Church Child Protection Service Responds To Child Abuse Statement

The Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) says it “was very pleased” to see the “timely” statement made by The Archbishop of Canterbury in which he expressed his “deep sorrow over the suffering experienced in child abuse cases involving the church”.

In an open letter to the Archbishop, CCPAS Executive Director David Pearson said his organisation was “aware of the hard work of so many within the Church of England to safeguard children”.

However, Mr Pearson explained that as a result of media enquiries following the recent Halliday case, “it has been necessary for us to challenge some of the statement made by the Church of England…which suggested that things were somehow ‘very different’ in 1990 when these particular concerns first came to light.”

He added: “Various spokespersons for the Church of England referred to the government guidance ‘Safe from Harm’ issued in 1993. This was about the safe recruitment of workers and did not directly address the issue of reporting crimes against children. However, I accept that clergy were not sufficiently aware of their responsibilities at the time.”

Mr Pearson, who was himself sexually abused by a youth leader in the 1950s, said that on discovering the situation local leaders immediately reported the matter to the police.

“I have been involved in child protection issues as a social worker and social work manager over a 40-year period. The expectation regarding reporting serious crimes has never been any different although, as we know, until denominations and others issued proper child protection guidance many churches failed in their responsibilities to act appropriately in such cases.

“Having looked at numerous historic cases over time, it is quite clear to me that the dominating factor has been the desire to protect the interests of the church; the needs of children have not properly or adequately been addressed.”

He said it was “very unfortunate” that despite the introduction of policies and training in the 1990s,” those who have been involved in failing to report such matters were not able to reflect on past decisions and discuss such matters with the statutory authorities.”

Mr Pearson stressed that “it is never too late to act in these sorts of cases” and urged the Archbishop to “now do all within your power to persuade diocesan authorities to address this issue, specifically re-opening old files, re-examining any historic instances where cases of abuse have possibly been hushed up – and reporting such matters to the police as soon as practicable.”

He said: “This is the only way to obtain justice for those who have been abused and to help them come to terms with what happened to them. It will also send a clear signal to any others tempted to abuse children within a Church of England setting that senior Anglican clergy will not tolerate such behaviour – and will ensure that all allegations of abuse, no matter how long ago they took place, will be properly and fully investigated.”