"Nobody offered a way forward" - Bishop knew of child sex-attack by ex-vicar 15 years ago

Lincolnshire Echo
April 3, 2016

Stephen Crabtree was jailed for three years and placed on the sex offences register for life

A senior clergyman claims the behaviour of a disgraced vicar who subjected a child to sex abuse was not swept under the carpet when it was first reported to him.

Stephen Crabtree, former rector of Washingborough and Heighington until 2014, was jailed for three years by Lincoln Crown Court after admitting six counts of indecent assault on a 15-year-old victim.

In court, it was said the victim had reported the offences to the then Bishop of Grimsby, the Rt Rev David Rossdale.

Crabtree subsequently admitted the offences to the Bishop on two occasions but was only arrested in 2015 after the church carried out a review of past complaints and the matter was passed on to police.

Speaking to the BBC, the Rt Rev Rossdale said he was first made aware of the offence in 2000 by the victim and had tried to pursue it.

He said: "With hindsight one might have tried to do different things but one is always subject and guided by lawyers.

"As Bishop you do not act independently – there are child protection advisors and you have to take a measured approach.

"Nobody offered a way forward."

Lincoln Crown Court heard how the victim said that she had been intimately touched by Crabtree and on one occasion he had simulated sex with her.

She said she had ended the relationship because she feared he would want full sex when she reached her 16th birthday.

Leading children's charity NSPCC has criticised the Church of England for not doing enough at the time.

In response to the case, the NSPCC said: "This is the latest in a series of sex abuse cases which have been overlooked by senior members of the Church of England, and exposes a worrying lack of action when grave allegations were made.

"It takes great courage for victims of abuse to come forward, and they must be able to do so in the knowledge they will be taken seriously.

"The Church needs to change the way it handles abuse claims and protects children to ensure a situation like this does not happen again.

"We hope lessons will be learned from the ongoing Church of England inquiry into this case. We have already written to the Church's safeguarding lead the Bishop of Durham offering support as the Church confronts its difficult past."

Crabtree, 59, admitted all six offences - said to have occurred in the 12 months between April 1992 and April 1993 – at an earlier hearing.

As well as being jailed, the disgraced clergyman who now lives in Bradford and who also served as a clergyman in East Lindsey, was placed on the sex offenders' register for life.

Lincolnshire Police say the force is currently working in partnership with the Diocese to investigate a number of allegations of non-recent abuse following a detailed file review.

Speaking after the hearing, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said: "It was by following current House of Bishop's practice guidelines that diocesan safeguarding staff recently discovered the allegations against Stephen Crabtree and immediately passed the information on to Lincolnshire Police.

"It is deeply shameful that the church's past handling of the allegation fell well short of the expectations at the time, and we have commissioned an external independent review into how these matters were dealt with at the time. We stand ready to offer support to anyone who contacts us about issues of harm and abuse."


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