Staffordshire Live [Derby, England, United Kingdom]
November 7, 2022
By Helen Kreft
An inquiry which looked into the case of paedophile priest from Burton has issued a raft of recommendations, saying that “time and time again” allegations of abuse in the Catholic church were ignored.
The case of Father Samuel Penney who admitted in court 10 offences of abusing children in the 1970s when he was priest at St Mary and St Modwen Church in Guild Street, in the town, was looked into. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which used Penney’s case in its inquiry, described the sexual abuse of children as an “epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake”. The inquiry has now issued its final; report after an in depth seven-year inquiry look at cases including Penney.
The inquiry concluded by calling for a national compensation scheme for victims to be introduced, along with laws compelling people in positions of trust to report child sexual abuse. The £186.6 million seven-year inquiry looked at 15 areas scrutinising institutional responses to child sexual abuse – including in the Catholic church. More than 7,000 victims have told their harrowing stories of abuse, many spanning years, to the inquiry.
One of these witnesses was a former Burton choirboy who had been abused by Penney in the 1970s. Penney was later jailed for seven and a half years in 1993 after admitting 10 offences of indecent assault against children, including assaulting the boy.
The boy, now in his 50s, previously told Staffordshire Live he was left speechless by some of the evidence in his case, particularly the revelation that one Catholic church worker wrote a report 25 years ago describing the boy shockingly as a “willing participant” in the abuse, despite him being aged just 11 at the time.
She gave evidence to the inquiry and was quizzed on the report she wrote, saying it was written in the 1990s and she now no longer held those views. Her report had described Penney as a “victim” and families of abused youngsters as “dysfunctional”.
The inquiry spent a week looking into the failings of the Archdiocese of Birmingham to protect young people from sexual abuse within the Catholic Church as part of the proceedings that involved Penney’s crimes.
It also heard from another of Penney’s victims and the victim’s mother who said she had reported his behaviour to the church, only for Penney to be moved to another parish. Penney was also set to be given money by a Catholic priest to flee the country before he could be arrested but the church backed down, the inquiry was told. It also emerged Penney was still paid an allowance for a period of time by the Catholic Church following his release from prison in 1997.
Even before the result of inquiry was published, the Catholic church’s National Catholic Safeguarding Commission said it would consider safeguarding infrastructure and organisation, the alignment of dioceses and religious congregations, accountability and training as well as initiating a further past cases review.
It said it would look at, not only the impact of abuse on children, but the way the church treated perpetrators, the way it treated victims, and the way it treats the community.
The inquiry has now outlined a raft of wide-ranging recommendations, including a “national redress scheme” to get compensation for victims “let down by the state and non-state institutions in the past” to be launched.
The UK Government should create a post for a minister for children at cabinet level and the Welsh Government should make sure there is cabinet-level responsibility for children while a Child Protection Authority (CPA) should also be established to “secure a much stronger focus on the complex work of child protection in the relevant institutions and statutory agencies”, the report said.
Professor Alexis Jay, chairwoman of the inquiry, said: “Across our investigations … we heard time and time again how allegations of abuse were ignored, victims were blamed and institutions prioritised their reputations over the protection of children.
“The nature and scale of the abuse we encountered were horrifying and deeply disturbing.
“As a society, we simply cannot file it away and consider it a historical aberration when so much of what we learned suggests it is an ever-growing problem, exacerbated by the current and future threat of the internet.
“I urge the UK government, the Welsh Government and all other relevant institutions to implement the inquiry’s recommendations as a matter of urgency.”