THE Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has begun a “rapid evidence assessment” as part of its investigation into the Anglican Churches in England and Wales, the Inquiry’s Counsel, Ben Emmerson QC, said this week.
Mr Emmerson made his comments on Wednesday at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London, where Justice Lowell Goddard was holding a series of preliminary hearings into the Inquiry’s different strands.
He revealed that the Inquiry’s research team was sifting through information and evidence from 114 different sources. Among them was the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, which had supplied over 7000 items of evidence relating to the diocese of Chichester and the case of Bishop Peter Ball, which are being used as case studies by the Inquiry.
”Initial analysis of the evidence so far received is well under way,” Mr Emmerson said. This would lead to “additional requests for information” being made.
In addition to the Archbishops’ Council, information had been provided by Ecclesiastical Insurance, police forces, dioceses, survivors, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the BBC, and the Church in Wales.
Mr Emmerson said that the Inquiry will consider the extent to which the diocese of Chichester and the Peter Ball case were “representative of the Church of England as a whole.”
The Church in Wales said that it had provided some of the information requested by the Inquiry and was working to supply additional material as soon as it could.
”Anything we can do, we have done; anything we can do in future, we will do,” the Church’s barrister, Mark Powell QC, told the Inquiry. He explained that the structure of the C i W was “very different” from the C of E, and that the Church’s two-person legal team was “determined to give every assistance it can” to the Inquiry.
The Investigation into the Anglican Churches in England and Wales is just one strand of a multifaceted Inquiry; and a number of preliminary hearings, specific to each strand, are taking place this week.
In a general preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Justice Goddard set out the importance of the IICSA’s work.
”This Inquiry is about protecting children, here, now, and for the future,” she said. “It is about delivering on a unique opportunity to restore confidence in this nation’s commitment and its ability to protect and respect its most precious asset: its children. And while it is the most ambitious and wide-ranging inquiry ever established under the Inquiries Act, the panel and I are wholly committed to the task we have been given.
”The failures of institutions to prevent abuse from happening, or to respond appropriately to disclosures that have been made, has had a profound impact on the lives of the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, and has left many of them growing up feeling that society has let them down.
”Those failures have also had an impact on society beyond severe social malfunction, and are having a profound effect on health, justice, penal, and many other public services and systems.
”The real cost to society of child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation is incalculable, and remains ongoing in many manifestations, as evidenced by Professor Jay’s investigation into Rotherham and by the increasingly appalling exploitation of children through the internet.”
Mr Emmerson said that up to 36 individuals and organisations have been given “core participant status” for the Inquiry’s Anglican investigation. Twenty-four of these have been given access to legal-aid funding.
In a provisional ruling — expected to be finalised once all of this week’s preliminary hearings have taken place — Justice Goddard granted anonymity to all victims who give evidence to the Inquiry; although it will be open to individuals to waive that anonymity.
Nobody accused of child sexual abuse will be identified “unless their identity is very widely known . . . such that the allegations are fully in the public domain”.
No anonymity will be given to any individual who has been convicted of child sexual abuse.
On Wednesday, Ecclesiastical Insurance raised a concern about the Inquiry’s proposed use of cyphers to identify anonymised witnesses in documents and other evidence.
Their concern was based on the “real, recent and direct experience” of dealing with an inquiry into child abuse in Jersey, the company’s barrister, Rory Phillips QC, said.
”Somebody can trace the appearance and re-appearance of a cypher in a number of documents, and this can lead to the very thing that it is designed to avoid,” he said.
Justice Goddard said that she would “seriously take on board” the comments made by Mr Phillips before she finalised the order on anonymity and redactions.
In a separate ruling, Justice Goddard said that the Inquiry’s hearings would be live-streamed, with a five-minute delay to allow any “inappropriate material to be edited from the broadcast”.
Under the provisional ruling, anonymised witnesses and core participants would not be filmed, and their voices would be distorted. The press and public would be excluded from the hearing room when they gave their evidence.
No indication has been given about when the Inquiry’s substantive hearings will begin.
The national safeguarding adviser for the Church of England, Graham Tilby, said in a statement on Wednesday: “We note that the Inquiry has received a substantial amount of material from us and other core participants and the analysis of this is now underway as is the process of identifying possible witnesses.
“As we said after the initial hearing in March we are committed to engaging with the Inquiry in an open and transparent way and believe its work will play a vital part in our commitment to making the Church a safer place for all.”
Sentamu will contest CDM
A CHURCH of England priest who says he was raped by another priest when he was 16 has made formal complaints against the Archbishop of York and four other bishops for failing to act on his allegations, writes Tim Wyatt.
The priest, who wishes to remain anonymous and is known only as “Michael”, has applied to begin proceedings under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) against Dr Sentamu and other bishops because he said they did not respond properly or take any action after he disclosed his abuse.
Michael told The Guardian that he was repeatedly raped by a priest in 1984, while he was an “immature and naïve” vulnerable teenager. He said he never told anyone of his ordeal at the time because he was afraid he would not be believed.
The priest accused is now retired and a West Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed that they the force was investigating a report of a historical sex offence, and that a 68-year-old man had been questioned by detectives.
Michael said that he first told the Bishop of Doncaster, the Rt Revd Peter Burrows, about his abuse in 2012, prompted by an unrelated allegation of child abuse in his parish. “That bishop did nothing,” Michael told The Guardian. “Nothing.”
The same year, Michael reported his abuse to the Bishop of Sheffield, then the Rt Revd Steven Croft; and, in 2013, he told his archdeacon, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, now the Bishop of Leicester.
Both men did not act upon this information, Michael claims. So he wrote to Bishop Croft again, this time copying in Dr Sentamu, Bishop Burrows, and the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Revd Glyn Webster.
”You will never know of the courage it took me to tell you both [Croft and Burrows] and you will never know of the hurt and stress it has caused me that you have both failed to support me in any way,” Michael wrote in his letter.
”It is obvious to me that. . . the abuse I suffered at the hands of a priest when I was a youngster [is] of no interest to you and sweeping it under the carpet or covering it up is much more important.”
Michael says that only Dr Sentamu replied to acknowledge receipt of the letter and to assure Michael that he was praying for him.
It is these four bishops, along with Dr Sentamu, whom Michael has begun the progress of filing a complaint against under the CDM procedure. He also seeks to file a complaint about the Rt Revd Roy Williamson, who was Bishop of Bradford at the time the alleged rapes occurred; and also the retired priest accused of the rapes.
As the complaint has been made out of the one-year time limit imposed by the CDM process, Michael has applied for permission to bring proceedings and it is this which is now being considered.
Speaking on behalf of the bishops, a spokeswoman for the diocese of Sheffield said: "The Diocese of Sheffield takes the safeguarding and protection of children and vulnerable adults very seriously indeed. We are, of course, unable to comment on the detail of live investigations and complaints. However if this complaint goes forward, our bishops will make a full response to the various allegations made in due course. In the meantime we continue to hold all victims of sexual abuse and exploitation in our prayers."
Similarly, a spokeswoman from the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, speaking on behalf of Bishop Williamson, also said that they could not comment during an active investigation but pledged full co-operation if approached by the police.