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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child protection in religious organisations and settings Investigation Report


B.2: Prevalence

4. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), which represents the 43 Chief Officers’ teams across England and Wales, explained that Home Office Counting rules for recorded crime require police forces to flag crime records where the Home Office determines that they have a particular public interest, including offences involving child sexual abuse. There is, however, no additional requirement to record whether the circumstances of the crime involved a religious organisation or setting.[1] As a result, there is no way of reliably knowing how many of the child sexual offences reported to police in England and Wales took place in, or were linked to, religious organisations and settings.

5. The only information that the NPCC was able to provide to the Inquiry about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in religious organisations and settings was from Operation Hydrant, which has collected data in relation to non-recent child sexual abuse cases since August 2014.[2] Analysis of the data from early 2015 to January 2020 indicates that:

  • of all known institutions where offending had taken place, 11 percent (443 instances) were committed within a religious organisation or setting; and
  • 10 percent of suspects (726 people) were employed by, or somehow linked to, a religious organisation or setting.[3]

(In this context, religious organisations or settings also include the Anglican and Catholic Churches.)

6. Guidance produced by the Department for Education, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018, requires local authorities to have a designated officer to be involved in the management and oversight of allegations against people who work with children, including allegations of child sexual abuse.[4] Employers, school governors, trustees and voluntary organisations should therefore have clear policies relating to the investigation of allegations against people who work with children. The local authority’s designated officer (LADO) should be informed within one working day of all allegations against people who work with children that come to an employer’s attention or are made directly to the police.[5]

7. Not all local authorities retain data about those referrals in a way that allowed them to provide the number of referrals made to them that related to child sexual abuse in religious organisations and settings, and there is no requirement for them to retain these data. Of those that could provide some data to the investigation:

  • Ms Penny Thompson, Independent Chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership, told us that between April 2017 and March 2019 its LADO received 2,719 referrals. Of these, 25 related to concerns or allegations in relation to the sexual abuse of a child or children in a faith-based setting.[6]
  • Ms Kersten England, Chief Executive of the Bradford Metropolitan District Council, said that 32 of the referrals to the LADO between 2007 and 2019 were flagged as ‘sexual’ and linked to religious organisations and settings.[7]
  • Ms Jasvinder Sanghera, Independent Chair of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership, confirmed that there were 105 notifications to the LADO between 2013 and 2019 that related to a religious organisation or setting, which accounted for 3 percent of all notifications over that period. The majority involving faith settings concerned physical chastisement, although 15 allegations related to sexual abuse.[8]
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