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Nearly 400 Church of England figures convicted of sex offences against children, report finds

Written by on 06/10/2020

Nearly 400 people in positions of trust within the Church of England have been convicted of sexual offences against children since the 1940s, a damning new report has found. 

A report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has found the Church failed to protect children and young people from sexual predators within its ranks and instead created a culture where abusers could hide.

From the 1940s to 2018, 390 people who were clergy or in positions of trust associated with the Church were convicted of sexual offences against children, the report found.

In 2018 alone, there were 2,504 safeguarding concerns reported to dioceses about either children or vulnerable adults, and 449 concerns about recent child sexual abuse.

A significant amount of offending involved the downloading or possession of indecent images of children.

In one case, Reverend Ian Hughes was convicted in 2014 of downloading 8,000 indecent images of children.

Bishop Peter Forster, who retired last year, suggested to the inquiry that Hughes had been “misled into viewing child pornography” on the basis that pornography is freely available and viewed.

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More than 800 of the images downloaded by Hughes were graded at the most serious level of abuse.

The report also found that alleged perpetrators were given more support than victims and accused the Church of neglecting the wellbeing of children in favour of protecting its own reputation.

For example, former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, Robert Waddington, was the subject of a number of child sexual abuse allegations over many years.

Despite this, his permission to officiate was allowed to continue on the grounds of his age and frailty, seemingly without any consideration of the risks to the children with whom he came into contact.

The report also criticised the Church’s attitudes to forgiveness, which it found were regarded by many members as an appropriate response to any admission of wrongdoing.

It cites the case of Timothy Storey, who was permitted to continue working with children after expressing “remorse for everything he had done wrong”.

Storey is currently serving 15 years in prison for several offences against children, including rape.

The report also accuses the Church of failing to properly fund safeguarding until as recently as 2015, recommending a new mandatory support scheme for victims and survivors.

It is based on public hearings held in July 2019, which heard evidence from senior Church leaders, safeguarding experts and victims and survivors on their views of the Church’s failings and the reparations offered.

The Church of England has expressed “shame” over the events.

Responding to the report, it said: “[This] makes shocking reading and while apologies will never take away the effects of abuse on victims and survivors, we today want to express our shame about the events that have made those apologies necessary. The whole Church must learn lessons from this inquiry.”

It also admitted that progress had been “too slow” in providing support for victims and survivors.

If you or anyone you are in contact with is affected by the publication of this report and want to talk to someone independently, please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056 or email safespaces@victimsupport.org.uk. There are also other support services available.

 Sky News

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