Church rocked by damning report into child protection failures

THE DIOCESE of Chichester has come in for yet more heavy criticism in a damning new report.

A “profoundly negative culture” within the diocese, responsible for Church of England churches and priests in Eastbourne and the surrounding area, led to two decades of child protection failures and the inquiry by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office said “fresh and disturbing” aspects of the way abuse claims were handled keep surfacing.

The diocese has also been labelled “dysfunctional” with no drive or direction from the top, arrogantly in denial, somewhere priests were allowed to officiate without up-to-date CRB checks and there were weaknesses within safeguarding policies, which were unclear.

Its authors said, “It is clear to us that many lives have been blighted. Some have sought justice through the courts of law. Clergy have gone to prison for their abuse of children. We are clear that those who have sought justice through the courts are but the tip of the iceberg.

“A whole series of investigations and reports across nearly two decades bears witness to a profoundly unhelpful and negative culture in parts of the diocese that led to its failure to take the action needed,” it added.

The authors of the interim report into the diocese spent months talking to men and women abused as children at the hands of clergy, who have now received apologies – but even the letters were sent were impersonal and insufficient, according to the report.

Lambeth Palace has said it will now oversee appointments and child protection matters in Sussex after the release of the report - by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams’s office and believed to be the first of its kind in the Church of England for more than a century.

The report said, “We recommend the new bishop, together with his senior team, the diocesan safeguarding officer and the members of the diocesan safeguarding group, re-commit themselves to a programme of training led by independent and professionally trained people in the safeguarding field.

The authors have also suggested the diocese should offer to help fund a survivors group, set up by Phil Johnson from Eastbourne, who was abused by Roy Cotton when he was a choirboy at St Andrew’s in Seaside in the 1980s.