CHILDREN were sexually abused, beaten and humil-iated as they lived in a climate of fear and coercive control at an orphanage run by a religious order, an inquiry has found.

Youngsters were hit with items such as leather straps, crucifixes and a dog’s lead at Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark and Bellevue House in Rutherglen, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) concluded.

Chair Lady Smith said being hit was “a normal aspect of daily life” for some children, and they found no love, compassion, dignity or comfort at the institutions run by the nuns of the Catholic order the Daughters of Charity (DoC) of St Vincent de Paul.

The inquiry further reported that children were sexually abused at Smyllum. “Children were sexually abused by priests, a trainee priest, Sisters, members of staff and a volunteer,” Lady Smith said.

Children also suffered punishments for wetting the bed, emotional abuse, force-feeding and abusive bathing routines, the inquiry said.

The findings are contained in the first interim report from the SCAI, which is examining historical allegations of the abuse of children in care. It heard from 54 witnesses about their experiences at Smyllum and Bellevue, which closed in 1981 and 1961, respectively. Some 21 written statements were also submitted.

Lady Smith said: “I find that children were abused in both Bellevue and Smyllum, the two institutions that were the main focus of a case study. The abuse which took place was physical, emotional and sexual.

“For many children, the homes were places of fear, coercive control, threat, excessive discipline and emotional, physical and sexual abuse, where they found no love, no compassion, no dignity and no comfort.”

Daughters of Charity said in a statement: “Lady Smith’s findings describe events and practices totally out of keeping with the fundamental values which underpin our life and mission. We most sincerely offer a heartfelt apology to anyone who suffered any form of abuse while in our care.”