Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Church consults on sex abuse cases review

The Independent, London
Church consults on sex abuse cases review

Published: 25 May 2007
The Church of England is consulting on how best to conduct a review of historic sex abuse cases, the Archbishop of Canterbury said today as he " fully acknowledged" that mistakes were made in the past.

Dr Rowan Williams said the Church had "let people down in various ways over a long period" but now had clear policies in place to avoid some of its previously "very inadequate" responses.

However, these had to be made to work, he stressed.

His comments follow calls by child abuse victims involved in recent court cases for an inquiry into paedophilia in the Church of England.

They have warned that paedophiles could still be active in the Church.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Rev Nigel McCulloch, announced last week that he will appoint an independent lawyer to examine 850 clergy files held by his office following recent child abuse cases.

These include the jailing of the Rev David Smith earlier this month.

Smith, 52, was jailed for five and a half years for grooming and then molesting six vulnerable youngsters over nearly 30 years.

But concerns had been raised with the Church of England on two occasions about the vicar, firstly in 1983 and again in 2001.

It was the second abuse scandal to hit the Church in a week, after former choirmaster Peter Halliday, 61, was jailed for two and a half years for sexually abusing boys in Hampshire in the late 1980s, amid claims the Church had "covered up" his crimes.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Dr Williams said: "I fully acknowledge that errors were made in the period that is being discussed.

"Certainly, before 1995, practice was very variable, very uneven and often not very competent or well informed about the law or best practice."

He added: "We now have a very clear policy about this which involves avoiding some of these very inadequate responses.

"That, of course, is a policy. We have got to make it work."

Dr Williams continued: "We have got to get this into the bloodstream. And while I think the policies are good, they need to be constantly reviewed and they need to be challenged and probed.

"What we need to do quite clearly - and we've agreed to do it - is to take advice from the Church's central safeguarding liaison group... on how we should best conduct a review.

"We don't just want to look good, we want to do it properly, and so we need to have the best professional advice on how we might review these historic cases."

Asked if there should be an independent inquiry, Dr Williams replied: "I hope that if we can get adequate professional independent advice on how we review this, that will meet the needs, but meanwhile we need to remind our parishes and people of the commitment they have entered into.

"Every parish has got to have a child protection policy and it needs to work properly."

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