Child abuse victim wants public inquiry

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THE SOLICITOR representing victims of a church child abuse scandal in Eastbourne has said a public inquiry should be held.

Tracey Emmott is one of eight lawyers appealing for the inquiry into abuse within the church in England and Wales and made the call in a letter to The Times earlier this month.

Her seven clients are among the victims of paedophile priest Roy Cotton, who worked in churches within East Sussex and abused at least 10 boys from Eastbourne.

A Church of England spokeswoman said it would co-operate with a public inquiry.

A church-commissioned report by Baroness Butler-Sloss, released in May 2011, criticised both senior clergy and Sussex Police over how they dealt with historical claims of abuse.

The Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Lewes later issued a joint apology for abuse in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s by Cotton, who died in 2006, and another priest, Colin Pritchard, who was jailed for five years after admitting sexually abusing two boys.

An inquiry into child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester has already been set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office but Ms Emmott believes it should be an independent probe.

“There is limited acceptance of the inquiries thus far in the Diocese of Chichester because they have been commissioned within the Anglican church,” said Ms Emmott.

“Therefore I think both the public and the victims would be more satisfied if the matter had been scrutinised by an independent body.

Phil Johnson, one of Cotton’s victims, has backed the call for a public inquiry.

He and his brother, Gary, were both abused by Cotton and have waived their right to anonymity to criticise the Church of England’s failure to protect them.

“It needs somebody from outside to investigate, to look at all of the facts and for their findings to be reported publicly,” said Mr Johnson.

The Church of England said it recognised the “pain and hurt caused by abuses within a church context”.

A spokesperson said, “We continue both to promote the safest possible arrangements now and to try to respond well to people who come forward from the past.

“This involves working closely with the statutory authorities involved and with organisations that support the victims.

“We recognise this is an ongoing process and the church would of course co-operate with any public inquiry and work closely with those setting it up.”