Arrests after historic child sex abuse allegations at Lincolnshire churches

By Paul Whitelam
Lincolnshire Live
December 13, 2016

The diocese is committed to protecting vulnerable people

Arrests have been made following a number of allegations of historic sexual abuse of children at some of Lincolnshire's churches.

Lincolnshire Police has confirmed a number of people have been bailed pending further enquiries as part of an investigation called Operation Redstone.

This was launched following "a number of concerns" being referred to the force in 2015 after a review of past safeguarding cases by the Diocese of Lincoln dating back to 1958.

As a result, Stephen Crabtree, below, who served as the rector of Washingborough and Heighington until 2014, was jailed for three years in March this year after admitting six counts of indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl between April 1992 and April 1993.

Lincolshire Police confirmed in September that it was looking into historic abuse claims surrounding the Cathedral School in Lincoln, which educated the minster's choristers and was amalgamated with others in 1996 to become Lincoln Minster School.

Operation Redstone covers all areas of the Diocese of Lincoln but neither officials there or Lincolnshire Police will give specific details about the number of arrests or the number of alleged victims, citing operational reasons.

However, a charity which supports historic victims of child abuse believes that giving such detail could prompt more alleged victims to come forward, as has happened in the youth football abuse scandal.

Peter Saunders, founder of The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), said: "Our priority is always to support the victims and we would want to avoid anything that would hamper any potential prosecutions.

"Victims do deserve some semblance of justice and if the perpetrators are still alive there's some hope.

"But I think it would be helpful for the Diocese of Lincoln and Lincolnshire Police to release details of the number of arrests and the number of complaints in this investigation in a considered and appropriate manner.

"This could give other alleged victims the confidence to come forward.

"I have personally spoken to a number of Jimmy Savile's victims who say: 'If only we had known there were others I'd have come forward'."

Heather Roach, former Deputy Chief Constable at Lincolnshire police and chairman of the Bishop's safeguarding oversight panel, which was formed to provide independent scrutiny of safeguarding practice and policy within the Diocese of Lincoln, said: "The police have people on bail pending further enquiries, there's a number of victims.

"There's a really big commitment from Bishop Christopher to make sure safeguarding is everybody's business.

"I want to ensure we have a forward thinking culture. The work we are doing with the police has enabled victims to feel confident to talk about their incidents and what's happened to them.

"It's taken a lot of courage for them to do that. Our message is that the support is there for people to come forward and they will be listen to and they will be treated sensitively and appropriately.

"We have victims within the Diocese of Lincoln that have not been dealt with appropriately in the past.

"People were not been treated seriously when they have come forward, we have had allegations made that previously were not dealt with properly.

"Now, we will treat people properly and we are listening to people."

She said that safeguarding policies now extend right down to parish level and diocese staff and clergy are trained to report anything suspicious.

But Mrs Roach, a former Lincolnshire Police officer who rose to rank of Deputy Chief Constable, added: "Faith can be a blocker. Victims often feel they have done something wrong.

"Victims sometimes think of such perpetrators as men of the cloth who have not done anything wrong.

"Then there's the element of forgiveness, but also part of them feels they need justice, so there's a contradiction."

In the case of Crabtree, his victim had reported the offences to the then Bishop of Grimsby the Rt Rev David Rossdale and Crabtree admitted them to the bishop.

Mr Rossdale said he was first made aware in 2000 but Crabree was only arrested in 2015 following the review of past complaints.

He said Crabtree admitted the offences and the bishop had tried to pursue the matter but "nobody offered a way forward".

Mrs Roach said: "On this occasion it fell short of what we would really want to happen. Now, all that has changed for the better."

Superintendent Rick Hatton, of Lincolnshire Police, said: "A small team of officers are still working on Operation Redstone and receiving full co-operation from the safeguarding team at the Diocese of Lincoln.

"As we have said before, we will not elaborate on the statement we have already provided other than to emphasise that it is an ongoing and sensitive enquiry and we will not discuss aspects of it which have the potential to jeopardise a successful outcome.

"Arrests have been made as part of our enquiry and individuals are on police bail. We are not prepared to say how many arrests have been made but when anyone is charged with an offence or there are any developments we will make an announcement."


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