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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 Roman Catholic Church Investigation Report


D.1: The Nolan report (2001)

1. In September 2000, Lord Michael Nolan was asked by the then Archbishop of Westminster to chair an independent committee to review arrangements made for child protection and the prevention of abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.[1] The report, A Programme for Action (the Nolan report), was published in September 2001. It encouraged a Church-wide commitment to one set of policies and procedures based on the paramountcy principle and other guidance. The paramountcy principle was enshrined in the Children Act 1989 (which came into force in 1991) and requires the child’s welfare to be the “paramount consideration”.[2]

2. The Nolan report also made 83 recommendations applicable to both the dioceses and religious institutes.[3] The first recommendation was that the Church should “become an example of best practice in the prevention of child abuse and in responding to it”.[4]

In our society we expect all organisations that have responsibility for the care of children to have arrangements that protect those children and promote their welfare. The care of children is at the forefront of the teachings of Christ and is, therefore, one of the primary responsibilities of all members of the Church … ”.[5]

3. The report also recommended:

  • an organisational structure to include a parish child protection representative and a child protection coordinator (CPC) for the diocese or religious institute;
  • a National Child Protection Unit to advise the Bishops’ Conference, the Conference of Religious (CoR), the dioceses and religious institutes, to issue guidance about safe working with children, to monitor the effectiveness of child protection arrangements in each diocese, and to liaise with the statutory authorities;
  • a single national database of information on all applicants for the priesthood and religious life;
  • registration by Church organisations with the Criminal Records Bureau (now the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)) and use of its services, including in the selection process for candidates for ordination;[6]
  • disclosures and suspicions always be “acted on swiftly”,[7] applying the paramountcy principle, and shared with the CPC and with statutory authorities as soon as possible without any filtering – the statutory authorities should take the lead in investigating the allegation;
  • the use of risk assessments, including in cases where the investigation was closed or the alleged perpetrator found not guilty;
  • records in relation to individuals and allegations kept for a minimum of 100 years; and
  • historical allegations should be treated in the same way as allegations of current abuse. Bishops and religious superiors should ensure that historic cases should be the subject of review as soon as possible and reported to the statutory authorities where appropriate.

4. The Nolan Committee was clear:

The structure of the Church means that formal responsibility for action lies primarily with individual bishops and superiors of religious orders. We are confident that this need create no difficulty provided that the whole Church in England and Wales and the individual bishops and superiors commit themselves wholeheartedly to the programme we have set out … But our hope is that this report will help to bring about a culture of vigilance where every single adult member of the Church consciously and actively takes responsibility for creating a safe environment for children. Our recommendations are not a substitute for this but we hope they will be an impetus towards such an achievement.[8]


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