The Curate’s Egg: Child Sex Abuse inquiry reveals the Anglican Church has only half tackled the problem

Alexis Jay; Chair of the inquiry. Pic credit: iicsa

It is over six years ago that on Exaro News I worked with seven MPs from all parties to press Theresa May, then home secretary, to launch the Independent inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Now after two general elections only two – Caroline Lucas and Tim Loughton – remain as MPs.

Another Zac Goldsmith is now a government minister and peer. The remaining four Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk, Tessa Munt and John Hemming are Parliamentary history.

At the time with the help of Exaro colleague Mark Conrad, we drafted the letter that went to Theresa May – on behalf of the MPs- outlining the scale of abuse in the UK and citing specific cases and saying what needed to be tackled. She acted.

Tim Loughton MP

As Tim Loughton, a former children’s minister, put it at the time:

“Virtually every week, the public is bombarded with new stories about sexual abuse of children coming to light, yet they stretch as far back as the 1960’s.

“Few areas have been left untouched with increasingly alarming stories involving schools, churches, care homes, entertainment, sport and of course politicians and celebrities.

“Most alarming is a consistent theme of the reluctance or, more worryingly, the seeming complicity of police and other agencies to investigate the allegations seriously, and pursue the perpetrators rigorously.”

A lot has happened since – including the sentencing of Carl Beech, a paedophile , who made false allegations against prominent figures – as well as successful prosecutions in North Wales by the National Crime Agency – of paedophiles who got away with it for years.

Now the work of this inquiry has begun to bear fruit – and the publication this month of its over arching report into the Anglican Church and The Church of Wales is its most detailed investigation yet.

The report reveals both some progress and failure to tackle the problem. But I am pretty convinced without the catalyst of the national inquiry the Church would have continued to bury its head in the sand and still not taken half the measures it has.

The history of child sexual abuse in the church is damning. Since the 1940s as the report says 390 people have been convicted as sex offenders.

It goes on:” In 2018, 449 concerns were reported to the Church about recent child sexual abuse, of which more than half related to church officers. Latterly, a significant amount of offending involved the downloading or possession of indecent images of children. The Inquiry examined a number of cases relating to both convicted perpetrators and alleged perpetrators, many of which demonstrated the Church’s failure to take seriously disclosures by or about children or to refer allegations to the statutory authorities.”

As extraordinary are the figures spent on safeguarding children – see below. A pathetic £37,000 was spent for whole Anglican church in 2013 a year before the call for the inquiry . The last year for 2020 is not fully approved.

The report shows failings in the culture of the church which allowed paedophiles to hide and a highly complex devolved hierarchy which meant there are many gaps for allegations of child sexual abuse not to be reported because of the autonomy of different sections of the church. For example cathedrals are not as you might expect run by bishops but the Dean and Chapter. Also although safeguarding has now been highlighted, the people in charge are designated as advisers rather than officers, allowing the clergy the last word on whether action should be taken.

On the plus side it looks as though the Church is taking safeguarding seriously and training its staff about the issue. Newly recruited ordained priests seem to have the most detailed training and the church is at last doing criminal checks before appointing anyone to an important position.

There have been a number of attempts to check back on historical sex abuse allegations. The numbers checked look impressive at 40,000 but only 13 cases were identified as it was mainly a book keeping exercise.

Salisbury cathedral – one of seven dioceses where past cases of child sex abuse are being re-examined because they may not have been competently checked. Pic credit: Flickr

When this was re-examined by Sir Roger Singleton, a safeguarding expert, he recommended: ” An “updated version” of the PCR[ Past Case review} should be conducted in the dioceses of Ely, Lichfield, Rochester, Salisbury, Sheffield, Winchester, and Sodor and Man given “the absence of evidence that the Past Cases Review had been carried out competently in these dioceses”.

