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Child-protection trawl finds 13 cases in the Church of England

24 February 2010

by Bill Bowder

AN INDEPENDENT review that looked at more than 40,000 church files for any evidence that clergy or church workers had abused children has given the Church of England a clean bill of health. But it calls for “refresher” courses in safeguarding vulnerable people to be taken regularly by all clergy.

The review, which was ordered in 2007, looked at 40,747 files on diocesan staff, clergy, and lay min­isters going back 30 years. Details released by the Church on Wed­nesday show that more than 900 letters were sent to bishops and senior clergy.

As a result, 13 cases were found that needed further formal action. In two of the cases — both of which involved clerics — no action by the statutory authorities was possible. Nevertheless, the individuals had been formally disciplined, a Church of England spokesman said.

Of the remaining 11 cases, eight involved clerics. Five of the 11 related to past allegations that had been investigated by the police, and some of which had led to con­victions. In those cases, new regula­tions meant that the clerics had now been referred to the Independent Safeguarding Authority for possible inclusion on its list that would bar them from working with vulnerable groups.

The remaining six cases were referred to the police for advice or investigation during the review period, but the police found that they could take no further action.

In three of those cases, however, dioceses put in place a risk-management strategy. The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, who chairs the Church’s safeguarding liaison group, said: “The review indicates that there are no outstanding issues of which the Church has previously been made aware, relating to any clergy or other office-holders’ suitability to work with children, that have not now been investigated by the police or other relevant professional authority.

“While this review has been as thorough and expansive as was feasible, we can make no firm guaran­tees that allegations which were not recorded in the past will not resurface in the future.”

He asked anyone that had any information or concerns about a person’s suitability to work with children within a church setting to “share those concerns with the relevant diocesan child protection adviser, or the police, or Social Services. Such disclosures are the most effective ways of stopping abuse in its tracks.”

The Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service welcomed the review. Its executive director, David Pearson, said in a statement: “We highlighted the issue of historic abuse cases in 2007. Since then, the Church of England is to be congratulated for the thoroughness and professionalism with which it has set about the vitally important task of ensuring that there were no possible cases of abuse lurking unresolved in its files, leaving children open to potential danger.”

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