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Inquiry’s Anglican Church investigation leads to Church reform and new law

11 May 2021

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s investigation into the Anglican Church has led to the Church committing to significant reform and a new law to add religious leaders to the definition of ‘positions of trust’.

Since the two reports were published the Church of England  has agreed: 

  • A support and redress scheme with some payments already made to victims and survivors

  • The introduction of diocesan safeguarding officers

  • The creation of an independent safeguarding board

  • The development of an information-sharing agreement between the Church of England and Church in Wales

Further, legislation is pending to ban clergy from sexual relationships with 16-18 year olds in their care - faith leaders and sports coaches will be defined as ‘positions of trust’ alongside others such as teachers and doctors. It would therefore make sexual relationships between people in these positions with those that they supervise illegal.

Two reports were published in relation to the Anglican Church investigation. The first looks at two case studies: the Diocese of Chichester, where there have been multiple allegations of sexual abuse against children, and Peter Ball, who was a bishop in Chichester before becoming Bishop of Gloucester. The first report published in May 2019 found the response by the Church to sexual abuse in Chichester was completely inadequate.

The second report published in October 2020 found the Church of England failed to protect children and young people from sexual predators within their ranks, with 390 people who were clergy or in positions of trust associated with the Church convicted of sexual offences against children from the 1940s to 2018.

Many of these cases demonstrated the Church of England’s failure to take the child sexual abuse seriously, creating a culture where abusers were able to hide. Alleged perpetrators were given more support than victims, who often faced barriers to reporting they simply couldn’t overcome. 

Meanwhile the Inquiry found that up until the second report was published, the Church in Wales had never had a programme of external auditing, so there had been no independent scrutiny of its safeguarding practices. That report also highlighted record-keeping as a significant problem for the Church; the Inquiry’s sampling exercise demonstrated both poor record-keeping and a total absence of records in some cases. 

The Inquiry made four recommendations, to both the Church of England and the Church in Wales and a further two to each institution separately. Both organisations responded positively, with the Archbishops’ Council formally accepting them in full and creating an independent body to oversee safeguarding practices. This action follows that taken previously by the Church of England in response to recommendations made in the Inquiry’s Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/ Peter Ball report, in which two recommendations were addressed to the Church of England to introduce safeguarding guidance and amend clergy disciplinary measures.

You can watch a video about the investigation below:

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