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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

B.3: The cases of Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard

Reverend Roy Cotton’s conviction for child sexual abuse

146. In March 1954, just six weeks before the date of his intended ordination, Reverend Roy Cotton was found guilty of indecently exposing himself to a child in an organ loft. He was acting as a Scoutmaster at the time. The court sentenced him to probation for one year and he withdrew from theological training.[1] He was also banned from the Scout Movement.

147. Over the following decade, however, Cotton set up a preparatory school and continued to work closely with children. In 1966, a number of pupils reported that he had sexually abused them and he was dismissed from the school. These allegations do not appear to have been reported to the police by the pupils, their families or those in positions of responsibility at the school.[2]

148. In 1967, Cotton was ordained. The Bishop of Portsmouth, John Phillips, believed he should be exempted from the usual recruitment process, saying he “should not be subjected to a further raking-up of all that has gone before”.[3] In a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury dated 13 May 1966, Bishop Phillips praised Cotton as “a man of considerable ability … free of any trouble for twelve years”.[4]

149. As a result of this persistence on his behalf, Cotton’s conviction was successfully withheld from the Selection Committee.[5] This enabled him to avoid the objective scrutiny and risk evaluations that prospective ordinands typically received. In our view, any concerns regarding Cotton’s criminality were overshadowed by the belief that his offending was “in the past”. Even at that time, we consider this to have been a gross error of judgement given the potential risk to children.

150. In subsequent correspondence, Bishop Phillips continued to minimise the severity of Cotton’s offending. Lambeth Palace indicated its intention to place him on the caution list.[6] Upon learning of this, Bishop Phillips said:

“Perhaps because there has been a court case this is inevitable, but it was over 12 years ago, and I just wonder how long a man has to be in the clear before his name has to go on a list.”[7]

 

151. Bishop Phillips also exerted heavy pressure on the Scout Association to accept Cotton as a leader. He failed to acknowledge the risk that Cotton could still pose to children and the fact that time would not necessarily diminish the propensity to offend. He went so far as to question the validity of the conviction, declaring in one letter that “I went very carefully indeed into the past, and I discovered that all who then had any dealings with him had grave doubts of his guilt in the matter for which he was accused”.[8] In a separate effort to secure Cotton’s appointment as the Vicar of Harting, he claimed that the offence “has, I believe, been proved a false one. He pleaded guilty at the time to spare the boys concerned having to appear in court.”[9]

152. The Scout Association soon succumbed. Despite the terms of its recruitment policy, which excluded convicted offenders from employment, Cotton was granted a Leader Permit in 1969.[10] This provided him with authorised and unsupervised access to young boys, but also established him as a trusted authority figure in the eyes of their parents.

Further allegations of abuse

153. In 1974, Cotton was appointed as parish priest at St Andrew’s Church in Eastbourne. He took charge of the choir and organised various activities for young people, including overnight trips away.[11] One of the children involved in these activities was 10-year-old Philip Johnson.

154. Mr Johnson told us “Roy Cotton groomed me pretty much from the first time that I ever met him”.[12] Cotton singled him out for special attention, including picking him up from home in his car and inviting him to assist with extra tasks. Before long, Mr Johnson was expected to take showers in Cotton’s presence which made him feel “very uncomfortable”.[13]

155. Mr Johnson’s parents regarded Cotton as a wealthy and powerful man who could offer their son opportunities in life. He used his status to gain their trust by, for example, purchasing academic books for Mr Johnson and educating him on their contents. He began to spend more unsupervised time with his victim, which led to physical acts such as kissing and cuddling.[14]

156. Mr Johnson recalled his attendance on a group camping trip to France, when he was 11 years old. One night, he felt homesick and unwell. Cotton invited him into his sleeping bag and sexually assaulted him.[15]

157. Cotton took Mr Johnson on numerous trips abroad during his teenage years, both alone and with others. On these trips, Mr Johnson says, Cotton gave him alcohol “to try and wear down my resistance”.[16] Although parishioners were aware of these trips, nobody appears to have raised concerns about a middle-aged man holidaying for extended periods with a teenage boy.

158. Mr Johnson also stayed regularly at Cotton’s vicarage, during which time “the sexual activity increased and became more serious”. Cotton would come to his bedroom and remove Mr Johnson’s clothing, before masturbating him until he ejaculated. Mr Johnson told us that on occasion this was “quite rough and forceful, causing pain and discomfort”. Cotton attempted anal penetration on several occasions.[17]

159. This serious and sustained abuse continued until Mr Johnson went to university at the age of 19. As a result, he suffered negative consequences on his physical and mental health “which continue to the present day”.[18] His experiences meant he was unable to build sexual relationships with others. He suffered from flashbacks and struggled to perform academically. He felt “worthless and inadequate and this infected every aspect of my life”.[19]

160. When he was 15 years old, Cotton took Mr Johnson to stay with Reverend Colin Pritchard. He described this as “the most frightening evening of my life”.[20] Having been plied with alcohol by both men, he awoke the next morning to find himself naked in Pritchard’s bed with no memory of the previous night. Pritchard then sexually assaulted him in the kitchen, “grabbing at my genitals under my dressing gown to such an extent that he cut my penis with his fingernail”.[21] Pritchard would later plead guilty to this assault.

