Church of England ‘failed to protect children from sexual predators’, report finds
The Church of England failed to protect children and young people from sexual predators within their ranks, according to an inquiry report published today.
Almost 400 clergy members or people in positions of trust associated with the Church were convicted of sexual offences against children from the 1940s to 2018, a much-anticipated Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has found.
“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,” said Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry.
In 2018 alone, there were 2,504 safeguarding concerns reported to British dioceses about children and vulnerable adults, and 449 concerns about recent child sexual abuse.
A large proportion of offences detailed in the report related to the possession of indecent images of children.
Reverend Ian Hughes, a vicar for the Diocese of Chester, was convicted in 2014 of downloading 8,000 indecent images of children.
Diocese of London
The report highlighted Timothy Storey, a youth leader in the Diocese of London between 2002 and 2007, as one of the offending Church figures who “used his role to groom teenage girls”.
The report slammed the Church’s response to allegations against Storey, after London and Westminster Church officials permitted the youth leader to continue working with children following his expression of “remorse for everything he had done wrong”.
He was later convicted of several charges against children including rape, and is currently serving 15 years in prison.
During his sentencing remarks, a court judge lambasted the Diocese of London for its “utterly incompetent” handling of the case and the “wholesale failure by those responsible at that time for safeguarding, to understand whose interests they should have been safeguarding”.
A further review in 2019 by the independent chair of a Diocese of London safeguarding group reiterated the diocesan failings. It also stated that the senior leadership within the Diocese of London should have taken responsibility for the failings.
The Diocese of London covers a large area across the capital with a diverse population and more than 500 worshipping communities.
It has seen a significant increase in its safeguarding budget over the past few years, from £50,000 in 2013 to £281,000 in 2019.
Of the safeguarding cases seen each year by the London diocese, 25 per cent relate to children, the independent inquiry found.
The Bishop of London Reverence Sarah Mullally told City A.M: “Timothy Storey carried out a series of appalling crimes, for which he was rightly convicted in 2016.
“The Diocese made clear how profoundly sorry it was for what the survivors and their families had endured. I would support and reiterate that sorrow again personally today — my heart goes out to those individuals.”
Mullally added: “When I became Bishop of London two years ago, it was evident that steps had already been taken… to improve safeguarding in this diocese.
“However, I was equally struck that there remained lessons to be learned, and much to be done, both to understand past mistakes, and to take transformative steps for the future. We have worked hard to achieve this, and continue to do so.”
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