Church of England apologises to abuse victim after review finds failings

The Church of England has said it is "truly sorry" for abuse suffered at the hands of a priest after a review concluded that senior clergy failed to take appropriate action when it was brought to their attention. 

Rev Trevor Devamanikkam's victim, Matthew Ineson, was 16 years old when the abuse occurred in Bradford in the 1980s. He has since waived his right to anonymity and did not engage with the review.

Rev Devamanikkam was charged with six counts of sexual abuse and had been due to appear in court in June 2017 but committed suicide before the hearing could take place. 

Ineson made a number of disclosures to clergy in 2012 and 2013 and alleged that this information was not acted upon. 

The independent lessons learnt review into the Church of England's handling of the allegations said that the then Archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu, was copied into a letter from the victim to the Bishop of Sheffield detailing the allegations of abuse. 

According to the review, Lord Sentamu said it was his impression that the Bishop of Sheffield, who at that time was Dr Steven Croft, was responsible for dealing with the allegations and that he had no authority to deal with safeguarding disclosures relating to another diocese. 

The independent reviewer, Jane Humphreys, concluded that he could have done more to ensure that the Bishop of Sheffield was responding to the allegations and that the victim was receiving the necessary support. 

"The Archbishop of York should have sought advice from his Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser at the time as to how to proceed with the letter sent from the survivor," the report said. 

"The survivor's allegation that he disclosed his abuse to the Archbishop of York, and he did not act on this, is substantiated."

In response, Lord Sentamu told The Telegraph that the conclusions were based on a "fundamental misunderstanding" of his responsibilities at the time and that he had acted in accordance with Church Law. 

Commenting on her review, Ms Humphreys said, "This Learning Lessons review has taken far too long to complete and is well overdue.

"Whilst I respect the wishes of the survivor not to be involved in the review, I hope the findings and recommendations in my report give him some assurances that the abuse he suffered and the lack of support he received from the Church have now finally been recognised." 

The Church of England's lead safeguarding bishop, Joanne Grenfell, said, "The Church should be ashamed that a vulnerable 16-year-old in its care was let down by the Church and abused by someone in a position of trust. We are truly sorry for the abuse he suffered and for our failure to respond well." 

She added, "Our response was not good enough and a new policy going to Synod this July about safeguarding practice reviews should help improve the process."