The arrests of Reverends Cotton and Pritchard

161. In September 1996, Mr Johnson learned that his younger brother had also been sexually abused by Cotton. This prompted him to visit Sussex Police Station, where he reported the offences committed by Cotton and Pritchard. Mr Johnson said he was made to feel uncomfortable by the officers, who appeared to view him “as a threat to children … I felt that I was being investigated more than Cotton or Pritchard”.[22] He was not directed to counselling services or any form of victim support.

162. Sussex Police arrested both Cotton and Pritchard in December 1997, 15 months after the initial complaint was made.[23] During this delay, there is no evidence that Sussex Police took any steps to prevent the suspects from having contact with children.[24]

163. Detective Sergeant Hick suggested that at this time, child protection was not a widely understood topic within policing.[25] Nevertheless, there was a plethora of guidance in place by the mid-1990s. This included nine Home Office circulars around child sexual abuse, two editions of Working Together to Safeguard Children and two thematic investigations by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), along with the establishment of area child protection committees.

164. The police relied on their computer system to check the details of Cotton’s past. DS Hick told us it was “inconceivable” that these checks would not have been conducted at the time of his arrest. Accordingly, Sussex Police “would have been aware” of his conviction and “the officer would have been aware when he did his interview”.[26]

165. In early 1999, however, the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was insufficient evidence to prosecute either Cotton or Pritchard. DS Hick said the decision was “presumably due to a lack of corroborative evidence”.[27] The requirement of formal corroboration was abolished by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The very nature of sexual offending often means there is no ‘corroboration’ by way of any witness to the offence other than the complainant. We assume that DS Hick meant ‘supporting evidence’, namely material that makes a complainant’s account more likely to be true. The police did not visit the diocesan office to seek out relevant material for their enquiries.[28]

Relationship between the Church and police

166. During the investigation, Mr Johnson was advised by Sussex Police that he should refrain from making a complaint to the Church, as “all contact with the Church would be via the police”.[29] However, DS Hick told us the force “did not share any sensitive information” relating to this case with the Diocese of Chichester.[30]

167. In December 1997, Mrs Hind was the Diocesan Child Protection Adviser. Upon learning of the arrests, she contacted the investigating officer at Sussex Police. He declined to share the victims’ names or any description of the allegations, including their nature and severity. The police did not request access to the blue files[31] of Cotton and Pritchard, nor was Mrs Hind invited to provide any assistance to the investigation.[32]

168. During the 1990s, no information-sharing protocol existed between the Diocese of Chichester and the police.[33] The Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser (DSA) herself could not have viewed the blue file at that time, as access was confined to the Bishop of Chichester and his senior team. The fact that she was denied access to this file, coupled with an absence of inter-agency co-operation, contributed to the investigation’s overall lack of progress.

169. When the case was discontinued, Sussex Police should have disclosed their written findings to the Diocese. As Mrs Hind observed, failure to do so meant that the Diocese had no evidence on which to base any disciplinary action. The Church was also unable to initiate contact with the victims, due to the non-disclosure of their identities. This general failure to share information led to a flawed police investigation, and a situation in which the effective safeguarding of children was compromised.[34]

170. Equally, the Diocese did not offer Church files to the police. It did not conduct its own enquiries into the two priests. It appears to have adopted a largely passive approach to the investigation, with Mrs Hind admitting that “we probably would have waited” for the police to ask for relevant material.[35]

171. At this time, Bishop Wallace Benn was the Area Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester. He was keen to emphasise that all responsibility for contacting the police lay with Mrs Hind. He accepted her advice that Cotton should have no contact with children during the investigation, and told Cotton the same. He also claimed to have relied on her view that it was unnecessary to suspend Cotton from public ministry. This is despite, on his own account, being oblivious to the nature of the allegations at this stage.[36]

172. This raises two important issues. First, a condition of non-contact with children is difficult to enforce on a practical basis, even with the inclusion of relevant safeguards. Bishop Benn was in any case unable to explain how this condition was monitored, or point to any safeguarding agreement signed by Cotton which prevented him from undertaking services with children.[37] Although Bishop Benn verbally instructed him to avoid contact with children, he was effectively free to behave as he wished.