This is now being done again and will report in 2022.

counselling cancelled

The report also includes some rather horrifying cases because the system did not work properly. In one case a person who was claiming compensation from the Church’s insurers for past sexual abuse had his counselling cancelled because a lawyer advised the Church he shouldn’t have it since he was claiming against the Church,

It is also clear that much abuse was not revealed at the time. When the inquiry looked into a past case of Bishop Victor Whitsey, who died in 1987, but was during his career Bishop of Chester, Suffragan Bishop of Hertford at St.Albans and a priest in Blackburn and Manchester, some 19 people came forward saying he abused them including a brother and sister.

The report also discloses that there is still much to do . The Church is divided about mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse, with even the Charity Commission thinking they could be flooded with too many cases; the position over insurance and compensation for victims is unresolved and the process of clergy discipline measures needs reform and artificial time limits covering complaints removed. The rules over disclosure of child sexual abuse during confessions needs to change – exempting it from the sacred duty of confidentiality. And record keeping in the Church of Wales needs a thorough overhaul as there is a serious problem there.

The inquiry plans to come back over these issues and rightly so.

But perhaps one of the most chilling and sad paragraph in the report is a description of the Church’s problems with sexuality.

fear and secrecy over sexuality

“There was a culture of fear and secrecy within the Church about
sexuality. Some members of the Church also wrongly conflated homosexuality with the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults. There was a lack of transparency, open dialogue and candour about sexual matters, together with an awkwardness about investigating such matters. This made it difficult to challenge sexual behaviour.
Mr Colin Perkins, diocesan safeguarding adviser (DSA) for the Diocese of Chichester, told us that homosexual clergy may have found themselves inadvertently “under the same cloak” as child sexual abusers, who sought to mask their behaviour “in the same cultural hiding place”.

For those who follow this blog this report signals that I am back keeping a regular eye on child sexual abuse issues. Those who follow me on the fight for 50swomen know I don’t give up easily.

An Establishment cover up: The sordid and sad saga of sex abuser Bishop Peter Ball

bishop peter ball

Bishop Peter Ball at his trial . Pic Credit: BBC

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The Church of England has finally fully acknowledged the impact of the predatory sexual abuse committed by one of its most charismatic former bishops Peter Ball.

A forensic report by Dame Moira Gibb into both his activities and the cover up by the church  of his behaviour which reached the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, (now Lord Carey) to protect the Church’s reputation.

It is a grim story only coming light after the former Bishop of Gloucester was successfully prosecuted and jailed in 2015 after  a career  of physically and sexually abusing and exploiting  boys and young men, including some who were particularly vulnerable.

The report says : “He had used his position within the Church to identify those whom he then abused. and admitted two offences of indecent assault and a further offence of misconduct in public office.”

Tragically a young man, Neil Todd, who had first accused him in 1993  of abusing him in when he was 17 killed himself in 2012 when  Sussex Police re-opened an investigation when he was Bishop of Lewes.

Equally culpable, though not an abuser, is Michael Ball, his twin brother and former Bishop of Truro, who ran a campaign after his brother had been given a caution for abusing Todd in 1993 to rehabilitate him using every type of pressure he could find.

None of the authorities, with the exception of Sussex police, come out of this well, Neither the Church, Lambeth Palace, Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. It is litany of failed responsibility among those in power and also the misuse of power and reputation to protect the powerful.

Peter Ball comes out of this report as a manipulative, sadomasochistic  predator who appears to have used every trick to entice young men from public schoolboys to priests and damaged and vulnerable youths coming to the Church  for his own sexual  gratification. It is not clear  even now at 85 whether he shows any remorse as he refused to co-operate with Dame Moira’s inquiry.

While on the surface being a charismatic leader he and his brother appear to have conned  the Establishment to cover up his  activity and the Establishment appear to have been prepared to do so.

The report reveals how he wanted to whip Neil Todd who was only saved by worried staff at the Bishop’s house who sent him away. He also got youths to strip off in the chapel so they could pray together in the nude and even used a ceremony to anoint a youth’s penis in some bizarre religious rite.

