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Almost 400 people in 'positions of trust' with the Church of England have been convicted of child sex offences, inquiry hears

Almost 400 people in 'positions of trust' with the Church of England have been convicted of child sex offences, inquiry hears
Inquiry probes the Church of England's response to child sex abuse allegations
Victims who made complaints were 'discredited or belittled by congregations'
Some clergy accused of abuse were allowed to keep their jobs and get promoted

By VANESSA ALLEN FOR THE DAILY MAIL
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/
July 1, 2019

Almost 400 clergy and volunteers from the Church of England have been convicted of child sex offences, it was revealed yesterday.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard 390 'in positions of trust' had been found guilty of sex offences involving children including sexual abuse and downloading indecent images.

Some 330 civil claims have been brought against dioceses, including 'significant numbers' dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, the inquiry heard.

A culture of 'excessive deference' towards church leaders and a lack of training about child protection meant some clergy who were accused of abuse were allowed to keep their jobs and even promoted.

Victims who made complaints were discredited or belittled by congregations and religious leaders who prized the reputation of the Church over the need to protect children or punish offenders, the counsel to the inquiry said.

Victims suffered 'considerable mental health difficulties' and sometimes lost their faith in God as a result of their abuse, Fiona Scolding, QC, added.

She told the inquiry: 'We will hear about the abuse of power, about clergy who considered themselves to be able to operate by different rules, about the sense of entitlement that can come with a clerical collar and how that has made others unduly deferential.'

The inquiry has started hearing evidence about the Church of England's response to child sex abuse allegations, including current safeguarding procedures.

It has previously criticised failings in the Diocese of Chichester, West Sussex, where 18 members of the clergy -- including former Bishop Peter Ball -- were convicted of offences during a 50-year period.

Miss Scolding said the Church had accepted the failings in Chichester were not unique to that diocese and detailed several convictions against clergy in other parts of the country.

In one case, a vicar kept his job and was even promoted after he was convicted of two indecent assaults against a 15-year-old schoolboy, because his bishop believed the convictions were a miscarriage of justice.

John Roberts was convicted in 1989 but was promoted to become a canon at Liverpool Cathedral six years later and was allowed to continue working until 2013 after a criminal record check failed to uncover his conviction.

Youth leader Tim Storey was allowed to continue working in Southwark, central London, despite admitting 'sexual activity' with teenage girls he groomed using social media, after meeting them through his role with the Church. He is now serving a 15-year jail sentence.

Miss Scolding said that since the Church introduced compulsory safeguarding training in 2016, the number of concerns reported to dioceses had risen from 1,052 reports in 2015 to 1,257 in 2017.

David Greenwood, a lawyer for several abuse victims, said paedophiles had 'good reason to feel safe' within the Church.

He told the inquiry: 'When it comes to safeguarding, this is a thoroughly disreputable organisation and cannot be trusted.'

The Church of England has apologised to victims of abuse. The inquiry continues.

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