Admission Of ‘Serious Failure’ To Prevent Problems
By Rob Dixon
The Church of England’s decision to formally apologise for past child abuse by Anglican priests, as well as its ‘serious failure’ to prevent it, has been welcomed as a positive step forward by lawyers specialising in child abuse cases.
In a meeting last week in York, the General Synod endorsed a report which included an apology related to abuse in the Chichester diocese – specifically related to the two priests Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard in 1970s and 1980s.
The BBC reports that the cases led to an inquiry which raised significant concerns over safeguarding procedures and describe efforts to handle allegations of abuse as both ‘appalling’ and dysfunctional’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, said it was now vital for the diocese to do everything it can to help survivors of the known abusing clergy to come forward and get the support they need and deserve.
It was also agreed that the Synod would take steps to improve its policies on safeguarding children to tackle the issue going forward.
Tom Fletcher, a Birmingham-based solicitor at Irwin Mitchell and an expert in child abuse claims, said: "It is of course deeply concerning that there are likely to be other victims of the abusers who have not been able to come forward, but it is unfortunately extremely common for victims to come forward many years after the abuse or to not come forward at all.
"There may be a number of reasons for not coming forward such as embarrassment, a feeling of not being believed, wishing to put the past behind them or the fear that something would happen to them if they did come forward.
"Hopefully this apology will go some way to ensuring those affected by such issues will be able to speak out about the ordeals they have faced, safe in the knowledge that their voices will be heard.”
He continued: "Sadly, it is the nature of abuse of children by those placed in such high authority that creates great fear, confusion and shame.
"It is, however, welcoming to hear the Church of England apologising in this instance and we are encouraged to hear of the plans to improve policies and practices on safeguarding children.
"Sadly we continue to be contacted by those who have been abused as children by members of the clergy and we hope that plans to improve policies and practices on safeguarding children can also be shared much wider across all UK society.”
Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Child Abuse claims