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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

C.1: Nolan report recommendations

1. In 2000, the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, invited Lord Nolan to chair an independent committee to carry out a review of child protection in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. The report programme for action (more commonly known as the Nolan report) was published in September 2001.[1]

2. In total, the Nolan report made 83 recommendations covering:

  • the structures required at parish, diocesan and national level;
  • the steps which were needed to create a safe environment for children and those who work with children; and
  • the action needed to respond to allegations of abuse.

3. Some of the key recommendations included:

  • Before taking up a post involving working with children (whether paid or voluntary), the person should complete an application form, provide references and details of any relevant criminal convictions and agree to a criminal records check (Rec 29).
  • Each parish should have a Parish Child Protection Representative (PCPR) (Rec 5).
  • Each Diocese should have a Child Protection Coordinator (Rec 8) and it was envisaged that in the larger dioceses this would most likely be a full-time role.
  • A National Child Protection Unit should be established to advise the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Conference of the Religious on child protection policies and principles (Rec 16) and the National Child Protection Unit should issue codes of conduct and practical guidance on safe working with children (Rec 22).
  • Statutory authorities should be brought in straight away where there is a disclosure so that the statutory authority would take the lead on investigating and assessing the situation (Rec 61).
  • Contemporaneous records should be kept at the time of an allegation or other event (Rec 45) and be kept for 100 years (Rec 47).

4. Once the Nolan report was ratified by the Bishops’ Conference and Conference of the Religious,[2] the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA) was established as the National Child Protection Unit. COPCA was set up to provide advice and support to the Conferences, the dioceses and religious congregations.[3] Its remit also included liaising with statutory agencies at national level as well as with professional bodies and leading charities. Mrs Eileen Shearer was appointed as director. As part of her duties, she oversaw the creation and implementation of the national policies, principles and practice, known as the ‘One Church’ approach for the protection of children and vulnerable adults. COPCA was accountable to an independent management board, chaired by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.


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