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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report


B.5.2: Robert Waddington

4. Robert Waddington was the Dean of Manchester Cathedral from 1984 to 1993, as well as a member of the governing body of Chetham’s School of Music, which provided choristers for Manchester Cathedral. Upon his retirement in September 1993, Waddington was granted permission to officiate in the Diocese of York.[1]

5. In 2013, Archbishop John Sentamu received an allegation of sexual abuse by Waddington in the 1950s. The male complainant also said that Waddington had told him – falsely – that he could not disclose the abuse, as Waddington had been “absolved of sinful child abuse in the context of the sacramental ministry of reconciliation”.[2] Although Waddington’s explanation was clearly inaccurate – it is only the priest who is bound by any seal – this case was a significant factor in the establishment of the Church’s working group on the seal of the confessional in 2014.[3]

The allegations and the Church’s response

6. In January 1999, the Bishop of North Queensland informed the then Archbishop of York, David Hope (now Lord Hope) of a “serious allegation of child sexual abuse by Waddington between 1961 and 1971, when he was headmaster of a school in Australia.[4] In February 1999, Archbishop Hope said that he had met with Waddington who “was deeply sorry for anything he may have done to offend”. As Waddington was now “severely debilitated” by ill-health, Archbishop Hope said he had “no doubt whatever that there is simply no possibility of his acting as has been alleged of him”.[5] Archbishop Hope considered that this referred to Waddington’s current ability to pose a risk to children, not whether he had committed offences in the past.[6]

7. At the time, the Church’s practice guidance – Policy on Child Protection: A Policy Document by the House of Bishops (1999) – stated that a person who received a report of abuse should inform the bishop’s representative whose role it was to advise the bishop on procedures in cases of alleged child abuse.[7] Archbishop Hope did not do so, nor did he seek further information from the Bishop of North Queensland about the allegation.[8] Meeting personally with Waddington was contrary to the policy that the Church “will not conduct investigations on its own”.[9] Archbishop Hope did not, as required, consider with his representative whether Waddington’s permission to officiate should be suspended pending the outcome of enquiries.[10] Waddington continued to officiate in the Diocese of York.

8. Between August 2003 and June 2005, other senior members of the Church (including the Bishop of Manchester’s chaplain and the Dean of Carlisle Cathedral) received disclosures of child sexual abuse against Waddington. The allegations related to his time in both Manchester and Australia. In November 2004, Archbishop Hope withdrew Waddington’s permission to officiate. Waddington was also interviewed by the diocesan child protection officer but denied all allegations of sexual abuse. No further action was taken by the Church.

9. In December 2004, Archbishop Hope wrote to Waddington stating that he was very pleased to note the matter is now closed”. Waddington died in 2007.[11]

The Cahill Inquiry

10. Archbishop John Sentamu, then Archbishop of York, first learned of the allegations against Waddington in June 2013. His office was contacted by a newspaper journalist, who had spoken with “at least two survivors of abuse by Waddington. Archbishop Sentamu said that:

given the seniority of the clergy involved in handling the case … this would need independent scrutiny from a Judge with significant safeguarding experience”.[12]

He subsequently commissioned an inquiry in July 2013, chaired by Her Honour Judge Sally Cahill QC.[13] Its purpose was to establish what information was known in the Church, the extent to which relevant child protection policies were applied and whether it might have been handled differently if current safeguarding policies had been in place.[14]

11. The Cahill Inquiry’s report (published in October 2014) identified a lack of contemporaneous records in both the Dioceses of York and Manchester.[15] It criticised the then Bishop of Manchester for his inadequate recording of disclosures.[16] Lord Hope was also criticised for his failure both to inform his representative of the allegation in 1999 and to consider whether permission to officiate should be suspended or withdrawn. The report stated that his:

pastoral responsibility for Robert Waddington, and his belief that Robert Waddington was an old and ill man, led him to disregard the risk Robert Waddington might be to children and in doing so make decisions that were flawed”.[17]

It made eight recommendations for the improvement of the Church’s child protection procedures, including introducing:

  • a national policy, applicable to all dioceses and covering both current and historic cases;
  • a national safeguarding service, and the development of a structured scheme to promote cross-diocesan liaison;
  • independent decision-makers in child protection cases, without pastoral responsibility for the alleged perpetrator; and
  • a national record-keeping system, so that child protection records were kept in one central location.[18]

12. In response, the Church created national guidance about responding to allegations, established the National Safeguarding Team and appointed a National Safeguarding Adviser.[19] One recommendation remains outstanding, a national casework mechanism, which we were told was being commissioned.[20]

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