THE Bishop of Chichester, Dr John Hind, apologised for the “institutional failings” of his diocese on Wednesday. He was speaking after the publication of a report by Baroness Butler-Sloss on the handling of the cases of two priests who were the subject of child-abuse allegations.
Lady Butler-Sloss was asked by Dr Hind to look into the treatment of two priests who had been the subject of “historic child-abuse allegations”. One was the Revd Roy Cotton, who was appointed Rector of Brede with Udimore, near Rye, from 1984 to 1999, despite having been convicted of a sexual offence against a boy in 1954. He died in 2006.
The other was the Revd Colin Pritchard, Rector of Sedlescombe from 1989 to 2001, and then Vicar of St Barnabas’s, Bexhill, until he was arrested in 2007 over sex-abuse allegations in a previous parish.
The report concluded that, across the diocese, there had been “a lack of understanding of the seriousness of historic child abuse”. It said that senior clergy, including bishops, “were slow to act on the information available to them and to assess the potential risk to children in the diocese”.
The report also said there had been “inadequate communication” between senior clergy and child-protection advisers, and “seriously inadequate record-keeping”.
The report’s recommendations include treating allegations of historical child-abuse in the same way as current allegations, and temporarily suspending priests accused of abuse pending a police or diocesan investigation.
It also warns that a decision by the police or child-protection authorities not to prosecute “does not relieve the diocese of its duty to assess . . . any potential risk to children . . . and to act appropriately”.
Dr Hind said that Lady Butler-Sloss’s “conclusions and recommendations are in line with what we are now doing and will continue to build on, and it will provide a strong foundation for good safeguarding practice in the diocese”.
Dr Hind said that he felt “deep and profound sorrow for the pain caused to all victims”.