Why Report Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church to the Police?

Posted on: 4 mins read
Joshua Hurst

Solicitor, Abuse

Share Article:

TW: This article covers themes of sexual abuse 

Globally, more and more survivors are coming forward to speak up about the abuse they have experienced within the Catholic church, whilst they fight for the justice that they deserve.    In this article we discuss why it is so important to report sexual abuse in the Catholic Church to the police, and how to seek help if you have suffered abuse in the church.

Our specialists are here to help you if you’ve been sexually abused by a trusted person within the Catholic Church. Please call us for a free consultation and you can talk to us in complete confidence about how you can get the justice you deserve.

An independent commission looking into the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church is highlighting the scale of the abuse across the world. The BBC reported that more than 4,800 victims of sexual abuse were uncovered in Portugal’s Catholic Church, dating back to the 1950s.

 An investigation in France also concluded that there were around 330,000 children who were victims to the abuse; making the global scale excruciatingly high. It is also estimated that 3,000 child abusers worked in the church the 1950s until 2020, with two thirds of those being priests.

TrustpilotStarsWe're ratedExcellent

Abuse in the Catholic Church in England 

Between 1970 and 2015, the Catholic Church in England and Wales received 3,000 complaints of child sexual abuse made against priests, monks and volunteers. Multiple convictions have continued to be made over in recent years in the UK, including Dennis Finbow, a Peterborough Catholic priest, who was convicted of three counts of assault against a girl aged between the ages of 10 and 13 in the 1980s.

Peter Collins, Bishop of East Anglia, commented on Finbow’s conviction, reflecting the importance of safeguarding to protect children and vulnerable people within the Catholic Church. He urges victims of sexual abuse to speak to the Catholic Church’s safeguarding teams; as there have been new policies put in place to protect minors in the church. 

The Church of England announced there are safeguarding advisers in every church in England, but we recommend reporting abuse to the police to ensure your case can be investigated.

Reporting abuse to the police 

Reporting abuse to the police can be important for survivors of abuse, as many people feel that pursuing a criminal conviction allows them to have a sense of closure, as they’ve been able to disclose their experiences and see justice carried out.

Historically, it has not been a legal requirement for institutions like the Church of England to report sexual abuse to the police. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recently made recommendations for people who work with children in churches, schools and other organisations to be legally required to report allegations of abuse to the police.

We are hopeful that this happens soon and targets the rising rates in abuse in the church. While the Church’s internal procedures for dealing with and reporting on complaints of abuse have improved over the years, it’s important to report any instances of sexual abuse to the police, as they are independent of churches.

We understand that talking about what’s happened to you can bring up painful memories and emotions, but it can also help many survivors of abuse get the closure and justice they need to move forward.

The process of reporting abuse can feel intense and daunting, but just know that you’ll be offered support and counselling every step of the way. Our Abuse Solicitors can also help you report your abuse and talk you through the process in detail.

How the Police can Seek a Criminal Conviction

The police will gather evidence and establish the facts of your case – if there is enough evidence, they will then pursue a criminal conviction. If the abuse is reported to the church alone, the church can take steps to remove an abuser of their duties within the church, but do not have power to criminally convict an abuser.

The police will provide you with access to Victim Support, who offer dedicated support and 1-1 guidance throughout your case.

If the abuser is convicted, this can form the basis of your claim for compensation, if you choose to go forward with this.

If you wish to pursue a criminal prosecution of your abuser and you’re unsure how to proceed, please contact our specialist Abuse Claims Solicitors and we’ll be able to advise you further.

Support for You During the Process

If you are reporting the abuse you have experienced to the police, there are many support systems in place to ensure you’re supported during the process:

We understand talking about the abuse you have experienced can be difficult, but the support systems and helplines are in place and available for you, to make sure you can speak to someone and get the help you need during the process.

How our Abuse Law Team Can Help

We often offer a No Win, No Fee agreement on religious abuse claims, or you could be eligible for Legal Aid, depending on your financial circumstances. 

Our specialist Abuse Solicitors at Simpson Millar have years of experience helping people claim compensation after experiencing institutional or religious abuse. Our lawyers are here to answer any questions you may have and can help you decide whether to move forward with legal action. We will listen to you and give you no-obligation, confidential guidance on the next steps – just call us on 0808 239 1287


Sky News. (March 25, 2023). "Pope Francis updates Catholic Church rules for dealing with sexual abuse to include lay leaders." Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/pope-francis-updates-catholic-church-rules-for-dealing-with-sexual-abuse-to-include-lay-leaders-12842205.

BBC News. (February 13, 2023). "Pope Francis updates Catholic Church rules for dealing with sexual abuse to include lay leaders." Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-64626077.

Sky News. (October 5, 2021). "Estimated 330,000 victims of child sex abuse in French Catholic Church since 1950, commission finds." Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/estimated-330-000-victims-of-child-sex-abuse-in-french-catholic-church-since-1950-commission-finds-12426390.

The Guardian. (November 10, 2020). "Child sexual abuse in Catholic Church swept under the carpet, inquiry finds." Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/10/child-sexual-abuse-in-catholic-church-swept-under-the-carpet-inquiry-finds.

BBC News. (January 31, January). "Child sexual abuse: 4,400 cases reported in the Roman Catholic Church." Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-64457459.

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). (Publication date not specified). "Roman Catholic Church Investigation Executive Summary." Available at: https://www.iicsa.org.uk/reports-recommendations/publications/investigation/roman-catholic-church/executive-summary.html.

Simpson Millar LLP. (Publication date not specified). "How to report being abused to the police." Available at: https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/media/abuse-claims/how-to-report-being-abused-to-the-police/.

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). (Publication date not specified). "Final Report." Available at: https://www.iicsa.org.uk/reports-recommendations/publications/inquiry/final-report.html.

Simpson Millar LLP. (Publication date not specified). "Child sexual abuse swept under the carpet by Roman Catholic Church." Available at: https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/media/abuse-claims/child-sexual-abuse-swept-under-carpet-by-roman-catholic-church/.

Simpson Millar LLP. (Publication date not specified). "Chetham's School sexual abuse." Available at: https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/media/abuse-claims/chethams-school-sexual-abuse/.

Victim Support. (Publication date not specified). "Get help." Available at: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help/.

GOV.UK. (Publication date not specified). "Victims' Code." Available at: https://www.gov.uk/search/all?keywords=victims+code&order=relevance.

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.

Would you like to speak with one of our Abuse Claims lawyers?

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