Church of England Created Culture Where Abusers Could Hide

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Liam Goggin

Partner, Head of Abuse Claims

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The Church of England has not done enough to protect children from being sexually abused, a damning new report has found.

According to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), the Church created a culture where abusers “were able to hide”, and were more concerned with protecting its reputation than taking care of abuse victims. This, it said, made it more difficult for abuse survivors to report what happened,

Our specialist Child Abuse Solicitors are offering assistance to anyone who may have suffered sexual abuse by a Church of England clergy member, church leader or anyone in a position of trust.

If you would like to talk to someone in complete confidence, please call us for a free consultation, and we’ll be happy to discuss your situation with you and how we can help.

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What Does the Report Say?

The IICSA said the Church of England gave abusers “more support than victims”, and acted against its own “underlying moral purpose; to provide care and love for the innocent and the vulnerable”.

The report found that between the 1940s and 2018, 390 members of the clergy or people in positions of trust within the Church of England were convicted for child sex offences. Figures also showed that in 2018 alone, more than 2,500 safeguarding concerns about children or vulnerable adults were reported to dioceses in England.

The case of former Dean of Manchester Cathedral Robert Waddington was highlighted as an example of where the Church of England had fallen short.

According to the report, he was permitted to continue in his role “on the grounds of his age and frailty”, despite multiple abuse allegations being made against him during his lifetime.

This, it said, was decided seemingly without “any consideration of the risks to children with whom he came into contact”.

The IPPC acknowledged that during the last few years, child protection practices in the Church of England have got better. However, it said more still needs to be done to improve how it responds to child abuse allegations.

For example, it proposed:

  • Taking safeguarding responsibilities away from diocesan bishops and giving them to specialist officers employed by the Church
  • Expelling any member of the clergy found guilty of child sex offences
  • Making sure disciplinary investigations are separate from risk assessments
  • Sharing information between the Church of England and the Church in Wales about clergy who move between the two
  • Introducing policies to support child sex abuse survivors if the perpetrator was someone within the Church

Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, commented: “Over many decades, the Church of England failed to protect children and young people from sexual abusers, instead facilitating a culture where perpetrators could hide and victims faced barriers to disclosure that many could not overcome.

“If real and lasting changes are to be made, it’s vital that the Church improves the way it responds to allegations from victims and survivors, and provides proper support for those victims over time.”

Liam Goggin, Senior Associate Abuse Claims Solicitor at Simpson Millar added, “The psychological damage suffered by abuse victims, especially those who were abused by someone in a position of trust, can’t be underestimated.

“The Church of England failed in its duty to keep children safe and didn’t respond appropriately to complaints. The actions of abusers should have been investigated and action taken, including the victims being given the support they deserved.

“Children who were abused by members of the Clergy and people in a position of trust at the Church of England should get legal advice about their rights, even if the abuse took place many years ago.”

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