173. Bishop Benn repeatedly insisted that the issue of disciplinary action was “not my role … the DSA’s responsibility was to initiate any monitoring and I would have acted on this advice”.[38] Nicholas Reade, Archdeacon of Lewes, 1997–2004, in contrast, told the Inquiry that “discipline is a matter for the bishop”.[39] In failing to suspend Cotton from ministry during the police investigation, the Diocese neglected to manage the risks he posed. Bishop Benn’s stated reliance on Mrs Hind allowed him to sidestep his own responsibilities.

174. The efforts by the Church were constrained by its inability to correspond with the victim and the lack of multi-agency co-operation. The House of Bishops’ policy guidance at that time stated that the Church would not conduct its own investigations.

Reverend Roy Cotton’s retirement

175. During the police investigation, Cotton notified Bishop Benn of his intention to retire, saying “I trust that I shall be granted a licence to officiate generally in the Diocese when needs demand”.[40] In his response, Bishop Benn assured Cotton that “I shall be very happy to grant you this”.[41] This does not sit comfortably with his evidence to the Inquiry, in which he claimed that “I would have preferred not to grant Roy Cotton PTO”.[42]

176. However he did grant permission to officiate (PTO) to Cotton on 17 May 1999, by which time the police investigation had ceased. Bishop Benn concluded that there were, accordingly, no grounds for refusing it, “especially in the face of the direct instruction from Bishop Eric Kemp, who had expressly told me to do so”.[43] He told the Inquiry this was a verbal instruction, although he was unable to specify when it was received or produce any written record of the exchange in which it was given.[44] Bishop Benn insisted he knew nothing of Cotton’s earlier conviction until 2001. Whether or not the police investigation had been completed, there should not have been an automatic assumption that there was nothing to concern Church authorities.

177. It does not appear that Bishop Benn sought any advice on this issue from Mrs Hind. Her clear understanding was that “Cotton was ill and was withdrawing from all ministry. I had no expectation that he would be granted PTO”.[45]

178. In light of the recent police investigation, it was unwise of the Diocese to grant Cotton permission to officiate. The inability of either the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser or Area Bishop to see the blue files impeded any risk assessment being carried out or an adequate analysis of risk being properly considered.

179. This incident demonstrates that permission to officiate was regarded as something ‘usual’ to be granted. Few, if any, steps were taken to prevent those who had resigned from ministry from continuing to minister. The Diocese failed to appreciate that because retired clergy often carried out significant functions within the Diocese, they would be viewed by those outside the Church as people of integrity and influence. Consequently, they required the same levels of scrutiny as practising clergy for safeguarding reasons. The Archbishops’ Council has expressed its “sense of shame” for “the seemingly casual grant of permission to officiate to a convicted abuser without proper investigation or monitoring of his current circumstances or how the PTO was being used”.[46]

Disclosure of Reverend Roy Cotton’s conviction

180. On 9 May 2001, Cotton submitted a confidential declaration form to the Diocese as part of a routine check. This document disclosed his conviction for indecent exposure. In an accompanying letter, he wrote that the offence “was said to have taken place in the organ loft of a village church. I was rehearsing and the boy was hand pumping the organ”.[47]

181. Bishop Benn told us that, on receipt of this documentation, he was minded to withdraw Cotton’s permission to officiate. He claimed Archdeacon Reade persuaded him not to do so, by protesting that Cotton was a very sick man who lived in a nursing home and posed no risk to children. Bishop Benn agreed to restrict his licence so that he could celebrate Mass only in his own home or the nursing home, with no other form of public ministry.[48] This was not supervised or monitored and could not be practically enforced.

182. As Cotton came from an Anglo-Catholic background, Archdeacon Reade said he “would have felt bereft if not allowed to celebrate Mass … Bishop Wallace wanted to facilitate that”.[49] Mrs Hind informed us that Bishop Benn did not make her aware of the confidential declaration. As a result, she was not in a position to consider any risk assessment.[50]

183. In his witness statement, Bishop Benn said he was confident that both Mrs Hind and Mr Tony Sellwood were told about Cotton’s disclosure.[51] The Meekings report recorded that Bishop Benn had confirmed that he did not discuss Cotton’s conviction with Mr Sellwood at any time.

184. This was a clear example of the Diocese failing to prioritise its responsibilities for children and young people. Its approach seems to have been led by pastoral concerns for Cotton, rather than the potential danger he posed to children.

185. It is not at all clear why Bishop Benn did not consider it appropriate to pass this information to the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. The significance of her role was apparently not appreciated by senior members of clergy. If such an appreciation did exist, it was overridden by less important concerns for a fellow member of clergy.

186. Moreover, no written record of the restrictions was made. Instead, they were communicated to Cotton during a visit to his house by Archdeacon Reade. Archdeacon Philip Jones was appointed Archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings in 2005. As he pointed out, “nothing was formalised” and it is likely that neither Bishop Benn nor Archdeacon Reade “knew the extent of his activities on a day-to-day basis”.[52]

187. When questioned about how he intended to enforce these restrictions, Bishop Benn responded, “You hope a clergyman will take the command of a bishop seriously”.[53] Cotton’s sexual offending demonstrates a blatant disregard for the moral codes of society and of the Church. A verbal rebuke from a bishop was unlikely to alter his mindset.

