Vicarious liability for child sexual abuse – again

The Scotsman reports that three unnamed siblings who were sexually abused by a care worker at a Church of Scotland children’s home, Lord and Lady Polwarth Children’s House in Edinburgh, have settled an action against the Kirk for an agreed 
£1 million.

The victims, two men and a woman, were repeatedly assaulted by Ian Samson, who worked as a superintendent at the home alongside his wife, who was a matron there. The girl had to have an abortion when she became pregnant as a result of rape. In 2013, Samson was found guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh of 22 offences involving sexual abuse and the rape of twelve children. Eight of the offences took place at the Polwarth Children’s House; others were committed in various locations across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

In a civil action against the Church of Scotland, the woman has received £500,000 in damages and her brothers each received £250,000.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said:

“Whilst this settlement can never undo what has been done, we hope that it finally brings a sense of justice to the individuals affected and provides some small redress for the trauma which they experienced while in our care.

The abuses perpetrated by Ian Samson at Lord and Lady Polwarth Home in the 1970s are matters which have been examined by the criminal courts and by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, and for which we have expressed our deep and sincere regret.

We became aware of the full facts in 2013, at which point we offered our full support to the victims. While Samson’s abuse of children was wider than his activity in Lord and Lady Polwarth Home, it felt important to us that there was a full acknowledgement of the harm which did occur in our care at the time and the longer-term consequences for the three siblings involved.

The safety of children is of paramount importance to us. We have carried out a full independent review of the circumstances occurring in the 1970s so that we could learn any lessons for our safeguarding practices today. We did offer sight of that review to the family affected before it went for publication, through Police Scotland. However, we are not aware of whether they have seen it.”

Comment: The details of the settlement emerged following the opening last week of the Scottish Government’s £10m redress scheme for abuse survivors, which is open to victims of abuse who have a terminal illness or are aged 70 or over. The redress scheme has been introduced ahead of a wider payment scheme due to open in 2021.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Vicarious liability for child sexual abuse – again" in Law & Religion UK, 30 April 2019,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *