Inquiry told of ‘slopping out’ and children being imprisoned with sex offenders

A man who was sent to young offenders institutions in the early 1970s told an inquiry how he was forced to “slop out” and  was held in custody with sex offenders at an adult prison when aged under 16.

The witness, known by the pseudonym Jim, told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in Edinburgh he was sent to a children’s home through “no fault of his own” after his parents split up when he was around 12.

He was placed in several secure care units around Scotland between the ages of 12 and 16.

Jim described how in one, he would be locked up with three other boys from around 7pm each evening until the following morning.

Each of the boys were given a pot to use for the toilet during that time.

Angus Sinclair death
HMP Glenochil, where Jim was held in the young offenders institution for a period (Andrew Milligan/PA)

James Peoples KC, senior counsel to the inquiry asked Jim: “So it was like a form of slopping out?”

“Yes,” Jim said.

Later, Jim told the inquiry: “The smell would have been horrendous. It was horrendous.”

The witness also described how at the age of 14 or 15 he was sent to Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen after he threw a book at a member of staff which caught fire at the facility he had been staying in.

He went to a court hearing where the Sheriff ordered him to be sent to prison and he was placed in the protective wing of the prison, where sex offenders and paedophiles were held.

In his written statement to the inquiry, Jim described himself as a “wee boy in an adult prison”.

The witness also detailed the physical and mental abuse he suffered at the institutions he had been placed in as a youngster.

When he arrived at the first facility, Craigielea Reception Centre school, he told the inquiry he had started wetting the bed and that if staff discovered children had wet the bed in the morning, Jim said they “threw the wet sheets in your face in front of all the other children.”

He also said that staff members would frequently assault children by “punching, kicking and slapping them”.

Jim was also held at Glenochil Young Offenders Institution in Alloa, Clackmannanshire which he described as being “regimental” and “military style”.

Jim described the experience there as being a “short, sharp shock” with most young people being held for eight weeks.

He told the inquiry that when inmates arrived at Glenochil, they were punched in the face.

They were also forced to participate in extremely rigorous physical fitness regimes.

Jim said: “If you didn’t beat the time or match it from the last day, you could get time added on to your sentence.”

He added: “I think it was meant to be a short, sharp shock. It must have had a good success rate because a lot of the kids never got into trouble again.”

He also had a social worker who he described as the “nicest person” he had ever met who began to speak up for him and treated him well.

Jim said his experiences in secure care affected his mental health and he often had memories of his time in care triggered by watching films.

He never reported his experiences to police because he had experienced brutality from them throughout his life.

But, he said: “The police are career people now. That was a different time then.”

He also told the inquiry he did not receive the education he believed he deserved as a result of his experiences.

Lady Smith, chair of the inquiry, thanked Jim for sharing his experiences and said what he had told them was of “real value” to the work they were doing.

Hearings for the eighth phase of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry will hear evidence from those who suffered abuse within residential accommodation for young offenders and children.

The hearings will cover a period from 1930 until 2014.

Lady Smith said the phase will be a “substantial case study” and will go into most of 2024.

The inquiry continues.