188. Following Cotton’s retirement, Reverend Duncan Lloyd-James succeeded him as the Rector of Brede with Udimore. Reverend Lloyd-James confirmed that both before and after his appointment, no member of senior clergy alerted him to the allegations against Cotton. Cotton continued to officiate publicly on numerous occasions, including in the presence of children. This was at times with Reverend Lloyd-James’ permission, which he says he “most certainly would not have given”[54] had he known of the allegations. This reinforces the deficiencies that were in place on the ground for the granting of permission to officiate.

Victims’ correspondence with the Diocese

189. On 13 March 1999, Sussex Police sent a letter to Mr Johnson. They informed him that no further action would be taken against Cotton and Pritchard, due to a lack of corroborating evidence. He was “devastated” to receive this news some two and a half years after making his complaint.[55] The letter assured Mr Johnson that the statements of both brothers would be “kept on file ... this information will be invaluable to us should either of these men try to involve themselves with children in the future”.[56]

190. On 6 June 2002, Mr Johnson sent an email to Bishop Benn.[57] He detailed the abuse he had suffered at the hands of Cotton and Pritchard. He explained that he had met with a local man, known as AN-A37, who had also been abused by Cotton. In his response to the email, Bishop Benn stated, “When you next see this young man, please tell him to go to the police and tell them of his experience. He has made a very serious allegation of a criminal nature.”[58]

191. In 2003, AN-A37 approached the Diocese himself. At separate meetings with Bishop Benn and Mr Sellwood (then Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser) he disclosed that he had been sexually abused by Cotton.

192. By this stage, a clear picture was emerging of the systematic and sustained abuse, which Cotton had inflicted on more than one young person.[59] Clearly, AN-A37’s account provided the supporting evidence that had been absent during the earlier investigation. His allegation would certainly have lent credence to the concerns that had already been raised about Cotton. In a letter to Bishop Benn, Mr Sellwood recognised this link when he noted that Mr Johnson “and AN-A37 had very similar narratives concerning Reverend Cotton”.[60]

193. Bishop Benn told us that he did not inform the police himself about the allegations as “it was the responsibility of the DSA to decide what information should be shared with the police and to share all relevant information with the police”. Given the serious allegations raised, he should have at least followed up to ensure that Mr Sellwood did inform the police and to find out what had happened.

The Northamptonshire Police investigation

194. On 1 September 2006, a young man attended Northamptonshire Police Station. He alleged that he had been repeatedly abused by Pritchard during his early teenage years. The abuse included mutual masturbation, oral sex and attempted anal penetration.[61]

195. On 27 September 2006, a warrant was executed at Pritchard’s home address and items of his property were seized. He was subsequently interviewed under caution by Northamptonshire Police, at which time he denied all allegations. Pritchard was released on bail whilst further enquiries took place.

196. In June 2007, Detective Constable David Charman of Northamptonshire Police met with Mrs Hind at the Bishop of Chichester’s Palace. He reviewed the blue files of both Pritchard and Cotton. As a result of this review, he identified that Mr Johnson and his brother, Mr Gary Johnson, may have been further victims of both men. Accordingly, he contacted Sussex Police and requested the file from their original investigation. However, the police advised him that they “were unable to locate it”, with the officer adding that “he was unable to remember anything of the Pritchard case he had investigated previously”.[62]

197. Sussex Police confirmed that all records from its investigation had been destroyed in 2004. At that time, its policy was to dispose of files relating to child sexual offences after five years.[63] The damaging consequence was that by the time the Northamptonshire investigation commenced, valuable information on Pritchard and Cotton could no longer be accessed. Furthermore, the promise given by Sussex Police to Mr Johnson that matters would be kept on file was simply not true.

198. During the course of the Northamptonshire investigation, Cotton died. His victims were denied the opportunity to see him brought to justice. Pritchard, however, was arrested and charged with sexual offending against children. On 28 July 2008, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of indecent assault and gross indecency, relating in part to Mr Johnson. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.[64]

199. Mr Johnson praised the efforts of Northamptonshire Police, who aided his understanding of the court process and provided him with regular updates throughout the investigation. He described Northamptonshire and Sussex police forces as “like night and day” in terms of the quality of their support for victims and survivors.[65]

The response of the Diocese

200. Bishop Benn, former Bishop of Lewes, was aware of the Northamptonshire Police investigation in 2006. He said he “took no further steps at that time, because the matter was being dealt with by Tony Sellwood, the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser”.[66] He did not raise the question of whether Pritchard should be suspended from ministry, nor did Mr Sellwood advise that Pritchard be suspended after his arrest.

