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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


G.6: Future plans for auditing

23. The Cumberlege report acknowledged that COPCA’s attempts to “offer both ‘challenge and support’ … to be both ‘the enforcer’ and a source of friendly but authoritative advice … was brave but probably unrealistic”.[1] Similar observations have been made about its successor CSAS, which has led some members of the NCSC to consider whether an independent body should carry out safeguarding audits.

23.1. During his time as NCSC Chair (2012–2015), Danny Sullivan said he explored the possibility of external auditing, which he thought would lead to greater “objectivity”.[2] He found though that there was resistance from the bishops to having the results of audits published.

23.2. Bishop Marcus Stock, the current Episcopal Vice-Chair of the NCSC, said that it was his view that:

As the primary role of CSAS is to provide support and advice to dioceses and religious congregations, I believe that in the future an independent body should be commissioned to carry out this audit function instead. This is now the view of the Commission.[3]

23.3. Rachel O’Driscoll, current lay Vice-Chair of the NCSC said:

The NCSC needs to be in a position to assess the degree to which policies and procedures are being implemented. While not wanting to pre-empt the findings of the Independent Review of Safeguarding Structures, my feeling is that there needs to be an independent, comprehensive and systematic programme of audit in place – with audit activity conducted by an external body and the outputs reported to NCSC (to inform its strategic activity). Without a programme of this nature, the degree to which a ‘culture of safeguarding’/‘One Church’ approach is being achieved cannot be assessed in a systematic manner.[4]

23.4. Christopher Pearson, current Chair of the NCSC, considered that there were both “advantages and disadvantages” of having an external audit process and that “one of the difficulties of externalising audits is, it then is not owned by those who are carrying out the process of safeguarding”.[5]

23.5. Dr Limbrick considered that there were pros and cons to independent auditing. Although it was “definitely advantageous to have an external body looking at the work of safeguarding within the Church, internal audits were helpful “because you can mobilise fairly quickly if you need to perhaps look at a particular area”. She said:

there is an inherent tension, I feel, with CSAS as an advisory body drafting up policy and procedure and also being the body that then does the quality assurance, and I think that maybe the breadth of all of those things in one place – that’s why I think external scrutiny would be helpful as well”.[6]

24. Auditing is a valuable way to ensure that institutions are doing what is required to safeguard children. The Church needs to assure itself that its safeguarding commissions are complying with safeguarding policies and procedures, in order to take its own action to remedy any deficiencies. The Church’s quality assurance framework lacks external review and validation by an independent agency. The publication of such an external review would promote compliance, accountability and transparency.

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