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'No single procedure' on police

17 May 2013


Playing a part in this story: Bishop McCulloch

Playing a part in this story: Bishop McCulloch

BISHOP NIGEL McCULLOCH said last Friday: "Since 2004, new guidelines for responding to allegations of abuse have replaced those of 1999. All such allegations are now reported automatically to the police by the Church."

Current guidelines do not, however, state that allegations by adult survivors of abuse should automatically be reported to the police. Protecting All God's Children (2010) states that "People who have committed sexual abuse against someone years ago could well be abusing children today. The individual survivor should be encouraged and supported to report the matter to the police if this has not already been done."

If the survivor gives consent, information must be passed to the police. Difficulties arise when consent is not given. The guidance notes: "There is no single, correct procedure for dealing with disclosure of previous abuse by an adult. The wishes of the person disclosing abuse will be very important."

Another policy, Responding Well to those who have been sexually abused (2011), written in close co-operation with some of the survivor-group leaders, states: "An important part of recovery for the person who has disclosed abuse is to be entrusted with power over their own history. This includes deciding when and how it should be shared, so initially seek consent from the individual concerned. . . Without the individual feeling ready to give consent and co-operation, s/he is likely simply to exercise his/her right of silence or non-co-operation, or even retract the information. This means that it is extremely unlikely that any genuine safeguarding can take place by the overriding of his or her consent."

Both documents emphasise that, even without consent, information must be passed to the police if others may still be at risk.

On Monday, Simon Bass, chief executive of the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service, said: "Where an adult comes forward, then it is important that the Church responds appropriately to them and recognises they need to be given some power back. That choice about power, whether or not to go forward in terms of a formal complaint to the police, should rest with the person making that complaint." He emphasised that information must be passed on to the police if others could be at risk.

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