Church of England review of sex abuse was ‘botched’

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The Church of England “botched” an inquiry into historical allegations of sexual abuse, the author of a review of the report has said.

Sir Roger Singleton said the Church’s Past Cases Review in 2010 did not give a comprehensive picture of the problem and that those conducting it refused to speak to some survivors who wanted to tell their stories.

In public statements, the Church “downplayed negative aspects” of the PCR’s findings in order to avoid damaging the reputation of the institution and the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said the former Barnado’s boss.

But Sir Roger, whose report will be published soon, said he found “no evidence whatsoever of a deliberate attempt to mislead” and no evidence that anyone broke the law.

Dr Rowan Williams
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams (PA)

After survivors complained that the report was inadequate, Sir Roger was commissioned to carry out an independent review of how it was conducted.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was “botched in three ways”.

“The survey wasn’t completely comprehensive,” he said. “It didn’t include some cathedrals, it didn’t include employees working with children in some parishes.

“The attempts really to make the survey absolutely complete were flawed.

“In the public statement that it issued reporting on the review, (the Church) rather failed to give a comprehensive picture of the concerns that existed.

“It narrowed down the definitions of who had actually been responsible for abuse by limiting it to just new cases and cases where the Church took formal action. This had the impact of reducing the numbers from probably nearer 100 to just two which appeared in the public statements.”

Asked whether he found that Church officials were concerned to avoid reputational damage, Sir Roger said: “I think that is one of the factors that led those who prepared the press statement to emphasise the positive points for the Church and rather to downplay the negative aspects.”

He said it appeared “extraordinary” that some survivors were denied the chance to give evidence.

“There is no doubt that some victims and survivors came forward and offered to meet with the reviewers carrying out this work and that offer was refused,” he said.

Sir Roger added: “This was a well-intentioned attempt to try to ensure that whatever knowledge the Church may have of people who had actually abused children was carefully looked at. If it was necessary to report them to the police, they were reported.”

In the years since the PCR, the Church had made “strong efforts to improve its policies and training and to make more resources available”, he said.

But he added: “The Church needs to complete the incomplete job that it did 10 years ago by making sure that all files that are available are actually reviewed.

“The Church certainly could do with improved guidance on those circumstances where in fact people who have abused children or have been the subject of allegations of abuse should be referred to the police.

“The other thing the Church needs to do is to give as much emphasis on prevention, on trying to make sure that unsuitable people don’t get into positions of trust in the Church as it is now giving to ensuring that allegations are properly reported.”

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