Church of England Set Precedent by Reporting on Historic Sexual Abuse

Posted on: 5 mins read
Last updated:
Hywel Thomas Profile Picture
Hywel Thomas

Senior Associate Solicitor, Abuse

Share Article:

A former bishop has been banned from the Church of England for life, after being accused of covering up sexual abuse. Currently, there is no legal requirement for institutions to report sexual abuse to the police. However in this case, the CoE reported the matters to the police, handling and concluding the case internally. This sets a precedent for other institutions, in light of recommendations in a recent report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

Peter Hullah, former Bishop of Ramsbury and Headmaster of Chetham’s School for Music will never conduct ministerial duties again, after a series of sexual abuse allegations. An investigation by the Mail has reported these investigations were concluded by the Church of England in summer 2022.

In 2013, Hullah admitted he covered up an incident of sexual abuse involving his former colleague Michael Brewer, music director of Chetham’s. Brewer initiated a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student and was forced to resign under the guise of “health issues”. Hullah admitted this was a false story that he suggested to Brewer, under the questioning of Judge Martin Rudland, who suggested this was a “cover up…swept under the carpet”.

Multiple women made complaints to the Church about Hullah, speaking of two incidents that happened in 1985 and 1999, one at Sevenoaks School in Kent and the latter at Chetham’s. The Church of England referred the complaints to the police after they were deemed to be serious enough. This is an example of an institution working in the spirit of IICSA’s report, in which recommendations are made to make it legally mandatory for institutions to report sexual abuse cases.

aerial shot of a church

Get in touch today!

To find out more about how we can help in cases of historic abuse, get in touch with our compassionate and experienced team.

The Future of Criminal Liability for Institutions

In last year's report, IICSA recommended that any person working in regulated activity in relation to children would be criminally liable if they did not report cases of sexual abuse to the police.

The lack of reporting was a common theme in IICSA’s findings. Sexual abuse is often not reported due to concerns over the reputation of well-regarded schools such as Chetham’s. This is common among other institutions, such as churches and children’s homes. In IICSA’s report, many people confessed that they failed to report instances of sexual abuse because it was not “professionally or politically convenient” for them at the time.

Many people think reporting procedures are confusing and subjective, and worry about how incidents would be proven or interpreted. This can lead to cover-ups and an unwillingness to speak out about issues, often over decades.

Our lawyers at Simpson Millar have over 30 years of experience dealing with instances of institutional and religious abuse. We have a track record of listening to and supporting survivors of sexual abuse on their journey to justice.

We are also able to provide survivors of abuse with details of support groups and charities in their local area for them to contact so they can get some help, whether that be someone to talk to during the claims process or through counselling and therapy. of

Our discussions will be an open and honest safe space, in which survivors of sexual abuse can come to us with any worries or concerns regarding their case. We are here to answer any questions our clients may have about the process or what will happen next.

A Proactive Move from The Church of England

Technically, if the Church of England did not report the allegations about Bishop Hullah, they would not have broken any law. They would have failed to have meet their professional and moral obligations in the church, but currently no law exists to make reporting sexual abuse a legal requirement for institutions. IICSA have recommended a systemic change is brought about to make this illegal.

Meanwhile, Hullah’s case shows a positive and proactive move from the Church of England. Many similar cases of institutional sexual abuse are only made public once the victims speak out during legal proceedings. Once a cover-up comes to light, more light can be cast onto organisations retrospectively. But these retrospective findings often happen years after the victims actually suffered from the abuse. Our lawyers have seen many sexual abuse survivors go through years of trauma after institutional or religious abuse in their childhood. This might have been lessened if institutions had been legally enforced to report allegations to the police at the time, as part of their internal procedures.

The Church of England have shown how vital effective management and internal procedures are when it comes to sexual abuse. They proactively dealt with and concluded Bishop Hullah’s case within the church over a number of years by consent, as opposed to the abuse being exposed as a ‘cover-up story’ years later.

Despite the fact that sexual abuse cases have been prominent in religious spaces, the Church of England has demonstrated that they can react appropriately when they’re made aware of these cases taking place in their institution.

How We Can Help

Our specialist Abuse Solicitors at Simpson Millar has years of experience dealing with similar cases of institutional and religious abuse. We know how to handle sensitive and difficult issues like this, and advising you on how to move forward.

It’s hard to speak out, and often difficult to know whether an organisation can be held legally responsible, especially when it’s an institution suchas the Church of England.

Our lawyers are here to answer any questions you may have and can help you decide whether to move forward with a claim if you have experienced sexual abuse.

We will listen to you and give you no-obligation, confidential legal advice. We aim to make the process as accessible and easy as possible, so we can take the weight off your shoulders.

We can help you get the justice, resources and support that you need.

people sat in a circle, with light coming through a window

Why It Matters

Sexual abuse cases have been a significant issue in religious institutions like the Church of England for a while now. It’s a traumatising and life-altering thing to have to experience, and it can affect your mental and even physical health.

But, as we can see, people are starting to speak up about the sexual abuse, and the institutions are beginning to take note and be proactive. Victims of this kind of abuse, especially when it’s historical, can sometimes be afraid to talk about it, but things are changing now.

This case is an example of how victims of sexual abuse in religious institutions are finally being listened to, which is a beacon of hope for other victims of similar abuse. This case is an example of the fact that speaking up can inspire change.


Daily Mail. (2023, February 15). Bishop Accused in School Sex Abuse Cover-Up Defrocked for Misconduct with Two Women 37 Years Ago. Retrieved from

The Guardian. (2019, October 11). Former Chetham's Headteachers Accused of Ignoring Abuse. Retrieved from

BBC News. (2013, January 23). [Title of the Article]. Retrieved from

Hywel Thomas Profile Picture

Hywel Thomas

Senior Associate Solicitor, Abuse

Areas of Expertise:
Abuse Claims

With a background in Personal Injury Claims and Criminal Injury Compensation Claims, Hywel started specialising in Abuse Claims in 2001. Over the years, he has seen the area of abuse law evolve, presenting new challenges and learning opportunities. He has tackled cases against diverse groups, from local authorities to private schools, charities, medical organisations, and even individuals.

His passion for understanding psychological injuries led him to this area of Law.  Hywel's work extends beyond seeking financial compensation for his clients; he focuses on helping victims and survivors access support, making a real difference in their healing process. He values each client's unique motivations, ensuring they achieve what they desire through the legal process.

Get in touch, today!

Fill in the form below to get in touch with one of our dedicated team members, or call our team today on: 0808 239 1287

This data will only be used by Simpson Millar in accordance with our Privacy Policy for processing your query and for no other purpose