But  as bad is the 20 year cover up . This included dragging Prince Charles into Ball’s defence – by using his privileged access to Highgrove House – to claim, falsely, as an examination of letters between Ball  and the Prince show, that he supported his cause. According to the report even a commercial arrangement that allows Ball and his brother to rent a house off the Duchy of Cornwall was twisted to say this was a Royal favour.

Lord carey

Lord Carey: Former archbishop of Canterbury Pic credit: BBC

Lord Carey emerges as a very weak character in this sorry saga. On the one level he is aware of Ball’s transgressions and tries to investigate, on another level he intervenes with the aim, whatever he says in a letter to Gloucestershire’s chief constable, to prevent a public trial of a Bishop by just issuing a caution. In the end this is done in return for his resignation as bishop. It is here that Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which now admits its mistake, are totally at fault. Lord Carey also failed to pass on information to the police on people Ball abused and defended his reputation to the police.

Then after this ” escape from justice” he and his brother pursue a ruthless campaign to rehabilitate him  as a priest – which is successful. They demand  money from the archbishop to fund their expenses, insist on his reinstatement as  a priest in his brother’s parish  ( at one stage his brother actually threatens to do this without Lambeth Palace’s permission) and he even gets an honorary retired bishop’s post from the  Bishop of Chichester.

The report recommends a strengthening of safeguarding in the Church of England and will be considered by the independent child sex abuse inquiry. But what it doesn’t address – and it is outside its terms of reference – is the glaring issue of homosexuality in the Church.

To put it in its historic context these events take place when people who were homosexuals in public life often lived  a double life for fear of exposure in the press. This was the time when  David Atkinson, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East was publicly a happily married man with a wife and children while secretly leading a double gay life in the House of Commons.

It was also the time when Britain’s first successful black footballer, Justin Fashanu, led a troubled double life attracted to young men, which led to his suicide when the US law caught up with him.

One wonders whether if as now – when to be openly gay no longer is a problem  and gay marriage is acceptable  ( except to the Democratic Unionist party)  Ball could have had a stable relationship instead.  Or was he a predatory abuser anyway? This is not to excuse the Ball twins from the appalling sexual abuse and cover up that followed. But it suggests the Church has got to address a wider problem than just the abuse.

The full report is here.

 

 

A disturbing child sex abuse case that raises awkward questions about insurers

lowell goddard

Justice Lowell Goddard giving evidence to House of Commons home affairs committee. Pic credit: BBC

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My colleague Tim Wood reveals on the Exaro website today a damning story about how a victim of historic child sex abuse was failed by the Church of England because it took more notice of its insurers than survivors of abuse.

Joe as he was publicly known eventually won £35,000 in compensation over a case involving abuse by a church official dating back to the 1970s.

As Tim Wood  writes on Exaro: ” Joe claims that the church initially put financial considerations above its duty of pastoral care when handling his case, and called on the Church of England to do more to help abuse survivors.

Joe told Exaro: “The church should stop seeing child sex abuse survivors through a corporate lens and start viewing us through a theological lens of healing and justice.”

In an emotional letter to the Right Reverend Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, Joe claims that the church played out a “monstrous charade” in initially trying to close down his case.

The letter, written in April and seen by Exaro, claims that the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), founded by the church in 1887, administered Joe’s case and started what he describes as a “damage limitation process.” Joe also claims that Bishop Butler, the Church of England’s head of safeguarding, was complicit in the strategy and began “blanking him” despite appeals for help.

To his credit Bishop Butler  who is head of the Church of England’s safeguarding body has apologised to Joe saying : ” “I am also extremely sorry that when the solicitor’s letter arrived regarding a claim, I did not over-rule the legal and insurance advice I received regarding having no further contact with you. I should have made it clear it would have been better to maintain contact.”

And the insurance company has also said it was misunderstood and didn’t intend to interfere with pastoral care.

However there is a wider question about the role of insurance companies and suppressing allegations of child sexual abuse.

ann clwyd

Ann Clwyd, the Labour Mp for the Cynon Valley, has been campaigning for changes in the law to prevent insurers putting up road blocks in investigating child sex abuse in council run homes.