201. Pritchard announced his retirement in January 2007. The granting of permission to officiate (PTO) was at that time the responsibility of Bishop Benn as area bishop. Pritchard requested permission to officiate from Bishop Benn. It was granted immediately with no conditions attached.[67] This should not have happened. Pritchard was still being investigated by Northamptonshire Police for offences of child sexual abuse, after having been arrested previously by Sussex Police for similar allegations.

202. Bishop Benn told the Inquiry that, without any instruction from him, his personal assistant had “issued the PTO believing that she was supposed to do so and using a signature stamp … it was an error on her part”.[68] If this was the case, it reflects poorly on the quality of the process and of record-keeping at that time.

203. In July 2007, Bishop Benn’s assistant informed him that Pritchard had been granted permission to officiate. Bishop Benn discussed this with Mrs Hind and Bishop Hind, who was his diocesan bishop at the time. They advised that Pritchard should not be allowed to work with children. They did not suggest his permission to officiate should be suspended or withdrawn, and Bishop Benn did not raise this issue.[69] Bishop Hind, however, recalled Bishop Benn stating that Pritchard was not “involved in active ministry”.[70]

204. In any event, it was not until September 2007 that Pritchard’s permission to officiate was suspended on the advice of Mrs Shirley Hosgood, the newly appointed Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.[71] Some years later, Bishop Hind discovered that Pritchard had in fact been taking public services prior to his suspension. This was contrary to the statements of Bishop Benn, who told us that “Pritchard was off sick anyway and was not ministering at all”.[72] There was a presumption that clergymen would obey the instructions of more senior clerics, who failed to check or monitor those with permission to officiate.

205. During the Northamptonshire Police investigation in December 2007, Mr Johnson alerted Bishop Benn to an online blog authored by another victim of Cotton, known to this Inquiry as AN-A31.[73] His account of abuse was relevant to the case against Pritchard, who was accused of conspiring with Cotton to abuse children. Bishop Benn did not inform the police or the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser of this information. He “assumed” they had already been made aware of the issue by Mr Johnson, and failed in his own responsibilities as a recipient of this complaint.[74] Two months later, AN-A31 directly disclosed his abuse to Mrs Hosgood. She immediately advised Northamptonshire Police of the allegations.[75]

206. Bishop Benn told us that he passed the blog to Bishop Hind.[76] However, Bishop Hind said that he heard about it from Mrs Hosgood and not from Bishop Benn.[77] This was supported by the evidence of Mrs Hosgood, who gave it to him in February 2008.[78]

207. As Mrs Hosgood observed, Bishop Benn should have ensured that this information was passed to either her or the police in December 2007. His failure to notify her was also contrary to diocesan safeguarding procedures, which required that the safeguarding adviser must be informed of all allegations of abuse as soon as possible.

208. Shortly after Pritchard was imprisoned, Bishop Hind wrote an open letter to his victims. He expressed his “compassion for all who have suffered” but said “the Church of England cannot accept responsibility for the personal actions of abusers”.[79] The latter expression was insensitive and hurtful to victims. It was also wrong in law. Bishop Hind told us that he regretted this wording, but that it had been based on legal advice received.

The Past Cases Review

Establishment of the review

209. During the mid to late-2000s, a number of individuals in the Church of England were reported for sexual abuse. In 2007, for example, a choirmaster named Peter Halliday was convicted of 10 counts of sexual abuse of boys between 1986 and 1990. Despite being aware of this abuse before his arrest, the Bishop of Dorking failed to notify the police. In 1990, he allowed Mr Halliday to “leave quietly as long as he had no more contact with children”. Mr Halliday went on to act as a governor at a secondary school and work with children in a choir.[80]

210. In May 2007, the House of Bishops sought assistance from the Church’s Central Safeguarding Liaison Group (CSLG) on how to manage a review of past cases. The CSLG was designed to provide such advice, with its membership including various independent safeguarding experts. Concerns were being expressed within the Church as to the number and nature of child abuse cases that had come to light. As Lord Rowan Williams told the Inquiry, these cases showed “that the present effects of poor practice in the past were still an acute problem for those who had suffered abuse, and that practice across the Church of England remained uneven in its effectiveness”. He added that the Church “could not credibly claim to be putting the interests of children first if we were not willing to review our past and present performance more rigorously”.[81]

211. This led to the establishment of a Past Cases Review Working Group. On 5 December 2007, a protocol for the review was approved by the House of Bishops.[82] The key purpose of the review was to “ensure that in every case, the current risk, if any, is identified, and appropriate plans are made to manage the identified risk to children and young people and take any action necessary in the light of current statutory and other best practice guidance”.[83]

212. Dioceses were invited to adopt the protocol in a letter circulated by the Bishop of Hereford, Anthony Priddis. He was the lead bishop for safeguarding at this time.[84] All dioceses were required to compile a ‘Known Cases List’ covering all cases “involving any clergy, employees, readers and licensed lay workers or volunteers in the Church about whom information of concern exists”. An independent reviewer was to be appointed by each diocese, who would review the list and consider all relevant safeguarding files.[85]

