The Bishop of Blackburn has condemned the appalling failures of the Church of England to protect young people from paedophile priests.

The Rt Rev Julian Henderson stated that he was ‘utterly horrified’ by past cases of abuse within the church as he introduced a disciplinary measure for the Christian denomination in parliament.

His calls for improvements to safeguarding following last month’s conviction of former Baxenden vicar, Tom Donaghey, who admitted to possessing thousands of child abuse images.

The ex-vicar was suspended by Blackburn Diocese before leaving the church. He pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children and one of possessing extreme pornography, before his devices could be examined.

Upon examination of the devices, 297 category A images, 468 category B and 2,823 category C images were found. Category A images are considered the most extreme in nature.

Due to his admission of guilt, Donaghey was sentenced to a 2-year community order, 40 days rehabilitation, and charged with a £100 fine. He was also made the subject of a five- year sexual harm prevention order with the relevant notification requirements.

Donaghey and his wife had been set to adopt young twins, a process which has now been cancelled.

Judge Archer told Donaghey ‘by seeking out these images you were perpetuating the cycle of child abuse’ as downloading and viewing created a market for such material.

In defence, Rosalind Emsley-Smith told the court ‘he has lost his entire history, everything he was, everything he did, and everything he was known for prior to this is erased and he is now known only for these offences.’

Emsley- Smith described the public prosecution as ‘heart breaking’, although it could be said that it rather signals a commitment towards improving safeguarding within the church.

Indeed, Rt Rev Julian Henderson has argued that one of the big issues within the Church of England has been the whole matter of cover-up and trying to silence voices. By reprimanding Donaghey, it shows that child abuse will no longer be tolerated.

The Bishop stated ‘the Church of England has been on a long journey of putting in place appropriate staff, policies and practices to make the Church a safe place for all people, especially children and vulnerable adults.’

‘That has been essential as a response to church often being unsafe and to stories, historic and current, of appalling cases of abuse by those in positions of power who should have known better and whom many were willing to trust.’

‘I remain utterly horrified by what we have done in the past, our failures and no doubt there will be failures going on.’

The new measure updates the legislation concerned with the safeguarding of vulnerable individuals, as a response to recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

At Farleys, we have acted for many individuals who have fallen victim to abuse at the hands of religious groups and leaders. As stated by Rt Rev Julian Henderson, religious organisations have incessantly covered up abuse, leaving survivors to suffer in silence.

For these survivors we realise that there is no getting away from what has happened to them. However, pursuing a claim can help to bring closure to their ordeal and can provide the resources to fund medical treatment and therapy that may be required.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a member of a religious institution, we may be able to help and assist. Our dedicated team support survivors throughout the process, treating every case with the sensitivity, confidentiality, and integrity it deserves. Contact us on 0330 134 6430, email us or use the chat function below.