Last year she secured a debate in the Commons in  which she said that reports into abuse in homes run by the former Clwyd County Council had been “prevented from publication by the council’s insurers.”

Ms Clwyd said: “[The] council did not allow the inquiry to place a notice in the local press seeking information because this was considered to be unacceptable to the insurers. It’s interesting that the insurers of the county council were also the insurers of the North Wales Police.”

Describing how the report was then “suppressed”, she said only 12 copies were made and it was “virtually unseen by committee or council members”. She argued that if it had been published “it would have sounded alarm bells and things would have moved much faster”.

She added: “It was not until July 2013 that the redacted version of the Jilliings report was finally published after a request by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act.”

So far ministers have not taken any action despite a recommendation by the Law Commission  way back in 2004.

This seems to be to be an ideal issue to be taken up by  the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse. And the Church of England case appears to be yet another example that should be investigated.

The Archbishop admits it: sexual abuse rampant in Britain

Today my colleague Tim Wood reveals the full details of a recent private letter from Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to Marilyn Hawes,the Hertfordshire mother of three boys sexually abused at a Church of England school more than a decade ago.

The contents will confirm what everybody connected with following the child sexual abuse scandal as it has been developing, knows – that child sexual abuse has been rampant, as he puts it, across institutions in Britain.

As Tim discloses in his article on the Exaro website and in the Sunday Times the Archbishop – who is known to see this as a major problem in society – does not mince his words.

“It is now clear that in a huge number of institutions and localities, the abuse of children and vulnerable adults has been rampant. That is not in any way mitigation or excuse for the church, but is why I have been, with Paul Butler,( The Bishop of Durham) pushing for the public inquiry that the government has promised.”

“It is also clear that there is a very significant legacy of unacknowledged cases in the Church of England. We are taking all necessary steps to face these.”

The mother’s tale is very familiar to many – first denial, then being shunned, and  then receiving a brush off at the top of the Church of England until now. At least the perpetrator in  this case, a music teacher, was caught and jailed.

The tragedy of this case comes as Theresa May, the home secretary, has reluctantly finally agreed to set up an overarching child sex abuse inquiry into historic and current abuse.

Unfortunately just as something good was about to happen – after heroic efforts by MPs of almost all parties – the inquiry has now become mired in a row over the appointment of its chair, Fiona Woolf, the Mayor of the City of London. Her links with Leon Brittan, who is likely to be one of the witnesses because of documents detailing VIP abuse disappearing in the past and under his watch as home secretary in the 1980s, appear not to have been properly investigated.

Normally people could celebrate the government tasking some action to find out what has been a hidden scandal in this country for decades. But they can’t until this mess over the inquiry is sorted out.

 

 

 

Is the Church of England getting the message on child sex abuse survivors?

Justin Welby: Is the church getting the message?

Justin Welby: Is the church getting the message?

Whisper it not too loudly but is the Church of England finally getting the message that it needs to fundamentally change its attitude to child sex abuse survivors?

Nearly two years ago the then new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby,issued warm words and an apology for all the harm the church had done to people by its priests. He was also pressing before the government finally agreed for an overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse.

Now there are going to be new laws to ensure that training of everyone from a vicar to a bishop in safeguarding, the scrapping of time limits in bringing child sex abuse cases and looking at the funding of help for survivors.

As I report on the Exaro website

The CoE is also to change canon law to make bishops accountable for the safeguarding of children in their diocese for the first time since it broke away from the Roman Catholic church during the reign of King Henry VIII. The changes mark what one expert called a wholesale “re-writing” of the CoE’s policy towards safeguarding children in the wake of scandals over paedophile priests.

One spokesman from the Church said :“These measures are part of wider approach by the church based on what the survivors of sexual abuse want us to do. The whole impetus is on tackling the problem from the survivor’s point of view.”

All this is good progress in the right direction. But much will depend how it is enacted. Often directives from the top are not implemented by people on the ground. People must make sure that they are or otherwise it will not work and we could do without more public relations exercises.

