LAWYERS representing survivors of clerical sex abuse have reiterated the call for an independent statutory safeguarding body to hold the Church to account over its past, present, and future handling of allegations of abuse.
On Monday afternoon, during the first day of the public hearing on the Anglican investigation, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) heard from lawyers representing core participants, including survivors, who also repeated their call for mandatory reporting of abuse within the Church.
David Greenwood of Switalskis Solicitors, who is representing survivors of child abuse, including members of the survivors group MACSAS, said that a statutory body, formed by the recommendation of the Inquiry panel, should have the power to impose sanctions “to enforce basic standards of safeguarding”.
The independent body should establish “a register of institutions fit to look after children”, and should have “the power to prosecute organisations for breaches of regulations”, he said. Institutions should be compelled by law to pass allegations of abuse to the independent body, who would “liaise with and assist civil authorities such as the police and social services”, and “ensure that the police and other statutory organisations are taking appropriate action within reasonable timescales”.
Another lawyer representing 21 survivors of clerical abuse, Richard Scorer, of the law firm Slater & Gordon, said: “The Church of England as the Established Church claims to offer moral guidance and moral leadership to the country, yet clerical sex abuse cases, and the scandals associated with them powerfully undermine that claim: this leads to the cover up of abuse.
“It can also lead to a cognitive disonance, a belief that a priest is by definition a good man who couldn’t possibly be responsible for abusing children, or where the evidence is irrefutable, the offence is put down to a momentary and forgivable lapse, often blamed in part on the victim. This mentality far too often translates into a view that the Church is above the law.
“This, in our view, is exactly what we saw from the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey in 1993 when he considered how to handle the allegations against Peter Ball.”
A report in The Daily Telegraph on Monday suggested that Lord Carey might be subject to an investigation by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
An independent review conducted by Dame Moira Gibb of the Church’s handling of the case against Ball was heavily critical of the conduct of Lord Carey, who, it says, failed to respond to repeated expressions of concern and allegations against Ball — most notably those of the late Neil Todd, who was repeatedly abused by the bishop during the 1980s and 1990s. After the review, Lord Carey resigned from his position as an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford (News, 30 June 2017).
The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement read by his counsel, Nigel Giffin QC, to the Inquiry on Monday afternoon: “The failures that we have seen are deeply shaming and I personally find them a cause of horror and sadness. That children have been abused within the communities of the Church is indeed shameful.”