Cardross Park Care Centre for Looked After Children has been branded a ‘hell’ by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

As a woman who was placed there said in an interview, the closed children’s ward was a “hell” where violence often occurred.

One woman who lived at Cardross Park Assessment Centre, near Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute, in the 1990s described how children had their shoes removed to prevent them from escaping.

She also spoke of her suffering at being the only girl in the ward, to which she was referred at the age of 12 by the children’s commission, while the others were teenage boys.

The now-closed care home is one of three children’s homes under investigation by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry Commission, chaired by Lady Smith.

The woman appeared at a hearing in Edinburgh on Wednesday under the pseudonym Lucy.

David Sheldon KC, senior legal adviser to the inquiry, suggested her young life had been “extremely difficult” – a view she agreed with.

Lucy said she had experienced violence from a family member and when she was 12, the Children’s Commission decided to send her to Cardross, a place she “had no idea about”.

In her written statement, the institution, which housed a school and a secure accommodation centre, was described as “hell”.

Speaking to Mr Sheldon, she said: “It looked nice from the outside, but I remember when I went in, they took my shoes and wouldn’t let me leave.”

She said it was “barbaric” and “I have no idea how this could have been allowed to happen.”

Lucy told investigators about an incident in Cardross where she described being attacked by staff who held her down, punched her and kicked her.

“I remember screaming and begging them to let me in, but they wouldn’t let me in,” she testified during the investigation.

Lucy, who now works in education, said she tried to escape from Cardross but was never successful.

She added: “I think I was the only girl (on the ward) and the rest were boys, which wasn’t right.”

In addition to taking off their shoes, children were told to change into their pajamas after school ended.

She said many children at Cardross were traumatised and conditions there were “really, really awful”.

“I saw other children being taken away, people arguing – it was very scary,” she said.

Lucy said her own experiences in the sector made her realise how inappropriate the practices at Cardross were.

Another witness appeared before the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry under the pseudonym Daniel.

He had been sent to Cardross previously and described how staff there used slaps on children as punishment.

He recalled that one of the rooms in the center was called the “cold room” – an empty, windowless room where boys who caused trouble were sent.

The workers also pulled the children by their hair, he added.

Daniel testified during questioning: “No one on the staff showed any kindness.”

Lady Smith’s inquest is now in its eighth phase and is examining cases of abuse involving children in youth offending centres and looked after children.

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