213. The Church recently commissioned an independent team to scrutinise the adequacy of the Past Cases Review. A report, published in June 2018, identified various shortcomings in the review process. For example, there was a lack of clarity about which roles were in the scope of the review. Categories ranged from “clergy, employees, readers and licensed lay workers or volunteers in the Church” to “all cases in which it is alleged that a person who holds office in the church, ordained or lay, paid or voluntary”. There was little involvement of Church bodies and institutions outside episcopal oversight.[86]

The Meekings report

214. Roger Meekings was the independent reviewer appointed by the Diocese of Chichester. Mrs Hosgood identified him as a suitable candidate for this work, having been supervised by him in previous safeguarding roles. Mr Meekings was a qualified social worker and a specialist in child protection issues.[87]

215. Bishop Hind appointed Mr Meekings on 7 February 2008.[88] He was given authority to access all relevant files held by the Diocese. Bishop Hind also wrote to a number of key office holders. He asked them to identify any potential cases of concern relating to child sexual abuse, and to provide details of those cases to Mr Meekings.[89]

216. Mr Meekings examined approximately 1,500 diocesan files and documents. He also viewed separate case records of individuals about whom there had been previous safeguarding concerns. These records were held by the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.[90] Mr Meekings finalised his review of past cases on 12 February 2009.[91]

217. In light of Pritchard’s recent conviction, Mr Meekings also produced a confidential addendum addressing the cases of Pritchard and Cotton.[92] This document suggested that the Diocese should review the actions of staff in relation to both cases. Bishop Hind subsequently requested that Mr Meekings conduct this review himself and make appropriate recommendations.[93]

The Cotton and Pritchard report

218. During his review of the Cotton and Pritchard cases, Mr Meekings interviewed Bishop Benn on two occasions. He concluded that Bishop Benn “had found out about Roy Cotton’s 1954 conviction during the time that the police were undertaking their 1998/9 enquiries. He had not shared this information with Janet Hind, the Child Protection Adviser at the time.”[94] According to Mr Meekings, Bishop Benn had learned of Cotton’s conviction from Archdeacon Reade, who was Archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings at the time. He then met with Cotton during the late 1990s, who disclosed his conviction but claimed to have been falsely accused. Bishop Benn did not recall ever seeing the 2001 confidential declaration, and suggested it may have been misfiled.[95]

219. Based on this information, Mr Meekings drafted a chronology of events concerning Cotton. This chronology included recording the date that Bishop Benn found out about Cotton’s “conviction”. In May 2009 he sent this to Bishop Benn, who confirmed that the narrative was correct.[96]

220. Five months later, Bishop Benn submitted written comments on the draft report. He denied that Cotton had disclosed his conviction and claimed he had only made reference to an “allegation”.[97] Mr Meekings accepted his objection and amended the chronology accordingly. The final version of the Cotton and Pritchard report was submitted to Bishop Hind on 17 December 2009[98]

221. It is notable that, in 2008, Bishop Benn and Mrs Hosgood met with Mr Johnson to discuss his experiences of abuse. Mr Johnson covertly recorded their conversation, in which Bishop Benn admitted to his knowledge of Cotton’s conviction in 1998.[99] In his evidence to the Inquiry, Bishop Benn stated that he had used the word ‘conviction’ in error. He reiterated that Cotton had spoken only of an “allegation” and that he had been unaware of the conviction until the formal disclosure was made in 2001.[100]

222. According to Mr Meekings’ handwritten notes of their discussions about Cotton on 20 April 2009, Bishop Benn remarked, “You can’t write off a good guy, just because of a bad day.”[101] This comment was disturbingly reminiscent of those made 40 years earlier by the Bishop of Portsmouth, when he casually dismissed concerns about Cotton as being “in the past”. It appeared to privilege the needs and interests of the abuser over the abused.

223. Bishop Benn suggested that this comment was made in relation to a separate matter, namely a trivial dispute between the wives of two vicars. He was unable to explain why this would arise during a safeguarding conversation about a sexual offender, other than to comment that “a lot of these notes are actually not very clear and a bit muddled”.[102] As a matter of common sense, it is unlikely that Mr Meekings would have recorded this information if it was irrelevant to the context of their meeting. Bishop Benn’s evidence lacked credibility, as such remarks were clearly inconsistent with the intention of the meeting.

224. Having spoken with Cotton in the late 1990s, Bishop Benn said that he considered him to be “a villain … I did not believe him and his protestations”.[103] If he truly doubted Cotton’s honesty, then the obvious course of action was to make enquiries as to whether his version of events was correct. Bishop Benn failed to do so and, at best, displayed a lack of appropriate curiosity. He should have either requested access to Cotton’s blue file or asked Bishop Hind to check it himself. Had either of them examined the blue file, it would have shown that Cotton was a convicted offender.

