news

Cover-up of a cover-up
CofE abuse cases, Issue 1474
roger-singleton.jpg
Sir Roger Singleton, whose report found ‘no evidence of a planned and deliberate attempt to conceal information’
IN a report published two weeks ago, former Barnardo’s chief Sir Roger Singleton concluded that the Church of England’s previous review of child abuse cases was “flawed”. He is too generous by half. It is clear that from start to finish the church’s primary concern was protecting its own reputation, even to the extent of arranging a cover-up of a cover-up.

The Past Cases Review (PCR) was initiated by Archbishop Rowan Williams in 2007 after a nasty spate of church child abuse revelations. When the Methodist Church ran a similar review, all serving ministers were mandated to report whatever they knew about past or present abuse in the church. The CofE review was limited to an audit of clergy personnel files to check there were no outstanding abuse cases that hadn’t been dealt with adequately.

Even this limited project did not go down well with Williams’s fellow bishops, who fought ferociously to limit its scope. Pearl Luxon, then head of safeguarding for the church, observed that “the bishops and the CofE as a whole were averse to exposing themselves to any greater scrutiny than was strictly necessary.” They agreed to take part only when Bishop Anthony Priddis, who was then the bishop in charge of safeguarding, promised that the completed review would be slipped out as quietly as possible. Even so, several dioceses refused to allow anyone external to audit their files, and one bishop did the job himself.

Down to zero
When the results were in, the numbers of clergy abuse cases reported by the dioceses was more than the church could bring itself to publish. In the weeks before publication, the Archbishops’ Council and senior figures in both Lambeth Palace and Church House sent the returns back to dioceses, asking them to whittle the numbers down to zero if possible.

They agreed that dioceses could exclude clergy who had been arrested without being internally disciplined, clergy who still posed a risk but were retired or not currently in post, clergy who worked in cathedrals or training colleges rather than parishes, clergy against whom no action had been taken despite allegations against them, and youth and children’s workers who were employed by a local church rather than a diocese. They also excluded cases that had arisen after the launch of the review, and clergy who had been disciplined by their bishops but whose “ministry had not been impeded” by the action.

In its original return, Chichester diocese reported more than 50 cases for concern; its revised return had just three. Another diocese reported nearly 40 cases, but under instruction from head office reduced this to, er, zero. According to the Eye’s sources, at one stage it looked as if the review of 40,000 files was going to return only two cases for concern in the entire Church of England. Then someone from the communications team pointed out that this might look less than credible, so the number was increased to 13.

None of this is mentioned in Sir Roger Singleton’s report, which says he found “no evidence of a planned and deliberate attempt to conceal information”. He thinks the PCR was flawed only in the sense that it “wasn’t completely comprehensive”.

‘Best practice’
In truth, it was downright dishonest. It was eventually published in 2010 with this confident declaration: “We firmly believe that any concerns about a member of clergy or other office holder’s suitability to work with children have now been thoroughly examined in the light of current best practice by independent reviewers.” Eight years later, seven dioceses have now been ordered to go through the whole process again. They include Sheffield, whose bishop at the time was Steven Croft – currently the Bishop of Oxford, and one of five senior clerics waiting to be interviewed by South Yorkshire police about their alleged failure to deal properly with abuse claims against a vicar.

Now the Eye learns that Croft has quietly restored former archbishop George Carey’s Permission to Officiate (PTO), which allows him to function as a priest. It was withdrawn in June 2017 after the disclosure that he had failed to act on accusations against Bishop Peter Ball, who was jailed in 2015 for sexual offences against 18 teenagers and young men. Carey also had to stand down as an honorary assistant bishop in the Oxford diocese, a punishment he called “unjust”.

There doesn’t seem to be any new information to justify giving Carey back his PTO: indeed, more embarrassing evidence is expected when his involvement in the Peter Ball case comes up at IICSA, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, at the end of July. But Croft was in a difficult position because of the mounting evidence that as Bishop of Sheffield he too failed to act against a clerical abuser, the Rev Trevor Devamanikkam. If Carey remained debarred, it might imply that Croft should lose his own Permission to Officiate – and that would never do, since the very same Steven Croft is now a strong contender to succeed John Sentamu as Archbishop of York!

More top stories in the latest issue:

RAAB UNCHAINED
Why Dominic Raab’s new job as head of DexEu will reassure the suits at Google who are worried about data sharing and protection after Brexit.

ALE TO THE CHIEF
The right-wing Brexiteers behind a jolly jape to turn a west London pub into the Trump Arms in honour of the US president’s visit to the UK.

ENOUGH OF EXPERTS!
Iain Duncan Smith warns against giving too much credence to big business – odd for someone who was once happy to cite the CBI as a reliable source.

PRICKLY HEATON
Why Chris Heaton-Harris, the new junior Brexit minister, is the headbangers’ headbanger.

TUC NEWS
The wealthy lawyer with a less than spotless past who’s emerging as favourite to succeed Len McKluskey as general secretary of Unite.

LIES & LIBOR
Evidence grows that connivance in fixing interest rate benchmarks went far higher up the chain at the banks and authorities than prosecutions suggest.

FLIGHT RISKS
Despite transport secretary Chris Grayling’s pledge that Heathrow expansion will be privately funded, UK taxpayers shouldn’t count the savings yet.

COURT CIRCULAR
Startling anomalies emerge from the royal household accounts, slipped out when all the royal hacks were in the Middle East with Prince William.

To read all the latest Private Eye news, get the latest edition - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 21st August 2018
gnitty
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE
MORE FROM PRIVATE EYE
ONLY IN THE MAGAZINE
Private Eye Issue 1474

ONLY £2.00
SUBSCRIBE HERE

NEXT ISSUE ON SALE
21st August 2018
In This Issue
    Football Fans ‘Proud to Be Hooligans Again’… Heatwave ‘Linked to Rare Weather Phenomenon Known as Summer’… People Who Never Had to do National Service Call for Return of National Service… Brexit Will Bring Huge Boost to Britain’s Candle Industry – Daily Express Exclusive… Vote Leave Disputes Electoral Commission Ruling and Calls for Re-run… Germaine Greer’s Diary, as told to Craig Brown
And also...
Exaro lives again
Website’s dodgy archive of batty claims arises like Lazarus
Shorting story
BlackRock bets against the Mail empire (and, er, one G. Osborne)
World Cup fever
Putin’s chums fund Russia’s great propaganda coup
For all these stories you can buy the magazine or subscribe here and get delivery direct to your home every fortnight.
WHY SUBSCRIBE?
Private Eye Issue 1473