Report: Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – The Anglican Church Investigation October 2020

This Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) investigation report concerns the extent to which the Church of England and the Church in Wales protected children from sexual abuse in the past. It also examines the effectiveness of current safeguarding arrangements. A public hearing on these specific areas was held in 2019.

This report also draws on the previous two case studies on the Anglican Church, which related to the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball.

In addition to recommendations made in the case studies, the IICSA make eight recommendations in this report, covering areas such as clergy discipline, information‑sharing and support for victims and survivors.

The IICSA will return to other matters raised in this investigation, such as mandatory reporting, in the Inquiry’s final report.

Key findings

Some of the key findings and recommendations include the following:

  • The Church of England failed to protect some children and young people from sexual predators within the church itself, instead defending those accused.

The report cited the examples of the late Dean of Manchester Cathedral, Robert Waddington, who was able to continue despite serious allegations, and Reverend Ian Hughes, from Merseyside, who was convicted in 2014 for downloading 8,000 indecent images of children – offending which was minimised by a senior colleague.

This was admitted as such by the archbishops of Canterbury and York in a statement ahead of the inquiry findings, apologising to the survivors of abuse.

The Most Rev Justin Welby and the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell said they were “truly sorry for the shameful way the Church has acted and we state our commitment to listen, to learn and to act in response to the report’s findings”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury appeared himself before the inquiry, but denied giving bishops “an easy ride”, amid allegations the Church failed to sanction members of the clergy accused of committing or failing to report child sexual abuse.

  • The Church of England has struggled to develop a model for effective safeguarding within its organisational structure.

The inquiry found the Church had yet to find a way for safeguarding to function at a local level, with diocesan safeguarding officers taking decisions and reporting matters to the relevant authorities rather than simply leaving it with their bishop.

The report said these safeguarding officers – and not members of the clergy – would be “best placed to decide which cases to refer to the police or social services”, and what action should be taken by the Church to keep children safe.

The report identified that bishops “have an important role to play” in encouraging the development of suitable safeguarding, but recommended they should not hold operational responsibility for safeguarding.

In addition, the report found that the funding of safeguarding was “piecemeal and insufficient” until changes were brought in five years ago.

In a statement, the Church of England said: “Despite the important steps that it has taken, the Church still has much more work to do to get safeguarding right.

“While there has been some improvement in recent years, we wholeheartedly regret that in some areas, most importantly support for victims and survivors, progress has been too slow.”

  • The Church of England and the Church in Wales should introduce a Church-wide policy on the funding and provision of support to victims and survivors.

The inquiry heard evidence from survivors of a lack of support available to them. The inquiry recommended a Church-wide policy setting out which different types of support, including counselling, should be offered.

The inquiry recommended the mandatory policy should make clear that support should always be offered as quickly as possible, taking into account the needs of the victim over time.

Last month the Church of England announced it had set up a compensation pot for survivors of historic abuse by members of the clergy, reckoned to cost in the region of £200 million.

  • People with a history of child sexual offending have been ordained.

The inquiry also heard evidence of members of the clergy who were unable or unwilling to properly fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities.

This underlines the findings in the report – and allegations from elsewhere – that senior members of the Church allowed those suspected or found to have committed some form of abuse to “hide” within the institution.

Download the full report here.