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
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.