Monday. 24 October 2016

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CoE finds one million pages of documents about child sex abuse

CSA inquiry clashes with Church of England over ‘disclosure’ and scope of investigation

Pic: Peter Trimming
Storm clouds: Chichester cathedral
Storm clouds: Chichester cathedral

We will consider the experience of the diocese of Chichester, a diocese that has been beset by allegations of sexual abuse

Lowell Goddard, chairwoman of CSA inquiry

More than a million pages of documents on child sex abuse have been found at just three of the Church of England’s 42 dioceses.

Exaro has learnt that the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse (CSA) demanded last month that the CoE hand over all relevant documents in its possession within 14 days, according to well-placed sources.

It wanted the documents in time for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday on the inquiry’s investigation into the Anglican churches.

But the CoE protested that the demand was unreasonable. One source told Exaro that the CoE and inquiry would be “overwhelmed” by the huge amount of material, and that neither “could cope anyway”.

The disclosure issue may be raised at Wednesday’s hearing.

The large volume of documents held by the CoE suggests that child sex abuse has plagued it on a far greater scale than so far realised. 

Exaro disclosed a private letter by Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, in 2014 in which he admitted that child abuse had been “rampant” in the CoE and other UK institutions.

Two of the CoE’s 42 dioceses cover Europe and the Isle of Man, but the other 40 are potentially within the scope of the CSA inquiry.

Sources close to each side told Exaro that clashes between them began as the inquiry prepared to announce last November its first phase of investigations, which included the CoE, the Church in Wales and other Anglican churches.

Welby had pressed Lowell Goddard, the New Zealand judge who is chairing the inquiry, to investigate the CoE as a matter of priority.

Ben Emmerson, counsel to the inquiry, advised that it would be overwhelmed if it tried to investigate all sexual abuse of children within the CoE, according to a source close to the barrister.

As a result, Malcolm Evans, the member of the inquiry panel who is leading investigations in education and religion, asked the CoE to choose a specimen diocese to be included in the inquiry’s scope.

But the CoE refused, telling the inquiry that it should select what it wants to investigate.

Goddard said in November that she welcomed Welby’s invitation to prioritise a CSA investigation into the CoE, and continued: “As a case study, we will consider the experience of the diocese of Chichester, a diocese that has been beset by allegations of sexual abuse, and subject to numerous investigations, reviews and inquiries.

The inquiry’s investigation may also cover the case of George Bell, the late bishop of Chichester, following the CoE’s settlement of a compensation claim last October from a woman who said that he had sexually abused her as a girl more than 60 years ago.

Critics have accused the CoE of “sacrificing” Bell’s reputation in an act of self-protection.

Goddard said that the inquiry would also examine whether an array of prominent people attempted to interfere in the case of Peter Ball, former bishop of Lewes and then Gloucester, who was jailed last October for sexual offences against 18 young men over 15 years.

An impasse between the inquiry and the CoE over the scope of the investigation came to a head at a fraught meeting last month between representatives of the two sides. It led to the demand by inquiry officials that the CoE hand over all relevant documents in its possession within 14 days.

A CoE spokeswoman refused to comment on the number of documents that had been found, but said: “There has certainly been no falling out, and we are working constructively and collaboratively with the national inquiry.”

“We are planning to give the inquiry all the documentation that it needs.”

She added. “A significant volume of documentation has already been provided to the Inquiry, and a great deal more material is being assembled.”

An inquiry spokeswoman declined to comment.

The first preliminary hearing, last Wednesday, concerned the inquiry’s investigation into Lord Janner, the late Labour peer and former MP who is alleged to have sexually abused boys from 1955 to 1984.

The inquiry expects to investigate the BBC later, despite last month’s publication of a comprehensive review of sexual attacks by two of its former stars, the late Sir Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall.

If you have information that might help our investigation, please contact us. Keep re-visiting Exaro for more on this investigation.

LIST OF OTHER PREVIOUS RELEVANT PIECES: Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread

Article Comments

I am baffled. The Archbishop of Canterbury encourages the Inquiry to make the C of E a priority in their investigations. The Inquiry's Ben Emmerson says such a thing could be overwhelming, and Malcolm Evans - also of the Inquiry - asks the C of E to indicate a particular diocese for scrutiny. The C of E refuses to choose a diocese saying the Inquiry must choose. Then we learn Lowell Goddard has chosen Chichester for closer scrutiny, and that the C of E thinks it unreasonable to have to hand over over a million relevant pages of information relating to three dioceses. Though the scope of the investigation is huge, the CSA Inquiry people need not be overwhelmed at all. They manage their own affairs. Surely, instead of all these intrigues the C of E should simply comply with the Inquiry's requests without quibbling. It is then up to the Inquiry to do what it wishes with the evidence, and that includes leaving it untouched in their archive. I have to say, at these early stages I am already loosing what little confidence I had in proceedings to start with. This is no way to carry on.
The Inquiry appears to be structured in such a way that by the time in the Dim and Distant Future when it finally reaches its conclusions, anyone who would be the subject of the Report will be long and truly dead and beyond any accountability.
Couldn't agree more. To hell with the church they can wait. 1st I'd prefer to see those in and around Parliament become the 1st to be prosecuted
Given how Exaro has been in vanguard of pushing for a full investigation of child abuse, now that that IICSA hearings are finally underway, I am confused why Exaro is not monitoring and reporting on the hearings and providing and equal level of "between the lines" insight and analysis?! Case in point already with respect to the Janner investigation .. if you read the transcript of the initial hearing a great deal of time was spent focused on the whether Nigel O'Mara should be given "core participant" status. On the surface, the answer would appear to be a no-brainer "yes, of course!" But apparently Justice Goddard is baulking. So the next question is "Why?" .. "What's going on?!" .. Exaro .. please, we need more from you, to help sort through the wood from the trees! .. Thank you!
Also re Janner why alleged?? He's dead you know so can't sue unless of course he isn't
So how is the Goddard inquiry going? And how much of taxpayers money has been spent so far? Connect the dots Exaro!

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