Church of England's 'culture of secrecy' under the spotlight in abuse inquiry

A public inquiry into sex abuse in the Church of England will focus on the institution's culture of secrecy.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, will focus on how the Diocese of Chichester handled sex abuse allegations and its failure to protect survivors.

Professor Alexis Jay chairs The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).IICSA

Fiona Scolding QC, the lead lawyer for the Anglican strand of the inquiry, said the inquiry would not focus on the late Bishop George Bell, former Bishop of Chichester, who was posthumously accused of assaulting a young girl in the 1940s and 1950s. However it will focus on the former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, who was imprisoned in 2015 after admitting he abused 18 young men over 15 years.

In a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, according to The Tablet, Scolding said the investigation would also ask: 'How far does the Church's attitude towards same-sex relationships, sexual orientation and gender contribute to difficulties with cultural change necessary to promote effective safeguarding?'

The public inquiry on the Diocese of Chichester will begin on March 5 and the hearing on Peter Ball on July 23.

The Church's lead on safeguarding, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, said: 'IICSA has announced today further details of the investigation into the Anglican Church in England and Wales, focusing on the Chichester case study, with the first public hearing in March.

'We welcome this update and commend the courage of survivors in coming forward to share their story which will play a vital part in the Inquiry. As a Church we have been working cooperatively with IICSA since the statutory inquiry was first announced in 2015 and we are committed to playing a full part in this three week public hearing, which has a clear focus on learning lessons for the future.'