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Abuse survivor joins criticism of Butler-Sloss over inquiry

18 July 2014


Facing accusations: the Rt Revd Peter Ball, photographed in 1992

Facing accusations: the Rt Revd Peter Ball, photographed in 1992

A MAN who was abused as a choirboy, Phil Johnson, has added his voice to the criticism of Baroness Butler-Sloss, who resigned on Monday from chairing the Government's inquiry into historical allegations of child-abuse in institutions.

Mr Johnson met Lady Butler-Sloss at the House of Lords in 2011, after she had been appointed by the diocese of Chichester to review its handling of abuse allegations. That 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 former Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Peter Ball. He alleged that Lady Butler-Sloss had told him that, if she included the Bishop's name in her report, it would distract from the more serious abuse by 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.

Lady Butler-Sloss, a retired judge, withdrawing from the inquiry, said that, in light of criticism from abuse survivors, she was "not the right person" to chair it. 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.

Lady 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 institutions, including the Church.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, told the Home Affairs Select Committee on Monday that she still believed that Lady 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."

Lady Butler-Sloss told the BBC on Monday: "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."

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

He was summonsed this week to answer two fresh allegations of indecent assault on a man aged over 16 between 1990 and 1991 in Berwick, and on a boy aged under 16 between 1984 and 1985 in Litlington.

He is also due to appear at a Crown Court for a plea- and case-management hearing on 1 August in relation to the March summonses.

On Friday, Mr Johnson was present with other abuse survivors at the General Synod, where members discussed draft legislation to improve safeguarding. Under the legislation, convicted sex-offenders, or those on a safeguarding barred list, will not be allowed to be churchwardens, Readers, or PCC members.

Bishops will be able to insist that a priest deemed to present a possible safeguarding risk undergoes a risk assessment. Incumbents and PCCs will have a duty to have due regard to the Bishops' safeguarding policies. Clergy and Readers will be obliged to attend safeguarding training.

All diocesan bishops will have to appoint a safeguarding adviser and ensure that national standards are met. Without permission to officiate from a diocesan bishop, clerics will not be allowed to lead, or be robed at, services. It will also be possible for allegations of sexual misconduct against a child or vulnerable adult to be made more than one year after the abuse is alleged to have taken place.

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."

Abuse survivors hosted a fringe event on Friday evening. At a press conference afterwards, Mr Johnson was critical of the Church: "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. We need funded provision in place to support those survivors. Too often, the Church judges whether you are worthy."

The National Crime Agency announced on Wednesday that it had arrested 660 suspected paedophiles, after a six-month investigation into the viewing of child-abuse images online. Those arrested included doctors, teachers, Scout leaders, care workers and former police officers.

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