225. Bishop Benn told us that having received the confidential declaration form, he instructed his personal assistant to send it to Chichester Palace for inclusion in Cotton’s blue file. When Mr Meekings reviewed the blue file, this document was missing. Bishop Benn took no responsibility for its absence, saying it could only be due to “a specific failing of my PA”.[104]

226. Bishop Benn should have shared Cotton’s disclosure with the Diocesan Child Protection Adviser in the 1990s, regardless of whether he believed it to be an allegation or a conviction. This might have prompted a review of his blue file, which may in turn have shown that he was a convicted offender. The consequence of Bishop Benn’s failure to share information was that Cotton’s past was not made subject to wider or professional scrutiny.

Findings of the Past Cases Review

227. Mr Meekings recommended that the delegation of authority for permission to officiate should be reviewed, having found that crucial information on individuals was not always recorded on their blue file. He specified that area bishops should not make decisions without formally accessing the contents of those files.[105]

228. He also noted that the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser held a separate set of case records, which were stored separately from the blue files. He recommended that all of these documents be integrated, having observed that the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser was not routinely given access to the blue files.[106]

229. Mr Meekings said there should be a clear protocol for resolving disagreements between the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser and senior clergy. This would ensure that safeguarding matters were addressed professionally and transparently.[107]

Response of the Diocese

230. In February 2009, Bishop Hind informed senior diocesan staff that permission to officiate should not be granted to any person unless written confirmation was received from the Bishop’s Palace that all necessary cross-checks had been made.[108]

231. Following submission of the draft addendum report into Cotton and Pritchard, however, the Diocese did not respond for almost four months. On 18 September 2009, Bishop Hind sent an email to Mr Meekings expressing his desire to discuss its contents, but adding that he would not be available for another month.[109] Mr Meekings was “surprised at the apparent lack of urgency and importance given to the findings of the Cotton/Pritchard report by the Diocese”.[110]

232. The email included a document entitled ‘Points of Action’ composed by the Diocese in response to the Past Cases Review generally.[111] Bishop Hind explained that he had appointed Archdeacon Jones to address the findings of the Cotton and Pritchard report.

233. In his response, Mr Meekings raised the concern that locating the role at Archdeacon level would “reduce the perceived importance placed on safeguarding by the Diocese … there could be an issue as to whether an Archdeacon would have sufficient authority to ensure compliance”.[112] He also noted that Archdeacon Jones worked in the same geographic area as Bishop Benn, with whom he shared a close working relationship. The Cotton and Pritchard report questioned the integrity of Bishop Benn’s conduct, but Mr Meekings believed that it may not “receive the degree of objective introspection and forensic scrutiny it required”.[113]

234. Archdeacon Jones denied the validity of these concerns, telling the Inquiry that he was answerable to the Bishop of Chichester and therefore “worked with, but not for, the Bishop of Lewes”.[114] Bishop Hind agreed that Mr Meekings’ fears were “based on a misunderstanding … archdeacons are not the officers of area bishops but of the diocesan bishop”.[115]

Publication of the Cotton and Pritchard report

235. Upon receipt of the Cotton and Pritchard report, Archdeacon Jones wrote to Bishop Hind. He suggested the report was “based in part on speculation and assumptions … certain imputations, even accusations, are made against Wallace himself … what is said may amount to actionable defamation and I have accordingly suggested to Wallace that he seek legal advice as soon as possible”.[116] Bishop Benn vehemently opposed its publication, describing its contents as “selective and not comprehensive … it contained statements of opinion which did not have any evidential status”.[117]

236. Both Archdeacon Jones and Bishop Benn doubted the independence of the report, given Mr Meekings’ professional relationship with Mrs Hosgood. Archdeacon Jones told us that, in his view, Mr Meekings drafted the report “specifically with the aim of showing Bishop Benn up”.[118]

237. On 5 November 2009, Mr Meekings met with Archdeacon Jones and Mr John Stapleton, the then diocesan registrar. According to Archdeacon Jones, the aim of this meeting was to “take the sting out of some of the allegations and suggestions in the report, which Roger Meekings ultimately acceded to”.[119] He insisted that it was a “professional meeting” in which “we made our views clear … it was certainly not hostile”.[120]

238. Mr Meekings’ recollection of this meeting was markedly different. He said it was “extremely one-sided and in no way a constructive discussion … there was a threatening undertone to everything they said to me”. He was asked to amend the Cotton and Pritchard report by removing his criticisms of Bishop Benn, failing which he could be sued for libel. Mr Meekings believed that he was “being attacked for what I felt was a fair report”.[121] It was not appropriate to ask Mr Meekings to change the content of the report in order to assuage the concerns of Bishop Benn.