The Church of England’s approach is not being replicated by the Roman Catholics as the recent stories about the Salesian Order revealed- with the appalling Salesian response to further examples of historic child sex abuse exposed by the police after Graham Wilmer, a survivor and now a member of the independent panel into child sexual abuse revealed them in his new book The Devil’s Advocate.

The next few months will be  telling for the Church and the independent inquiry.

 

Why the Church has to atone for decades of child sexual abuse

Just before I went on holiday I penned a piece for Exaro on moves under discussion by the Anglican and Methodists to start tackling  the huge legacy of child sexual abuse by priests and teachers employed by the church..

For once it was more optimistic piece suggesting that at long last church leaders were realising that they had to say more than sorry and had to start taking responsibility for what had happened and is still happening.

I was  a bit taken aback to find some strong Twitter responses suggesting that overnight I had turned from an investigative journalist to an apologist for the Anglican church and a budding correspondent for Church Times. Ironically it came just as the Church appear to think that I might have gone too far in highlighting what they were contemplating before they had reached a final decision.

The piece on the Exaro website highlights the work of the joint safeguarding liaison group for Anglicans and Methodists which is now looking at earmarking money to three groups – including the Lantern project in Wirral – to provide counselling for church sex abuse victims. This move is by itself welcome – given counselling has not been properly provided for thousands of victims whatever the government may like to claim.

The campaign group, Stop Church Child Abuse, says that hundreds of clergy with claims against them of child abuse have not been prosecuted, pointing out that safeguarding procedures allow bishops to keep such allegations away from the authorities. These procedures may not be changed.

Also Exaro has established that the CoE was pressing the government more than a year ago to set up a full-scale inquiry into child sex abuse in a range of institutions in the UK – long before Theresa May, the home secretary, decided to set up an independent panel and when David Cameron was being at best equivocal and at worst ignoring the scale of the problem.

I make no apologies for reporting some of the more positive moves by the Church. But make no mistake I will continue to pursue the issue and investigate the large number of cases where the authorities have failed and people’s lives ruined as a result.

 

 

 

Justin Welby: An apology on sexual abuse is not enough

Justin Welby: Apology not enough Pic credit: The Guardian

Justin Welby: Apology not enough Pic credit: The Guardian

The decision by the Church of England Synod spurred on by  Justin Welby and John Sentamu,  archbishops of Canterbury and York, to apologise for past sins of child sexual abuse is welcome. But it is not nearly enough.

The words are fine. They offer to apologise unreservedly” for the failure of the Church of England’s systems to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused.

They add: “The sexual and physical abuse that has been inflicted by these people on children, young people and adults is and will remain a deep source of grief and shame for years to come.”

But as I reported on Exaro News  for an independent inquiry. Graham Wilmer, of the Lantern Project, calls for a Commission for  Truth and Reconciliation ( see http://www.ctruk.org.uk/)

They are big fears as the Stop Church Child Abuse put it : “is this a game, another in the decades of games played out in the public,to present a church responsive to its past failings and moving forward in harmony with survivors; until the next time, the next case that reveals further abuse, cover up and denial, and the inadequacy of effective procedures?” 

Unless there is a real rethink by all the churches and public institutions we are going to get nowhere. In my view from  limited investigations into historic child sexual abuse  the temptation to cover up abuse is enormous. Perpetrators  are often subtle, cunning and very plausible. They know how to get around systems – and are often helped by institutions that don’t want to face up to the shame of public disclosure.

We need to go much further and involve all churches including the  deeply reluctant Roman Catholic church to tackle what amounts to a tidal wave of historic abuse in this country with no fewer than four police investigations involving hundreds if not thousands of cases that have been uncovered.

That is why I am delighted  that Tom Watson, Labour MP who made the original allegations about a historic sexual abuse ring in Parliament is now  going to concentrate on pursuing this investigation – and will no longer be drawn into the time-consuming  battles that  are at present engulfing Labour’s campaign machine.