C of E admits to failings over allegations against priest who took his own life

The Guardian [London, England]

August 25, 2021

By Harriet Sherwood

The Church of England has admitted it made mistakes in its handling of unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse against a former Anglican priest who took his own life.

The C of E expressed “deep regret and sorrow” over Father Alan Griffin’s death and said it took responsibility for failings that “led to unreasonable pressures” on him.

Lambeth Palace, the headquarters of the archbishop of Canterbury, and the diocese of London were responding to a highly critical coroner’s report issued last month into Griffin’s death in November 2020.

The report said that Griffin, 76, had killed himself “because he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told”.

It added: “Father Griffin did not abuse children. He did not have sex with young people under the age of 18. He did not visit prostitutes. He did not endanger the lives of others by having sex with people whilst an HIV risk. And there was no evidence that he did any of these things. He was an HIV positive (viral load undetectable) gay priest.”

The coroner, Mary Hassell, also warned that more clergy deaths would follow unless action was taken to improve safeguarding procedures.

Griffin had been a C of E priest before converting to Roman Catholicism in 2012. An investigation into allegations of child abuse was begun by the Anglican diocese of London in 2019, and the claims were passed to Roman Catholic safeguarding authorities.

In its response, the C of E said: “We accept that the concerns raised in respect of Father Griffin were unsubstantiated … that good practice around evidence gathering, verification, and evaluation of information prior to action was lacking.” No legal advice was sought.

It agreed that further steps should have been taken to verify information before sharing it with Roman Catholic authorities. “The way the information was documented and passed to the Roman Catholic church is a matter of deep regret for the diocese of London.”

The diocese said it was setting up a “lessons learned” review to “make recommendations about what could be done better in the Church of England to help prevent such a death taking place again”.

Colette Limbrick, the director of the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency, said it would be responding to the coroner’s report shortly and an independent review had begun into Griffin’s death “to ensure concrete actions are taken to prevent future deaths”.