In July 2019, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) held public hearings to investigate child sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy of the Church of England and the Church in Wales and the Churches’ response to the same. Both Churches sit within the Anglican Communion.
The IICSA was established in 2015, to “expose failures” of various bodies such as religious institutions and local authorities which are responsible for protecting children from abuse. The purpose of the IICSA is to identify ways in which children can be better protected from abuse and supported in their disclosures of the same.
In 2018, the IICSA published its interim report to identify emerging themes in the IICSA’s investigations. The Report included eighteen recommendations. You can read more about this here.
The IICSA has recently published its findings regarding child sexual abuse within the churches.
The Inquiry found that the Church elected to protect its reputation rather than protecting the “physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of children and young people” The report found that when victims made disclosures about the abuse they had suffered, the Church supported the perpetrators rather than the victims. The IICSA provided the example of Cathedral Dean, Robert Waddington, against whom allegations were made in 1999. The Archbishop of York at the time stated that there was “no possibility” that the allegations were true.
Between the 1940s and 2018, 390 members of the clergy were convicted of abusing children. However, some clergymen who had sexually abused children had been ordained.
2504 safeguarding referrals were made to dioceses in England in 2018 concerning children or vulnerable adults. Of 449 concerns raised regarding child sexual abuse, a significant percentage related to the possession of indecent images of children by members of the Churches.
Professor Alexis Jay, Chairwoman of the Inquiry stated that “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”.
The report found that there were insufficient numbers of safeguarding officers in the church and that record-keeping was almost “non-existent”.
The Report stated that it is imperative that the Church of England improves its response to child sexual abuse allegations, although it acknowledged that the Church of England had made “a number of important improvements”.
The report concludes by noting that the Church has failed and continues to fail in its purpose: to teach right from wrong.
The report recommended that:
Information should be shared between the Church of England and the Church in Wales about clergymen who move between the two.
The Church’s response to safeguarding complaints should be improved e.g. expel members of the clergy who are found guilty of child sexual abuse offences.
Diocesan bishops should not be responsible for safeguarding. Rather, safeguarding officers should be employed by the Church.
The Churches should implement policies to fund and support individuals who have been sexually abused by perpetrators who have a connection to the Church.
The Church of England has confirmed that it “must learn lessons from this inquiry”. Its lead safeguarding bishop, Dr Gibbs, and the Church’s national director of safeguarding, Melissa Caslake, have stated that they “want to express our shame about the events that have made those apologies necessary”.
The Church of England has approved a pilot scheme to compensate individuals who have been sexually abused by members of the clergy. It is possible that the pilot scheme may be extended to a full redress scheme in light of the IICSA’s report.
For further information about the IICSA or to speak in confidence with one of Farleys’ abuse claim specialists, please contact us on 0330 134 6430 or if you would prefer to email you can do so here.