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Ten years for child-abuser

24 May 2013


Sentenced: Canon Gordon Rideout

Sentenced: Canon Gordon Rideout

A RETIRED priest, Canon Gordon Rideout, was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment on Monday for 36 sex offences against children. He was the cause of "immeasurable and destructive suffering over a long period of time", the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has said.

Canon Rideout, from East Sussex, had denied 34 indecent assaults and two attempted rapes committed between 1962 and 1973 (News, 4 May, 2012). Most were perpetrated at Ilfield Hall children's home in Crawley. The charges related to 16 different children. He was acquitted of one charge of indecently assaulting a five-year-old child.

The day after his sentencing, the House of Bishops issued a fresh statement on child protection, in which it talked of a "step-change" in its approach.

"The House committed itself to creating a climate of transparency and trust with profound listening to survivors of past clerical and ecclesiastical abuse."

It went on: "There remains a duty on all clergy to report to relevant authorities and the police any allegation of abuse from a child or vulnerable adult."

The Bishops intend to undertake an audit of safeguarding provision in every diocese, review risk-assessment procedures, and develop national training materials. In addition, the statement said, "proposals for legislative change . . . will be brought to the Archbishops' Council".

Canon Rideout was Assistant Curate of St Mary's, Southgate, Crawley, from 1962 to 1965, during which time he regularly visited Ilfield Hall, a Barnardo's children's home that no longer exists. From 1967 to 1973, he was a Chaplain to the Forces at Middle Wallop. Lewes Crown Court found him guilty of four charges of indecent assault on two girls at the base.

In 1972, he was accused of three indecent assaults at Middle Wallop, but was cleared by a military hearing. He was also the subject of a police investigation in 2001.

Canon Rideout was Chaplain of Moira House School, Eastbourne, until 2003; and chairman of governors at St Mary's special school in Bexhill until 2009, and at Bishop Bell C of E School in Eastbourne until November 2011. He was made a Canon and Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral in 1990. He retired in 2003, but remained Rural Dean of Eastbourne until 2006.

On Monday, Matt Dunkley, director of children's services at East Sussex County Council, told the BBC of "a significant amount of arrogance on behalf of some members of the Church of England - almost that these things couldn't be true about someone of standing in the Church".

Dr Warner told the BBC that, in this case, there had not been a cover-up: "The advice that came back from the [earlier] police investigation did not give grounds for suspending Gordon Rideout at that stage."

He said, however, that "Gordon Rideout has been the cause of immeasurable and destructive suffering over a long period of time; he has also betrayed the trust and respect of many who have valued his ministry."

Dr Warner praised the efforts of the diocesan safeguarding adviser, but said: "We are left with the question why it has taken so long for these grave accusations to be taken seriously and brought to trial."

The Rt Revd Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes from 1997 until his retirement last year, said: "I very much regret that Gordon Rideout was not convicted of his crimes until now."

Nigel Pilkington, head of the Crown Prosecution Service South-East Complex Casework Unit, related how Canon Rideout "was able to wander through Ilfield Hall and the gardens, even visiting children when they were sick and alone in bed. One victim recalled how the children would hide under their covers when he came into their dormitories.

"Those who were brave enough to say anything were subjected to brutal beatings. Some of his victims told police in interviews that it simply 'wasn't worth complaining' because of the punishment they would receive in return.

"None of us can begin to imagine the impact that has had on their lives. I would like to pay tribute to the bravery and the fortitude of the victims in coming forward to give evidence. Those who heard the evidence they gave at court will have realised how difficult this has been for them. They may not have been believed as children, but today they finally have been. I hope that helps to give them closure."

Mr Pilkingon thanked Barnardo's for helping to bring the case to trial.

In a letter to the Church Times this week, a priest describes being sexually assaulted by the curate of a parish to which he had been sent on placement during his training.

The ordinand reported the assault, and, as a result, the curate was transferred to another parish. The ordinand and his colleagues were told that the transfer was because of an incident that had arisen "due to a misunderstanding". The ordinand discovered that he was not the only member of the group to have been assaulted.

He reports that no investigation took place and no pastoral care was ever offered: "Despite a pattern of abusive and predatory sexual behaviour with a series of young men that he held a position of power over, the priest was simply moved on to another parish with no one knowing the truth." The priest is still in parish ministry today.

"I fear this pattern - of failing to listen, of silencing the victims, moving the 'problem' and failing in both pastoral care of victims and accountability in clerical behaviour - has been repeated all too often."

The letter was sent in response to news of the allegations against a former Dean of Manchester, the Very Revd Robert Waddington ( News, 17 May). On Thursday of last week, fresh allegations about Dean Waddington were published in The Times. A victim, identified only as P, told the newspaper that he met the Dean in 1993 and was subjected to "frequent indecent assaults" over a period of years. These are the first allegations about the Dean's behaviour after his retirement in 1993.

On Wednesday, the diocese of Carlisle issued a statement expressing its shock at the actions of the Revd Andrew Folks and the Revd Ronald Johns, both jailed for sexual abuse.

Dean Waddington also served in Carlisle, as a residentiary canon from 1972 to 1977. The diocese states that the allegations against him "relate to events in the 1960s and early 1980s. They do not relate to his time in the diocese of Carlisle."

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