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IICSA publishes report into sexual abuse within Anglican Church

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published recommendations following hearings into abuse suffered within the Anglican Church.

Posted on 06 October 2020

The IICSA report, published Tuesday, 6 October, said: “Convictions of sexual abuse of children by people who were clergy or in positions of trust associated with the Church date back to the 1940s. The total number of convicted offenders associated with the Church from the 1940s until 2018 is 390. In 2018, 449 concerns were reported to the Church about recent child sexual abuse, of which more than half related to church officers. Latterly, a significant amount of offending involved the downloading or possession of indecent images of children.”
Cases examined by the inquiry demonstrated the Church’s failure to take seriously disclosures by or about children or to refer allegations to the statutory authorities, said the report.
It said:

  • The culture of the Church of England “facilitated it becoming a place where abusers could hide” 
  • “Alleged perpetrators were treated more supportively than victims”.
  • “The Church’s neglect of the physical, emotional and spiritual well‐being of children and young people in favour of protecting its reputation was in conflict with its mission of love and care for the innocent and the vulnerable." 

Recommendations in the report highlighted by the BBC include:

  • The Church of England should improve how it responds to safeguarding complaints - by, for example, reintroducing a rule to expel any member of the clergy found guilty of child sexual abuse offences
  • Responsibility for safeguarding should be taken out of the hands of diocesan bishops and given to safeguarding officers employed by the central hierarchy of the Church
  • The Church of England and Church in Wales should share information about clergy who move between the two institutions
  • The Church should introduce policies for funding and support of survivors of child sexual abuse whose perpetrators had a connection to the Church.

IICSA chair Prof Alexis Jay, said: 
"Over many decades, the Church of England failed to protect children and young people from sexual abusers, instead facilitating a culture where perpetrators could hide and victims faced barriers to disclosure that many could not overcome. 
"Within the Church in Wales, there were simply not enough safeguarding officers to carry out the volume of work required of them. Record-keeping was found to be almost non-existent and of little use in trying to understand past safeguarding issues."
The BBC reported that Anglican archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell had promised to "listen, to learn and to act" upon the report's findings.
In an open letter, they wrote: 
"We are truly sorry for the shameful way the Church has acted. We cannot and will not make excuses and can again offer our sincere and heartfelt apologies to those who have been abused, and to their families, friends and colleagues. We make an absolute commitment to taking action to make the Church a safe place for everyone, as well as to respond to the needs of survivors for support and redress."
Andrew Lord, solicitor on Leigh Day’s abuse team, responded to the issues highlighted in the report and its recommendations. He said:
“The report makes clear just how significant an issue abuse within the Anglican Church has been. 
“The recommendation that Bishops do not hold operational responsibility for safeguarding is welcomed, given that in the past there were offerings of public support to offending clergy such as to Bishop Ball.
“The above will, of course, need to be adequately funded. The report notes that there has been a significant increase in funding of safeguarding activities since 2015, but that this began from a very low base.”
Andrew added:
“It is important for a victim and survivor to feel that they have genuinely listened to, and this can be significantly diminished if after all is said and done the power and status of the perpetrator is left intact. We would argue that it is of more than symbolic importance that members of the clergy who are found to have committed abuse face deposition from holy orders, so that they do not continue with an air of prestige and respect.
“The recent case of Benjamin Thomas, who just last week was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for a campaign of abuse lasting almost 30 years, shows that this is not a problem which is confined to the past. We would therefore continue to support the call for mandatory reporting and note that the Inquiry intends to revisit this issue.
“Some survivors may be pleased to see the condemnation brought by IICSA’s report, but others believe that more measures should be implemented to ensure that safeguarding failures of the past will not be repeated in the future. Any new measures must have enough independence and resourcing if they are to be effective.”
The IICSA conducted hearings into abuse within the Church of England during July, 2019.
It is investigating claims against local authorities, religious organisations, the armed forces and public and private institutions. It was set up by former Home Secretary Theresa May after hundreds of people came forward to share their experience of sexual abuse following the death of serial abuser Jimmy Savile in 2011.

Andrew Lord
Abuse claims Human rights

Andrew Lord

Andrew Lord is a senior associate solicitor in the abuse claims team.