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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Case Study: Archdiocese of Birmingham Investigation Report

E.2: Conclusions

1. At least 13 individuals associated with the Archdiocese have been convicted before the criminal courts and three others were cautioned. There were 53 victims arising from those criminal cases. In addition, the Archdiocese has faced allegations that no fewer than 78 individuals were accused of committing child sexual abuse.

2. Material seen by the Inquiry suggests that the number of complainants is likely to be higher than the figures set out here.

3. In those cases where there has been no criminal or civil finding, the issue for the Inquiry has been to examine how the Archdiocese has considered and managed the potential risk to children.

Historical failings (prior to Nolan report 2001)

4. Historically, the Archdiocese repeatedly failed to alert the police when an allegation of child sexual abuse was made. The default position was to take no action or to move the priest to another parish. Occasionally the perpetrator was sent for treatment but typically he returned to parochial life and was not subject to further supervision.

5. The consequence of these failings cannot be overstated. In some cases, the lack of action by the Church meant that the abuser was free to continue to commit acts of child sexual abuse. In the cases we examined where the abuser was moved to a new parish, there was no evidence that the new parish was made aware of the allegations, let alone appropriate measures put in place to limit or supervise the abuser’s access to children.

6. In the case of James Robinson, Monsignor Daniel Leonard deliberately misled the Archdiocese of Los Angeles about the nature of the allegations faced by Robinson and, as a result, Robinson was able to remain in America and avoid prosecution for nearly 25 years. It is hardly surprising therefore that we heard evidence that the complainants and victims felt there was a culture of secrecy within the Archdiocese, and that protection of the Church was the paramount concern. As RC-A15 stated, “the Church should never be guarded, it should always be guarding”.[1]

7. The breach of trust – by a priest, trusted by children and their families – was at the core of many of the accounts we heard and read. There was little if any acknowledgement of the harm that this abuse caused, which still affects victims and complainants today.

8. The Archdiocese of Birmingham was reluctant to report matters of child sexual abuse to the authorities and remained more committed to protecting itself and dealing with matters internally than protecting the victims. A radical culture change was needed.

Response post Nolan and Cumberlege reports

9. The recommendations of the 2001 Nolan report initiated change not only within the Archdiocese of Birmingham but across the entire Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. There was evidence that most allegations were reported to the police or other statutory agencies and we heard of improving cooperation between the Archdiocese and the police. The Archdiocese established the Child Protection Team and, from 2004 to 2018, Jane Jones was the Child Protection Coordinator.

10. There was mistrust and a poor working relationship between the Archdiocese and Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA). This was exemplified by firstly, the mishandling of Jane Jones’ appointment and secondly, the prolonged argument about the Archdiocese’s refusal to provide COPCA with an alleged perpetrator’s (RC-F167) name – a dispute that Archbishop Nichols should have intervened in to resolve. The reluctance to adopt the ‘One Church’ approach when dealing with COPCA and a failure to follow basic recruitment practice when appointing the safeguarding coordinator demonstrated the Archdiocese’s unwillingness to embrace fully the new culture of child protection advocated by the Nolan report.

11. Archbishop Nichols stated that during his tenure as Archbishop of Birmingham he met with a number of victims of sexual abuse and learnt first hand about the “lasting, corrosive, destructive influence/effect/impact of child sexual abuse”. [2] However, his 2003 press release in response to the BBC programme ‘Kenyon Confronts’ focussed too heavily on perceived BBC bias and not enough on the victims’ accounts of abuse and the harm caused.

12. In the cases of Father John Tolkien and RC-F167 there were no findings of fact in relation to sexual abuse and so the Inquiry examined the Archdiocese’s handling of risk. In the case of Father Tolkien, when child sexual abuse allegations were made in 1968 and 1993, no thought was given to considering whether Father Tolkien posed a risk to children. In RC‐F167’s case, when he applied to become a priest in late 1985 there was no consideration of the potential risk he posed. By contrast, in 1998, when further allegations were made against him, the Archdiocese did require RC-F167 to be assessed to ascertain whether he should have supervised or unsupervised access to children.

13. Following the publication of the Cumberlege report in 2007, the Archdiocese appears to have placed greater emphasis on safeguarding and a more victim-focussed approach was adopted by the safeguarding team. Priests and other clergy who face such allegations are now placed on administrative leave and procedures put in place to ensure that children are protected.

14. Notwithstanding the developments post the Nolan and Cumberlege reports, the 2010 Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service audit highlighted a number of areas which required further work to be done, including in respect of record keeping. As Lord Nolan acknowledged in his 2001 report, the maintenance of accurate and up-to-date records in respect of an allegation of child sexual abuse is paramount. As a result of the 2010 audit, the Archdiocese should have recognised that the safeguarding team required further resources to enable them to carry out their work. The audit identified that there needed to be proper oversight of the team to ensure that these changes were implemented. The 2018 Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) audit found multiple failings. This included, again, reference to incomplete and substandard records, indicating that little had changed since 2010.

Safeguarding failures in the Archdiocese in 2018

15. The Inquiry considered the findings of the past cases review, the parish review and the SCIE audit. All three reviews were commissioned by the Archdiocese in 2018 and were published shortly before the November 2018 public hearing. Two consistent problems emerged. Firstly, there was a lack of supervision of the safeguarding team. Secondly, the case management systems were inadequate and the paper-based, handwritten files made it hard to follow events. The concerns about case management and record keeping mirrored the difficulties encountered by the Inquiry when it reviewed the case files and prepared the schedule of allegations.

16. The deficiencies with case management and recording of actions were identified in the 2010 audit and were not addressed by the time of the 2018 reviews. Ensuring that there is a proper system of supervision and oversight of the safeguarding team is an essential part of the Archdiocesan response to ensure that children are properly protected. Had this Inquiry not focussed upon the Archdiocese of Birmingham, it is doubtful whether the Archdiocese would have itself recognised that these problems needed to be resolved.

17. The Archdiocese of Birmingham must professionalise both the way the safeguarding team operates and the way the team is managed and overseen. Change must be led by Archbishop Longley and the Birmingham Safeguarding Commission, and there must be a systematic programme of review to ensure the current concerns about safeguarding in the Archdiocese are remedied.

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