SURVIVORS of abuse have warned that thousands of people are
likely to come forward with testimonies of sexual abuse perpetrated
by clergy in the national inquiry into historic child abuse. They
are calling on the Church of England to establish a panel for
redress now rather than wait to be compelled to do so.
The Bishop in charge of safeguarding, the Bishop of Durham, the
Rt Revd Paul Butler, has cautioned against predicting numbers.
A spokeswoman for survivors of abuse within churches, Anne
Lawrence, said this month that the Church would face a "deluge" of
"The Church should set up a redress board and ensure that all
complainants can go there, and be provided with support from a
range of services, including survivor organisations," she said.
"Research has consistently shown that over 90 per cent of
allegations are true. But not one redress board has been set up.
People are taking churches to court because, despite the
confessions of offenders, convictions, and evidence within files,
there is no willingness to provide redress. Going through the
courts is a continuation of the abuse suffered and retraumatises
She suggested that the Church should be contacting survivors and
offering to pay for therapy and other support services, and should
also be communicating with survivors' organisations regularly.
"Why is the Church unable to hear what it needs to do?" she
said. "It is so concerned with protecting itself. Let's hope that
the public inquiry will turn that around and change the focus from
protecting institutions to protecting the vulnerable. Whilst it
will happen anyway, it would be nice if the Church was on the right
side of history."
Bishop Butler said on Monday that, given the Church's commitment
to working with the national inquiry, there were no plans to
establish a separate redress panel: "This could create confusion
and difficulty for survivors coming forward in the next months and
He confirmed, however, that the Church was "willing to be the
first" if the inquiry investigated one institution at a time.
"We do expect people to come forward who have not previously
done so. However, to predict the number is not an easy task.
Following the Savile revelations, some dioceses saw an increase in
people coming forward reporting church-based abuse. Others had
almost no increase; so what will happen in relation to the national
inquiry is difficult to predict."
Bishop Butler also referred to the commitment to create the Safe
Space Project, "an idea that was raised by survivors themselves and
in which some have been engaged in helping create".
Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) is critical
of the latest legislative attempt to improve safeguarding in the
Church of England (Synod, 20 February). It argues that the Draft
Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure, put before the Synod
for revision earlier this month, "relies too much on discretion
exercised by a diocesan bishop". It is calling for "a consistent
approach across all dioceses to complaints of abuse".
The draft legislation gives bishops the power to suspend
priests, churchwardens, or PCC members, but also the power to
revoke suspensions and to waive a churchwarden's or PCC member's
disqualification from office, after consulting the diocesan
The revision committee argues that "removing all discretion from
a bishop when dealing with a complaint of abuse was neither
possible nor just. . . [It] would contravene the basic premise that
justice should always consider the individual circumstances of a
It believes that the best way to achieve consistency is for
"detailed guidance" to be provided for the House of Bishops, which
bishops would be legally obliged to have "due regard to".
"Failures in the exercise of discretion by bishops was one of
the core reasons identified for the safeguarding failures in both
Chichester and York," Ms Lawrence said. "The Cahill report on York
also warned of the lack of consistency of approach across the
dioceses. Consistency does not exist - each bishop has his own
discretion. This makes the Church different, and therefore more
attractive to offenders, to any other body which would
automatically disqualify and suspend those alleged to have abused a
child, and would not waive suspensions and disqualifications under
Ms Lawrence has little confidence that the proposed guidance
will solve this problem: "Look at other institutions and you will
see that even statutory guidance is not adhered to. In my work as a
barrister, I have seen people say, 'We had regard to the guidance
but had good reason not to follow it.' This legislation needs to be
designed for those who are going to breach it; we are not talking
about good people. People who want to get round it will find a good
reason to get around it."
Bishop Butler said on Monday that he would work to ensure that
the guidance was "very robust".
Lucy Duckworth, who chairs MACSAS and is a survivor, believes
that mandatory reporting of abuse must be introduced: "As a
teacher, we have guidelines to say we should report known abuse,
and yet the news is full of cases where it wasn't done. Mandatory
reporting needs to happen, and this guidance fails to deliver
Bishop Butler said that the Church was "supportive of changing
the nation's legislation to moving to a mandatory reporting system.
It is already built into our policies that clergy and others must
consult the diocesan safeguarding adviser, and reports are always
made to the statutory authorities."
Ms Duckworth is also calling for clergy convicted of sexual
abuse to be unfrocked. The Archbishop of Canterbury told her
recently that this was "not something we have control over in any
way at all" and would require an Act of Parliament (
News, 16 January). Ms Duckworth points out that it was possible
before the introduction of the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) in
"The call for consideration of changing the CDM so that
deposition could be a penalty under the CDM is not only being made
by MACSAS, but also by others," Bishop Butler said. "The current
legislative package is too far through the process to be able to
introduce a major change to it at this stage. So I will be looking
into what we can do to have this considered by the House of Bishops
and the new General Synod."