establishment of the Children’s Commissioner - the first in the UK. 


The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was  set up in January 2013 to investigate where systems have failed to protect children, and make recommendations on how to prevent and better respond to child sexual abuse in institutions. It is in the process of investigating and the results of the inquiry are expected by 2016. 

Northern Ireland

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is examining allegations of child abuse in children's homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995. It was set up in 2012, and is expected to deliver its final report in 2016. 


While no official government commission has been sent up, there have been a number of church and police investigations into allegations of abuse across the United States. In January 2014, over 6000 pages of priest files from the Chicago archdiocese were made public as part of a 2008 settlement with alleged abuse victims, while the archdiocese apologised for abuse by priests. The Boston Globe exposed the cover up of sexual abuse by the archdiocese of Boston with a series of articles in 2002, leading to police investigations into several priests and hundreds of civil lawsuits.

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