239. As a result of this meeting, a final version of the report was submitted by Mr Meekings on 17 December 2009. The final report set out a series of revised recommendations. Bishop Benn, however, remained displeased. Archdeacon Jones understood that he “would take action, either by way of an injunction to prevent publication or by way of proceedings for libel”.[122]

240. Bishop Benn told us he merely sought legal advice from Mr Stapleton. He denied that he ever threatened or intended to take legal action if the report was published.[123] However, there was undoubtedly a widespread perception in the Diocese that he would do so. Bishop Hind was “very, very clearly given to understand that Wallace Benn was threatening to take legal action against me or the Diocese, were that report to be shared more widely”.[124]

241. Accordingly, Bishop Hind decided not to publish the Cotton and Pritchard report. He judged that publication “would be likely to embroil the Diocese in litigation with one of its bishops … this would have been wasteful of time and financial resources”.[125] We are unable to say whether it was purely the threat of libel that prevented the report from being disclosed, or whether there were also concerns about embarrassment to the Diocese given the various criticisms of its safeguarding procedures.

Disclosure of the report to victims and survivors

242. Some discussion appears to have taken place as to whether the report should be shared with victims and survivors. In an email to his chaplain on 3 June 2010, Bishop Hind acknowledged that a failure to publish the report would “leave a serious gap as far as helping victims come to terms not only with their abuse, but also how their cases were handled”.[126]

243. Mr Johnson repeatedly sought to obtain a copy of the report from the Diocese. He was keen to ensure that all relevant information was shared with the victims of Cotton and Pritchard, who believed that its publication would assist with their healing process. Bishop Benn flatly disagreed with this sentiment. He argued, “How does it help people’s healing if unsubstantiated, ill-founded, defamatory material is there that doesn’t appear to be true?”[127] Mr Johnson’s letters went unanswered.[128]

244. Furthermore, although it appears that Mrs Hosgood was aware of the original, unamended version of the report, the report itself was not disclosed to any member of the newly-established Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group. The opinions of the numerous safeguarding professionals in this group would clearly be of value, considering the complexity and importance of the report. However, according to Mrs Hosgood, Archdeacon Jones was “quite firm in his refusal to share the Meekings report with others, including anyone from the police”.[129]

245. Bishop Hind even declined to share the Cotton and Pritchard report with Mrs Hosgood herself. He told us this decision was based on “the criticisms of the evidential basis and accuracy of some of its findings in relation to Bishop Benn”.[130] His reluctance was also due to her rapidly deteriorating relationship with Bishop Benn. Archdeacon Jones noted that “the main focus was on getting them to work together effectively, which would have been out of the question if the report had been shown to Shirley Hosgood in defiance of Wallace Benn’s wishes”.[131]

246. We heard of Mrs Hosgood’s determined efforts to ensure that the Diocese engaged appropriately with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. In meetings with senior clergy and staff, she flagged her concerns that these individuals were not receiving the level of support they deserved. Her words appear to have fallen on deaf ears. It is not surprising that she gradually “lost confidence that the Diocese was willing or able to address historic and current safeguarding concerns”.[132]

247. The Archbishops’ Council has recognised that a lack of communication and transparency was “a major historic failing on the part of the Church”. The refusal to publish or disclose reports allowed victims to form the “understandable conclusion that the Church was engaged in a cover-up”.[133]

The resignation of Shirley Hosgood

248. In an email attached to his final report on 17 December 2009, Mr Meekings informed Bishop Hind that although he had tried to “be as reasonable and helpful to the Diocese as possible in dealing with difficult and sensitive issues … my intentions have not been understood”. He notified the Bishop of his intention to cease all involvement with the Diocese, including withdrawing his professional support to Mrs Hosgood.[134]

249. Following Mr Meekings’ departure, the Diocese did not put arrangements in place to ensure that Mrs Hosgood had continued access to supervision. She wrote a letter to Bishop Hind on 14 January 2010, in which she raised concerns about her role as Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. In her view, the “lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities” meant that serious matters were not being dealt with promptly. She further observed that safeguarding issues were “not being shared with me or not being shared in a timely way”.[135]

250. Extensive discussions were also taking place between clergy and staff about the Cotton and Pritchard report. Mrs Hosgood was excluded from those discussions. She was not invited to provide her view as to whether the report should be published. Mrs Hosgood described her isolation from the decision-making process as “an example of Bishop John not wanting to support me in addressing key safeguarding initiatives”.[136]

251. Mrs Hosgood was also frustrated by the struggle to agree suitable terms of reference for the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group (as discussed in Part B.4). She said that “the Diocese’s failure to cooperate or support me in my efforts to carry out my duties as DSA betrayed at best, a misunderstanding and at worst, an indifference to safeguarding work”.[137] In these circumstances, Mrs Hosgood could no longer function effectively as Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. She resigned on 9 September 2010.

References

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