Report addresses child protection failures in Chichester
Published 31 August 2012
A report has outlined new measures to protect children in the Diocese of Chichester in the light of “failures” by senior clergy to take action when reports of abuse emerged.
The report is the conclusion of an inquiry into child protection in the diocese overseen by Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC and carried out at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
It comes after the former vicar of St Barnabas in Bexhill-on-Sea, Colin Pritchard, was jailed for sexually abusing two boys.
The report states that the authorities in the diocese were “very slow to recognise what was happening and did not act with the rigour and expedition vital to all safeguarding work”.
It notes a “profoundly unhelpful and negative culture in parts of the diocese that led to its failure to take the action needed”.
“Reports that we have seen, together with the evidence we have heard, indicates that the history of safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester has in the past fallen woefully short of what should be expected of any institution with a ministry and care for children and young people,” it states.
The report makes a number of recommendations. It calls for a change in culture to place the sanctity, dignity and wellbeing of children “at the heart of the diocese”.
The “dysfunctionality” within the senior diocesan team must also “be urgently addressed”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “The interim report confirms that there have been many and longstanding failures in implementing a robust and credible safeguarding policy in the Diocese of Chichester.
“The guidelines laid down by the national Church and the agreed standards of best practice have not been consistently followed and the flaws in safeguarding practice have put children and others at risk.”
Dr Williams said he would continue to review child protection in the diocese after the report highlighted areas of outstanding concern.
“In the light of this, I have decided that the visitation should continue and that both safeguarding and appointments matters should be conducted under the supervision of this office until uniformly better practice can be assured,” the Archbishop said.
The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said in a statement: “Together with all who exercise the responsibility for leadership, we shall work across the diocese of Chichester to ensure that we are able to act, and seen to do so, whenever the issue of a child’s protection is at stake. This will be fundamental to building trust in our working relationships with statutory and voluntary partners.
“We have much to learn from all that has happened and must be humble in doing so, accepting our failures, responding with honesty and penitence, and demonstrating proper and appropriate engagement with those who are the victims of criminal and sub-Christian behaviour.”
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