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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report

Contents

Executive Summary

This investigation concerns the extent to which the Church of England and the Church in Wales protected children from sexual abuse in the past. It also examines the effectiveness of current safeguarding arrangements. A public hearing on these specific areas was held in 2019. This report also draws on the previous two case studies on the Anglican Church, which related to the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball.

In addition to recommendations made in the case studies, we make eight recommendations in this report, covering areas such as clergy discipline, information-sharing and support for victims and survivors. We will return to other matters raised in this investigation, such as mandatory reporting, in the Inquiry’s final report.

The Church of England

The Church of England is the largest Christian denomination in the country, with over a million regular worshippers. Convictions of sexual abuse of children by people who were clergy or in positions of trust associated with the Church date back to the 1940s. The total number of convicted offenders associated with the Church from the 1940s until 2018 is 390. In 2018, 449 concerns were reported to the Church about recent child sexual abuse, of which more than half related to church officers. Latterly, a significant amount of offending involved the downloading or possession of indecent images of children. The Inquiry examined a number of cases relating to both convicted perpetrators and alleged perpetrators, many of which demonstrated the Church’s failure to take seriously disclosures by or about children or to refer allegations to the statutory authorities. These included:

  • Timothy Storey, who was a youth leader in the Diocese of London from 2002 to 2007. He used his role to groom teenage girls. Storey is currently serving 15 years in prison for several offences against children, including rape. He had admitted sexual activity with a teenager to diocesan staff years before his conviction, but denied coercion.
  • Victor Whitsey, who was Bishop of Chester between 1974 and 1982. Thirteen people complained to Cheshire Constabulary about sexual abuse by Whitsey and the Church of England is aware of six more complainants. The allegations included sexual assault of teenage boys and girls while providing them with pastoral support. He died in 1987.
  • Reverend Trevor Devamanikkam, who was a priest until 1996. In 1984 and 1985 he allegedly raped and indecently assaulted a teenage boy, Matthew Ineson, on several occasions when the boy was living in his house. From 2012 onwards, Reverend Matthew Ineson made a number of disclosures to the Church and has complained about the Church’s response. Devamanikkam was charged in 2017 and took his life the day before his court appearance.

Between 2003 and 2018, the main insurer of the Church of England (the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office) managed 217 claims relating to child sexual abuse in the Church.

The culture of the Church of England facilitated it becoming a place where abusers could hide. Deference to the authority of the Church and to individual priests, taboos surrounding discussion of sexuality and an environment where alleged perpetrators were treated more supportively than victims presented barriers to disclosure that many victims could not overcome. Another aspect of the Church’s culture was clericalism, which meant that the moral authority of clergy was widely perceived as beyond reproach. As we have said in other reports, faith organisations such as the Anglican Church are marked out by their explicit moral purpose, in teaching right from wrong. In the context of child sexual abuse, the Church’s neglect of the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of children and young people in favour of protecting its reputation was in conflict with its mission of love and care for the innocent and the vulnerable.

Culture change is assisted by senior Church leaders now saying the right things, but lasting change will require more than platitudes. It will need continuous reinforcement of the abhorrent nature of child sexual abuse and the importance of safeguarding in all of the Church’s settings.

We examined how well current safeguarding practice within the Church was responding to the issue of child sexual abuse. Until recently, at least 2015, the Church of England did not properly resource safeguarding. Funding has increased considerably, in particular for safeguarding staff. A further recent change means that the advice of safeguarding staff should not be ignored by senior clergy if they do not like the advice they are given. Nevertheless, examples of this continuing to occur were found in the file sampling undertaken on behalf of the Inquiry. Diocesan bishops hold ultimate responsibility for safeguarding within a diocese, and diocesan safeguarding advisers (DSAs) still do not provide a “sufficient counterweight to episcopal authority” according to Mr Colin Perkins (DSA for the Diocese of Chichester).[1]

We concluded that diocesan safeguarding officers – not clergy – are best placed to decide which cases to refer to the statutory authorities, and what action should be taken by the Church to keep children safe. Diocesan bishops have an important role to play, but they should not hold operational responsibility for safeguarding.

In respect of cathedrals, the Church has proposed a number of changes which should integrate safeguarding in cathedrals into the mainstream of the Church’s safeguarding structures, though there remains much to do to ensure better protection of children in cathedrals and their linked choir schools.

