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Baroness Butler-Sloss steps down

14 July 2014

by Madeleine Davies and Paul Handley


"Deeply saddened": Theresa May appears before the Home Affairs Select Committee at the Housee of Commons, on Monday

"Deeply saddened": Theresa May appears before the Home Affairs Select Committee at the Housee of Commons, on Monday

A VICTIM abused while a choirboy in Chichester diocese has added his voice to the criticism of Baroness Butler-Sloss, who stood down as chair of the government into institutional abuse on Monday.

Phil Johnson met Baroness Butler-Sloss at the House of Lords in 2011, after she was appointed by the Diocese to review its handling of abuse allegations. The review centred on abuse perpetrated by two priests: Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard. Mr Cotton died in 2006 and Mr Pritchard was jailed for five years in 2008 (News, 1 August, 2008).

On Friday, Mr Johnson told the BBC that he had also made allegations about a Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Peter Ball. He alleged that Baroness Butler-Sloss had told him that, if she included the Bishop's name in her report, it would distract from the more serious abuse of the two priests.

But he also stated that she "didn't want to generate any excessive negative publicity for the Church. . . She expressed that by saying that 'the press would love a bishop', and she didn't want to give the press that trophy."

He said: "She told me that she cared very much about the Church and seemed to be wanting to protect the Church's image."

He accepts that she did pass on his allegations about Bishop Ball.

Baroness Butler-Sloss, a retired judge resigned, saying she was "not the right person" for the job. Her brother, Sir Michael Havers, was Attorney General in the 1980s, when many of the allegations of abuse took place. He has been accused of failing to act on allegations made to him at the time.

Baroness Butler Sloss said that she "did not sufficiently consider" the effect of her family links when accepting the task of chairing the inquiry into sexual abuse in the Government, the Church, and other institutions

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said on Monday that she did not regret appointing her. She told the Home Affairs select committee that she still believed that Baroness Butler-Sloss had been the "right person for the job. . .

"I do not regret the decision I made. I continue to believe that Elizabeth Butler-Sloss would have done an excellent job as chair of this inquiry."

Bishop Ball was charged with indecent assault and misconduct in public office in March this year (News, 28 March). He was unable to answer the charges in court in April due to ill-health (News, 17 April).

Baroness Butler-Sloss told the BBC: "Throughout many years of public service I have always striven to be fair and compassionate, mindful of the very real suffering of those who have been victims of crime or other injustice.

"I have never put the reputation of any institution, including the Church of England, above the pursuit of justice for victims."

Mr Johnson was present with other survivors at General Synod on Friday, where members discussed proposals to improve safeguarding in the Church. Under the legislation, convicted sex offenders or those on a safeguarding barred list will not be allowed to be church wardens, lay readers or members of PCCs.

Bishops will be able to insist that a priest deemed to present a possible safeguarding risk undergoes a risk assessment. Incumbents and PCCs will be duty-bound to have due regard for the House of Bishops' safeguarding policies, and clergy and lay readers will be obliged to attend safeguarding training.

All diocesan bishops will have to appoint a safeguarding adviser and ensure national standards are achieved. Clergy without authority from a diocesan bishop will not be allowed to officiate or robe. Finally, it will be possible for allegations of sexual misconduct against a child or vulnerable adult to be made more than one year after it has alleged to have taken place.

Introducing the legislation, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, who chairs the Churches National Safeguarding Committee, said: "We have made far too many mistakes in the past in relation to safeguarding. . . We must not be complacent."

Survivors of abuse hosted a fringe event on Friday evening. At a press conference held afterwards, Mr Johnson was critical of the Church's response to survivors: "Where survivors go through the legal system and get compensation, the Church seems to think its responsibility ends there. If someone loses a leg in an accident and they are compensated for the loss of their leg that does not mean they have got their leg back. They have to live with that.

"With the new inquiry coming up there are going to be lot more people coming forward and we need funded provision in pace to support those survivors. Too often the Church judges whether you are worthy."


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