*** DEBUG END ***

York Inquiry finds 'systemic failure' over abuse

23 October 2014


"Deep repentance": Dr Sentamu 

"Deep repentance": Dr Sentamu 

IN 1999, after receiving allegations of sexual abuse by a priest in his province, Lord Hope, then Archbishop of York, wrote a letter of apology, aware that "this whole business will have caused you deep disquiet and distress and a considerable degree of sadness and pain."

The letter was sent not to the survivor, but to the abusive priest. On Wednesday, it was published as part of a strongly critical report on the Church's response to allegations of abuse against the priest, the former Dean of Manchester, the late Robert Waddington. It details how the failure to implement policies meant that victims were denied an opportunity to see their abuser brought to justice.

The report is the result of an inquiry commissioned last year by the present Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu (News, 17 May 2013), after a joint investigation by The Times in London and The Australian newspaper in Sydney had revealed allegations against Waddington dating back decades.

The inquiry, led by Sally Cahill QC, concludes: "Irrespective of the policies in force, there was a systemic failure: appropriate referrals would not have taken place . . . because the decision-making was in the hands of those not qualified or sufficiently experienced in child protection to make those decisions."

On Wednesday, Dr Sentamu, who has visited all the victims living in the UK, said he was "deeply ashamed that the Church was not vigilant enough". There was a need for "deep repentance".

Lord Hope first received allegations against Waddington from the Bishop of North Queensland in 1999. A young man, later named as Bim Atkinson, had alleged that, while headmaster of St Barnabas School in Queensland, Waddington had sexually abused him during the 1960s.

Instead of following the Church's policy, which he had recently endorsed, and informing the safeguarding adviser, Lord Hope approached Waddington himself. After meeting the accused, he told the Australian bishop that Waddington believed that his actions had been "misinterpreted", but wished to offer the complainant an "unreserved apology".

Lord Hope added that Dean Waddington, then 72, was "severely debilitated" as a result of cancer. In response, Mr Atkinson wrote: "My main concern was that he was stopped from causing any more unfortunate victims from suffering the lifetime of confused hurt that I have suffered. It would seem that this is the case due to his throat cancer and ill health.

"I can now finalise my search for justice by showing a little compassion at this time. . . I would like to point out, however, that, had this been a younger man and in better health, I would have brought him to justice even if it had taken the rest of my life to do so. It should be acknowledged that this man is a criminal who caused the destruction of many young men's lives."

On learning of this response from Mr Atkinson, Lord Hope wrote to Waddington apologising for having had to "raise the matter", which must have caused him "deep disquiet and distress".

Although Lord Hope told the Bishop of North Queensland that Waddington had a "hermit-like existence" and that there was "no likelihood" that he could cause harm to young people, Waddington lived on another seven years, finally dying in 2007. The Cahill inquiry concludes that he "led an active and full life", including holidays to Toulouse, and visits from teenage boys: "If he was a risk to children, this risk continued after 1999" - although the inquiry did not find evidence that Waddington had perpetrated abuse after 1999.

Further allegations were made against Waddington in 2003, when two sisters of Eli Ward contacted the diocese of Manchester, reporting that their brother had disclosed to them that Wadding- ton had sexually abused him between the ages of 11 and 13, when he was a chorister at Manchester Cathedral.

The response of the two child-protection advisers, Graham Cooper and Alan Roberts, was that "little could be done", unless the abuse was officially reported by the victim. This was despite the fact that diocesan guidance, written in part by Mr Roberts, stated that "in a case of strong suspicion or clear allegation", the police should be contacted.

The then Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, was informed, and he in turn informed Lord Hope, who disclosed the Australian allegations, though not to Mr Ward and his family. They learned of them after going to the police in 2012.

Since The Times published the allegations against Waddington last year, other possible victims have been identified, among them a head chorister at Manchester, called Peter, and known as "Tweet". Both his aunt and Eli Ward raised concerns with the Dean of Carlisle in May 2013, but "Tweet", orphaned as a teenager, committed suicide in 1989 without making any allegations.

Lord Hope eventually withdrew Waddington's permission to officiate in November 2004. This was after he was told by the Diocese of Brisbane that Mr Atkinson had resurrected his complaint. He did not inform the Archdiocese about the allegations in Manchester. He asked Ray Morris, then child-protection adviser for the Diocese of York, to interview Waddington.

Mr Morris concluded that, "in the absence of any compelling, independent corroboration of the allegations, it is difficult to see how they can be effectively taken forward". The matter was then closed in Australia and Lord Hope wrote again to Waddington, assuring him of his "continuing support and prayer".

Mr Morris told the inquiry that he was unaware of the allegations in Manchester. But he had told The Times last year that he found Waddington "stonewalling . . . naive and calculating". The inquiry concludes that he failed to check Dean Waddington's history, consult lawyers or the police, or consider the implications for child protection in the UK.

Lord Hope told the inquiry that, in his communications with Dean Waddington, he was "trying to reflect some kind of pastoral care . . . as well as what you might call the judicial element". The inquiry concluded: "His concern for the welfare of Robert Waddington seems to have been paramount in his response to these allegations."

The inquiry accepts that some of the results of Lord Hope's failure to follow policy are "speculative", but concludes that "what is not speculative is that, because of the actions he took, and his inaction on other occasions, opportunities were missed for an investigation which may have led to a prosecution during Robert Waddington's lifetime."

On Wednesday, Lord Hope said that the allegations reported to him had been "unspecific" from "unnamed sources who had indicated their unwillingness at that stage to go to the police". It was a "great regret" to him that he had not been "more proactive" in helping Mr Ward.

He said: "If either of the two persons concerned feel, in the light of this report, they have been denied the justice they deserve, then, on behalf of the Church, I offer my personal and profound apology. I genuinely believed that any complaints were being adequately dealt with by the respective dioceses in which they were alleged to have happened."

On Wednesday, Dr Sentamu said that some of the eight recommendations made by the inquiry were already being implemented. The Archbishops' Council is to review whether disclosures of abuse made in during confession should enjoy confidentiality.

UPDATE 31/10

On Thursday, Lord Hope announced that he had resigned as an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. He had taken the decision "after much prayerful and considered thought", he said. "This ends my nearly 50 years of formal ministry in the Church of England, which I  have always sought to serve with dedication. I will certainly continue to pray for the important ongoing work with survivors."

Dr Sentamu, who received Lord Hope's resignation at the beginning of the week, said that he was "deeply saddened" by it. Lord Hope had "served the Church of England with joyfulness, commitment, honesty, and holiness. I personally thank him for his leadership as a priest, principal of a theological college, bishop, and Archbishop of the Province of York; and, above all, as a dear brother in Christ."

He concluded: "As the old saying goes, 'To err is human; to forgive is divine.'"

At the request of some of those interviewed, the Cahill report is available in hard copy only, from Bishopthorpe Palace in York and Church House Bookshop, Westminster (020 7799 4064; bookshop@chbookshop.co.uk).


Scrutiny: the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Fiona Woolf, is under growing pressure to resign the chair of the national independent inquiry into historical child-sexual abuse.

Alderman Woolf appeared before the Home Affairs Select Com­mittee on Tuesday, where she was ques­tioned about her connections to Lord Brittan, who was Home Secre­tary during an alleged cover-up of sex abuse.

A survivor of abuse has launched a legal challenge to the appointment of Alderman Woolf, seen by the BBC. It claims that she is not impartial, has no relevant expertise, and may not have time to discharge her duties.

A new website for the inquiry lists the terms of reference and all eight mem­bers of the panel. On Wednes­day, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that he had "full confi­dence" in Woolf.


Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)