HC Deb 18 December 1980 vol 996 cc319-20W
Mr. Lang

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he intends to hold an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Angela Burns on 13 August 1979.

Mr. Younger

I have been informed by the Lord Advocate that he has instructed that an application be made under section 1(1)(b) of the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976 for a fatal accident inquiry to be held into the circumstances of the death of Angela Burns. On the conclusion of the inquiry I shall have regard to any appropriate aspects of the sheriff's determination. In the circumstances, I have decided not to set up an inquiry under section 99 of the Children Act 1975 into the death of Angela Burns.

At the time of her death, for which her brother William was subsequently sentenced to five year's detention, Angela Burns was subject to a supervision requirement made by a children's hearing under section 44(1)(b) of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968: her brother William Burns was, at the time, an absconder from Kirkland Park assessment centre while awaiting a placement in a list D school under a supervision requirement from the children's hearing under section 44(1)(b) of the 1968 Act.

To assist me in my consideration of this matter I had available advice and information on relevent social work and health service matters concerning Angela Burns and her family from my own departmental officers and from Strathclyde regional council, the local authority whose social work department was involved in the case. I also received advice and information from my departmental officers and from the chief constable of Strathclyde on police matters concerning the steps taken to trace and return William Burns to the assessment centre after he had absconded in June 1979.

I fully appreciate the public concern about child abuse and I am continuing to examine ways in which we in the Government might give further assistance to local authorities, health boards and other bodies involved in child abuse cases in their continuing efforts to reduce the incidence of such cases and to do all that is humanly possible to try to prevent them occuring.

I have also been giving consideration to the situation when a child has absconded from a residential social work establishment and I have asked my Department to discuss with representatives of local authorities, the police and list D schools the arrangements for tracing absconders and having them returned to the residential establishment. In the light of these discussions, I shall consider whether it would be helpful for me to offer some general guidance on this matter.