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How the Church of England tried to hush-up perverted vicar scandal - more details emerge

How the Church of England tried to hush-up perverted vicar scandal - more details emerge
Former All Saints Church priest reveals that a senior figure in the Church told him not to speak to his congregation after vicar Peter Cranch was found guilty of abusing a choirboy

Oct. 18, 2017

A priest who joined a Devon church after its previous vicar was revealed to be a known paedophile has told how he was ordered by a senior member of the church not to speak of it during a sermon.

And this week it has emerged that the case forms part of the national Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican church.

DevonLive has now spoken to Father Trevor Smyth, who has confirmed that neither he nor his Exmouth congregation received any support from the Diocese of Exeter, or from higher up within the Church, after disgraced vicar Peter Cranch was jailed for abusing a choirboy at All Saints Church in Exmouth.

Cranch had also served as vicar at other churches across Devon (see timeline below) including at Torquay's Ellacombe Church, in Exeter and as a curate in Tavistock.

Father Trevor said he was never made aware of the reasons why Cranch left All Saint's until he was appointed in January 2001.

And that he only found out about Cranch's sex abuse court appearances after being tipped off by a member of the congregation who showed him press cuttings.

When Cranch was found guilty of six charges of assaulting a male under 16, four of a serious sexual assault and two of indecency with a child over a five-year period between 1985 and 1990 at All Saints, Father Trevor was left to deal with the media outside the church by himself.

And he had to wait until the news was aired on television to find out the outcome of the trial.

It has emerged that before being sent to Exmouth, it was known within the higher ranks of the church that Cranch had a history of sex attacks on boys dating back to the 1970s.

The church issued a public apology for its conduct following the scandal, but no senior clergy have ever appeared in person to apologise to the All Saints' congregation.

Father Trevor, who left All Saints in April 2015 and is now at a parish in East Sussex, said: "I heard nothing personally from the church and nor did the congregation or families affected specifically.

"There was certainly no word at all from the Diocese of Exeter. In some places where there has been abuse in the church you hear of apologies being made at the time or subsequently, but at All Saints there was nothing at all.

"You just feel for the families to be honest."

The church covered up a catalogue of abuse, then installed a paedophile priest, but 30 years after he ruined another boy's childhood no-one has visited to say 'sorry'

When Cranch was removed from All Saints after allegations came to light that he had continued his reign of sexual abuse against a choirboy when he was aged between eight and 12, another vicar took over at the church before Father Trevor took on the role.

He recalled: "It was obvious what had happened was still fresh in peoples' minds and I remember their reaction when the news came through of his conviction.

"There were different reactions and one was relief after all that time since it had occurred.

"That Sunday after his conviction I preached about forgiveness and reconciliation.

"Someone said to me afterwards that I was brave in what I said but I don't know if I was brave or foolish as I had been told by a senior member of the church, I won't say who, to say nothing about it to the congregation.

How pervert priest Peter Cranch stole a boy's childhood

"There was no legal reason not to, and my biggest concern was for the families and the congregation. I owed it to them to speak of the subject, not in any detail or personally about individuals.

"I just felt from the heart something needed to be said. Their confidence had to be won again, not just with their priest but also the church. I was there almost seven years and the parish deserved continuity to build up their confidence."

Despite a lengthy campaign by parishioner Graham Martin, 70, of Lympstone, the congregation is still waiting for a personal apology 30 years on.

Father Trevor, who became known as 'Father Treasure' by his congregation because he was a such a popular priest, said: "It's easy to say in hindsight the church should have dealt with things differently. Often the practice now is public apologies and even to see families and victims because the church is now much more proactive.

"I think it would be helpful for the parish at large, or the congregation, to receive an apology to have that element of closure."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Exeter told DevonLive earlier this week: "At the time of Peter Cranch's conviction, the then Bishop of Exeter, Michael Langrish, issued a public statement apologising for the church's many failures in relation to this case.

"The current Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell, quoted from this statement in his recent correspondence with Graham Martin.

"The bishop's office has since sent the case to be reviewed by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

"The Diocese of Exeter will be guided by the wishes of the survivors in this case before making any further public statements.

"The diocese is absolutely committed to ensuring that its churches are safe and welcoming to all, and that its safeguarding procedures today are rigorous and thorough."


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