Church sets up top-level investigation

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has ordered a top-level investigation be held into child protection policies after a catalogue of blunders saw paedophile priests allowed to practise in Eastbourne.

Dr Rowan Williams has set up an archiepiscopal visitation – the highest level of inquiry – of the operation of the Church of England’s Child Protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester, which includes Eastbourne.

It coincides with an investigation into the Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn, who lives in Eastbourne, by Lambeth Palace after a safeguarding advisory group made an official complaint against him alleging misconduct.

And it follows hot on the heels of the church’s apology to victims of paedophile priests Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard who abused young boys at St Andrew’s Church in Eastbourne in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cotton was ordained in 1966, despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choirboy in the 1950s, and went on to abuse at least 10 boys.

Dr Williams has appointed Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to carry out the enquiry who will report their findings and advise the Archbishop on any steps that need to be taken to ensure the highest possible standards of safeguarding in the diocese.

This will involve examining current child protection arrangements as well as making recommendations for the future. 

The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, has given his full support to the enquiry and the diocese “welcomed the visitation as an opportunity to resolve a number of issues”.

Last year a separate inquiry found senior clergy, including bishops, were slow to act on information available to them and to assess the potential risk to children in the diocese.