Former churchman sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to child sex abuse

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Joshua Hurst

Solicitor, Abuse

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Here at Simpson Millar, we can help you to recover compensation for sexual abuse at the hands of religious leaders.

(July 2023) The conviction of a former social worker and churchman who carried out a string of sexual attacks on boys in his care in cases dating back more than 50 years shows the ‘desperate need’ for a Church redress scheme, specialist lawyers have said.

Clive McCleester, from Winchester, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual abuse including eight counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency with a child, against two teenage boys – at a hearing at Inner London Crown Court, and has now been sentenced to 16 years in prison.

One of the victims, who sadly passed away in 2020 before he was able to see justice done, suffered abuse while attending Tylney Hall School in Hampshire in the 1960s and early 1970s, where McCleester had been employed as a child welfare officer.

The other victim whose bravery brought about the conviction had been abused between 1984 and 1987 whilst he was a chorister at Southwark Cathedral, where his attacker was the head verger.

Following the conviction, the police are now urging other victims of McCleester, who has also held a number of high-profile roles within the Church over the years, including working at Windsor Castle's St George's Chapel, to come forward for support.

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Is a Redress Scheme Needed?

“This case also demonstrates the need for a redress scheme, which also holds the Church to account for its safeguarding failures.”

A call to action backed by Hywel Thomas, a specialist abuse lawyer at Simpson Millar, who added that the case demonstrated the ‘desperate need’ for a scheme to help people who experienced abuse by someone representing the Church to be bought in as quickly as possible.

A proposed redress scheme was announced by the Church of England last month, which said it had set aside £150m in funds to provide financial compensation as well as a range of wider support and, where possible, an apology from the institution where the abuse took place.

While abuse survivors are currently able to bring a civil claim against the employer of their attacker, including individuals who worked for the Church, the Church of England’s proposed redress scheme is intended to demonstrate in ‘tangible and practical ways’ that the Church is truly sorry for its past failings relating to safeguarding.

“It is absolutely essential that the proposed redress scheme which will provide financial payments alongside therapeutic, spiritual and emotional support, as well as acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an apology, is introduced as quickly as possible.” – Spokesperson, Diocese of Southwark

Claiming Against the Church

A large number of claims regarding abuse against the Church and other religious organisations are brought forward every year. There have been many incidents of individuals  from the Churchwho have been accused of abuse. Religious leaders are respected people of their community and are in positions of power, which can allow them to abuse that trust.

Usually, claims that relate to church abuse are historic. It’s not uncommon for the person to endure the lasting effects of their trauma for years before seeking support or compensation.

Regardless of when it happened, any form of abuse should be reported. Even if the person you accuse of abuse doesn’t get convicted, you can still claim for compensation against the Church.

“What is particularly concerning are the reports suggesting that McCleester’s behaviour had come under scrutiny previously and, like the police, if there are any further victims we would urge them to come forward to get the support that they need and are entitled to.

“Anyone who has been affected may also be able to bring a civil claim for compensation against the Church, which can provide them with vital funds that can help them to access the help needed to rebuild their lives following the abuse that they endured.

“Like many abuse cases, Clive McCleester took advantage of his role working both within a school and within the church to abuse boys. While his recent conviction will provide some limited comfort to his victims, his despicable actions will continue to have a significant impact on the lives of those he attacked.” – Hywel Thomas, Abuse Solicitor

The Church Issues Apologies to all Victims

Speaking to press following the conviction, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwark offered a ‘full and unreserved apology to all those affected by this matter, and we commend the bravery of those who brought this to light’.

Hywel added: “The apology from the Church will be well meant, but words mean little to many of our clients who feel badly let down by the very institutions that were supposed to protect them.

How We Can Help Your Claim

If you have suffered abuse, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation. While compensation will not change anything that happened to you, it will provide you with funds so that you can access the help and support you need.

If you would like to speak with one of our Abuse Solicitors for free confidential advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. Our expert team will be able to advise you on the options that are available to you to assist with your claim.

Do I Claim Against the Church or the Individual?

If the individual who abused you was employed by the Church, then you may be able to bring a claim against the Church directly, however this is not always clear so it is important that you speak with someone from the Abuse Team at Simpson Millar who can help. 

Why Simpson Millar?

Simpson Millar’s Abuse Team has been helping survivors of abuse for more than 30 years to bring a civil claim against their attacker’s employer, or a criminal injuries claim.

The firm has helped many survivors bring a successful claim even if the abuse happened many years ago, allowing them to get the closure and justice they deserve.

If you or a member of your family suffered abuse as a result of the actions of Clive McCleester you can contact Simpson Millar for free confidential advice.

We understand that coming forward and speaking about abuse is difficult, so we want to make sure that we do everything we can to make the process as straightforward as possible.

Legal Aid may be available, depending on your financial situation or you claim could be dealt with on a No Win, No Fee basis.

You can read more about bringing a claim here: Physical and Sexual Abuse Claims

Support for Sexual Abuse Survivors

There is a lot of support available to help you, when you have experienced sexual abuse. If it happens to you, you should:

  • Speak to someone about what happened
  • Access support services
  • Access emotional support such as counselling or therapy
  • Seek medical support from your GPReport the abuse to the police

The first, and most important, step is to reach out to someone for support. You can either speak with someone you know, such as a friend or family member, or get in touch with a support service.

Here’s a list of some of the support services that may be available in your area:

  • Survivors Trust – Confidential support, advice, and information for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse.
  • Galop – A LGBT+ charity that provides help and support to LGBT+ people who have experienced sexual abuse, assault, or violence.
  • Victim Support – 24-hour helpline for confidential support.
  • 1in6 – Support and help for men who have experienced sexual violence or abuse.
  • 24/7 Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Line – Specialist support around-the-clock.
  • NAPAC – Support to adults who experienced child abuse, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
  • Breaking the Silence – Help service for men from Asian and black communities, over the age of 13.


For further information, interviews or images please contact:


Ashlea McConnell, Consultant

[email protected]; 07852282802


The Independent. (1993). Churchman in sex case convicted. [online] Available at: (n.d.). Former churchman sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to child sex abuse | Anglican Ink © 2023. [online] Available at:

Hampshire Chronicle. (2023). ‘Desperate need’ for redress scheme highlighted by church predator Clive McCleester. [online] Available at: (n.d.). Updated Statement concerning Clive McCleester - Southwark Cathedral. [online] Available at:

Joshua Hurst

Solicitor, Abuse

Areas of Expertise:
Abuse Claims

Joshua works as a Solicitor in our Abuse Department, which operates under the leadership of Liam Goggin.

Joshua has been with Simpson Millar since 2019, where he started as a Paralegal in the Abuse Department, a role he stayed in for two years. His dedication and drive then led him to a position as a Trainee Solicitor, where he worked in the Industrial Disease and Military Claims Departments. His passion for representing victims of abuse made him return to the Abuse department, where he completed his training contract and began working as a Solicitor.

He takes immense pride in representing victims of abuse, deeply valuing the trust his clients place in him. Every day, he's reminded of the importance of listening attentively, acting in the clients' best interests, and guiding them through their challenging moments. Ever since he began his legal career, Joshua knew he wanted to help represent victims of abuse. It means a lot to him when clients trust him with their stories and cases. His main goal is to help his clients as much as he can, so they can start to heal and move on.

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