The Church has failed to respond consistently to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse with sympathy and compassion, accompanied by practical and appropriate support. This has often added to the trauma already suffered by those who were abused by individuals associated with the Church. This failure was described as “profoundly and deeply shocking” by Archbishop Justin Welby.[2]

Excessive attention was often paid to the circumstances of the alleged perpetrator in comparison to the attention given to those who disclosed they had been sexually abused or to the issue of the risk that alleged perpetrators posed to others. For example, Robert Waddington (the Dean of Manchester Cathedral from 1984 to 1993) was the subject of a number of allegations of child sexual abuse over many years. Nevertheless, his permission to officiate was allowed to continue on the grounds of his age and frailty, without seemingly any consideration of the risks to children with whom he came into contact. He died in 2007.

Sometimes sexual offending was minimised. Reverend Ian Hughes was convicted in 2014 of downloading 8,000 indecent images of children. Bishop Peter Forster suggested to us that Hughes had been “misled into viewing child pornography” on the basis that “pornography is so ubiquitously available and viewed”.[3] More than 800 of the images downloaded by Hughes were graded at the most serious level of abuse.

On some occasions public support was given to offending clergy. Perhaps the most stark example was that of the former bishop, Peter Ball. In that instance, Lord George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, simply could not believe the allegations against Ball or acknowledge the seriousness of them regardless of evidence, and was outspoken in his support of his bishop. He seemingly wanted the whole business to go away.

Although there have been a number of important improvements in child protection practice within the Church, it has some way to go to rebuild the trust of victims. When the Church did try to uncover past failures, such as the Past Cases Review, which was completed in 2009, the exercise was flawed and incomplete. There were difficulties locating files and an inaccurate impression was given of the scale of the problem, which was likely to have been compounded by the inconsistencies of diocesan returns. The exercise must be repeated to obtain a more accurate picture.

The Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) sets out the procedure for managing most disciplinary complaints made about the clergy. It is not confined to safeguarding issues. A member of the clergy may face disciplinary action on a broad range of allegations, but it is not designed to deal with risk management and the general capability of clergy. Since 2015, the clergy have a duty to pay due regard to safeguarding policies, and failure to do so is a disciplinary offence.

A number of penalties are available in the CDM, including the imposition of a penalty by consent without a hearing taking place. It is unclear whether this is a suitable disposal that is used sparingly and only in appropriate cases. Under the CDM, members of the clergy cannot be deposed from holy orders – that is to have their status as clergy revoked – in relation to safeguarding matters even if an individual has been convicted. Although such an option would make little practical difference if someone was otherwise removed from office, there is a symbolic difference from the perspective of a victim or survivor.

Archbishop Welby criticised the CDM, stating that it needed “significant revision”.[4] It was suggested by others that a more focussed, victim-centred process was required. Bishop Peter Hancock (then Lead Bishop on Safeguarding) agreed, saying that “the church needs to get on with this … let’s look at what we are trying to achieve, find a process that does that”.[5]

The Church in Wales

The Church in Wales is a Province of the Anglican Communion. Since 1920, it has been ‘disestablished’ and is not the ‘state’ religion of the country. It has six dioceses, with 1,295 churches organised into 594 parishes, and is served by some 600 clergy. In 2018, the electoral roll showed more than 42,000 worshippers in the Church in Wales.[6]

In recent years, a number of clergy have been deposed from holy orders following convictions for sexual assaults on children, or for offences concerning indecent images of children, although no precise data are available. Clergy convicted of child sexual offending include:

  • Canon Lawrence Davies, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment following his conviction for sexual assault against two boys from within his parish over many years. He was deposed from holy orders in 2003.[7]
  • Reverend Darryl Gibbs, who was convicted of two offences of making indecent photographs of children and conditionally discharged for 12 months in respect of each offence (to run concurrently). In 2004, he was prevented from exercising his ministry as a priest for eight years.[8]
  • Reverend Richard Hart, who was sentenced to three and a half years’ imprisonment following his conviction for making, taking and possessing indecent images of children between 1991 and 2008. Police found 56,000 indecent images on his computer.[9] He was deposed from holy orders in 2009.[10]

Each parish should have a safeguarding officer. A Historic Cases Review, published in 2012, concluded that there was a need to improve compliance with existing safeguarding policies, and to adopt additional policies to better protect children. In 2016, a further review was undertaken focussing on files of deceased clergy and a new safeguarding policy was adopted.

Further improvements are still required, particularly in the area of record-keeping, which the Inquiry’s sampling found to be almost non-existent and of little use in trying to understand past safeguarding issues. Provincial safeguarding officers lack the capacity to fulfil the wide range of tasks assigned to them and need additional support. The obligation to comply with advice from the Provincial Safeguarding Panel must be reinforced, and monitored for non-compliance. Since the third public hearing, the Church in Wales has proposed to introduce a new disciplinary heading of “failure to comply with advice from the Provincial Safeguarding Panel without reasonable excuse”.[11]

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