Church of England Denies Choirboy Abuse Cover-up

The Church of England is today fighting off allegations that it covered up years of child abuse by an ex-choirmaster.

Published 26 April 2007
The Church of England is today fighting off allegations that it covered up years of child abuse by an ex-choirmaster.

Peter Halliday, 62, formerly a choirmaster in Farnborough, Hampshire, admitted indecently assaulting boys under his care between 1985 and 1990. He was sentenced by Winchester Crown Court to two-and-a-half years in jail today and ordered to pay £2,000 to each of his three victims.

The Church of England has been strongly criticised for failing to report the abuse to police when church authorities were first made aware by the parents of one victim in 1990.

Halliday was instead told he should leave quietly and agree that he would have no more contact with young children. He went on, however, to work with young boys when he became a singer in the Royal School of Church Music.

Independent Christian charity, the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service, said the Church of England had "seriously mishandled" the situation, criticising in particular the Church's failure to notify police of the abuse and to remedy previous inaction when it later implemented its child protection programme.

"It is also misleading to suggest that there was only one opportunity to act in this case," said the CCPAS. "The introduction a few years later of the Church of England's child protection policy and their training programme should have highlighted to those concerned the inappropriateness of actions previously taken and this should have resulted in a different response."

The Diocese of Guildford expressed regret and sadness over the child abuse by Halliday but said it was "completely satisfied" with the way it had handled the abuse charges at the time.

"Church officers at every level acted in good faith in accordance in what they perceived to be in the best interests of child and family - at that time, in that setting - before the law and government guidelines were as they are today," said diocesan spokesman, the Rev Mark Rudall.

He added that child protection policy within the Church of England was under constant review and expressed his hope that Halliday's sentencing today had provided "some kind of closure for what must have been many years of background distress to their lives".

In a statement released today, the Church of England reaffirmed its commitment "to the safeguarding, care and nurture of the children within our community" and offered reassurances that those working with children are properly vetted by police.
"We respond without delay to every complaint made, that a child or young person for whom we are responsible may have been harmed, and fully co-operate with statutory agencies during any investigation they make into allegations concerning a member of the church community," it said.

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