Goddard Inquiry to Hold Preliminary Hearing on Abuse Linked to Church

The Guardian
March 16, 2016

The Royal Courts of Justice. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

The independent inquiry into child sex abuse is to hold a preliminary hearing on Wednesday in an investigation into the track record of Anglican churches in England and Wales in preventing exploitation, dealing with perpetrators and helping survivors to overcome trauma and obtain justice.

Scrutiny of the Church of England’s policies and practices on child sex abuse comes a day after a damning review of the church’s failures to respond to a survivor over a period of almost 40 years called for far-reaching cultural and structural change.

One strand of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA), headed by Lowell Goddard, will focus on the diocese of Chichester, which has been at the centre of allegations of child protection failures.

Last year Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes, which falls within the diocese, was jailed for 32 months for the abuse of 18 vulnerable young men and boys dating back to the 1970s. After a police investigation in the 1990s resulted in a caution, Ball resigned as a bishop but continued to officiate within the church.

Also last year, the C of E issued an apology and paid compensation to an alleged victim of George Bell, the former bishop of Chichester who died in 1958. The survivor first reported being abused as a small child by Bell 20 years ago, but the matter was not investigated or referred to police at the time.

Other members of the clergy in the diocese have been convicted or accused of child sex abuse. In 2012 an inquiry ordered by the then archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, concluded that the diocese had “an appalling history” of child protection failures, and said “fresh and disturbing” allegations continued to emerge.

One of Wednesday’s preliminary hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London will hear submissions from counsel to the inquiry on the scope of the investigation, applications from people and organisations seeking to be designated “core participants”, and discussion of timings for future proceedings.

A second preliminary hearing in the afternoon will deal with procedural matters relating to an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation at Cambridge House boys hostel, Knowl View school and other institutions linked to Rochdale borough council.

That strand of the investigation will consider the extent to which children with special needs, disabilities or other vulnerabilities may have been at greater risk of sexual abuse and whether their vulnerabilities led to failings in protecting them.

Investigations into Rochdale will also examine claims that boys were subject to sexual abuse by individuals including the former MP Cyril Smith.

Goddard’s inquiry, which is expected to take five years, will look at various institutions and public figures and scrutinise the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Labour party and the security and intelligence agencies, as well as people of public prominence associated with Westminster.








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