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York hunts for files of paedophile priest

23 August 2013


Recalled files: Dr Sentamu

Recalled files: Dr Sentamu

THE Church's treatment of a York Minster Canon who confessed to sex offences against children is being investigated by the office of the Archbishop of York.

Canon Emeritus John Norman, who died in 2005, was cautioned and placed on the Sex Offenders' Register in 2004, the York Press  reported on Wednesday. He was not prosecuted. 

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said: "In 2004, North Yorkshire Police investigated historic allegations against an 88-year-old man regarding a sexual assault on a boy. The man was arrested and interviewed and a full investigation was carried out, during which the man admitted the offence.

"A prosecution file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision and, as result, the suspect was issued with a caution and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders' Register for two years."

The York Press, which reports that Canon Norman confessed to offences against three children, was approached by the sister of one of the victims.

In response to enquiries by the newspaper, a spokesman for the Archbishop of York's office said: "An initial trawl of our files has failed to reveal any information about these allegations. However, since this report has been made, it is now essential that we look into the matter thoroughly, so we would be grateful for any relevant information. Sexual abuse is a devastating crime that does untold damage to victims. The Church of England is committed to the safeguarding of all children, young people, and adults, and has worked hard to improve our child protection policies. We aim to respond as positively and constructively as possible to anyone who has suffered abuse."

Canon Norman was Canon and Prebendary of York Minster from 1977 to 1992. Before this, he worked in the dioceses of York, Brechin and Carlisle. He retired to live in Pocklington in 1983 and assisted the chaplain at Pocklington School.

The reporting of the allegations comes days after the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, announced that all existing files of deceased clergy who served in the diocese of York have been recalled, as part of an investigation into child abuse.

Dr Sentamu announced on Saturday that he had appointed an independent reviewer to examine all files relating to deceased clergy who served in the diocese from before 1950 to the present. The majority date from the 1950s onwards.

In July, Dr Sentamu announced an independent inquiry into the Church's handling of reports of alleged child abuse by a former Dean of Manchester, Robert Waddington (News, 26 July). Dean Waddington died in 2007, but allegations made before his death came to light this year. In May, The Times reported that Lord Hope of Thornes, Archbishop of York from 1995 to 2005, had removed the Dean Waddington's permission to officiate, but did not report the allegations to the police or child protection authorities.

"The damage done by the sexual abuse of children is immense, and the passage of time does not in itself bring healing," Dr Sentamu said last Saturday.

"Where young people are shown to have been betrayed by individuals in a position of trust, and by the institution's failure to protect them, it is for the Church to acknowledge the hurt which has been done; to offer a full apology; and to prove, so far as is possible, that policies and practices are improved such that the same systemic failure could never be repeated."

The Archbishop's Chief of Staff, the Revd Malcolm Macnaughton, said: "Our priority now is to respond well to those who have the courage to come forward to say what happened to them...

"Where an alleged perpetrator of sexual abuse is still living, this should be reported directly to the police, or to the local safeguarding children panel. Where the alleged abuser has since died, those who were abused, or who were aware of the abuse, may still wish to come forward, and we would encourage them to do so."

The Church of England's national review of past cases of child abuse which took place in 2008-09 ( News, 24 February 2010) looked at more than 40,000 church files for any evidence that clergy or church workers had abused children, going back 30 years. It identified 13 cases that needed further formal action. It did not include the files of deceased clergy, however.

The Church's current safeguarding policy, Protecting All God's Children (2010), states that, if the subject of an allegation has died, "if the Church was involved in any way, the diocese will still need to examine its actions at the time, and consider whether they were appropriate in the light of what was known and good practice."

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