‘We must report abuse to protect children’

06 March 2015

iSTOCK

CLERICS and other church workers should be sent to prison if they fail to act to protect children suffering from sexual abuse, the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) has said.

CCPAS welcomed the Prime Minister's calls on Tuesday for a new offence of wilful neglect to be introduced to hold public-sector officials, such as social workers or teachers, to account if they act to protect the reputation of an institution or individual rather than to stop child abuse.

The charity's chief executive, Simon Bass, said on Wednesday that this should be extended to include church officials and ministers as well. "Mr Cameron's announcement reflects both how endemic this form of abuse has become across the UK and how urgently we need to address it," he said.

"Thinking more broadly, it is essential that there is 'sea change' in this country in terms of creating clear accountability structures for reporting child abuse."

CCPAS also supports changing the law to make it a crime not to report suspected child abuse to the police or authorities. Mandatory reporting is also backed by the Church of England. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said last month that its own procedures compelled clergy and others to report all suspected abuse (News, 27 Febuary).

Mr Cameron's comments came after a report on child-abuse gangs in Rotherham found repeated failures by the local authorities to protect children. More than 1400 girls became victims of gangs of men over 16 years. Similar failings were found in Oxford.

"I'm sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable, and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure," Mr Cameron said.

A spokeswoman for the Church of England said that the Church would respond to CCPAS's suggestion at a later date.

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