in the back
Hear no evil…
C of E abuse , Issue 1530
bishops.jpg LIKE buses, Church of England inquiries into sexual abuse come in threes. Unlike buses, they rarely reach their destination.

In July 2019, the church said it was holding “Lessons Learned” inquiries into three of the most notorious scandals – an announcement conveniently timed to pre-empt the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which was turning its spotlight on the C of E the following week. All three were due to conclude months ago, but nothing has appeared. If you stand at the bus stop outside Lambeth Palace, all you hear is the sound of cans being kicked down the road.

The first inquiry is into serial abuser Bishop Victor Whitsey. He has been dead for 30 years, but many of his victims are still alive and suffering. The case comes uncomfortably close to a living bishop, Robert Hardy, who served as Whitsey’s curate in Manchester and was later accused of failing to deal with abuse he knew about in Lincoln. The Whitsey review could have begun three years ago, when Cheshire Police concluded its investigation. Instead the church said it would start mid-2019 and produce a report in March 2020. There’s still no sign of it.

Spirited away to Zimbabwe
The second review is into the alleged rapist Revd Trevor Devamanikkam. He took his own life in 2017 on the eve of his trial, so an inquiry could have started then instead of waiting another two and a half years. The case comes uncomfortably close to the C of E’s most senior lawyer, Canon John Rees, who served as a curate under Devamanikkam in Leeds. The report was due in May 2020 but has not appeared.

The third inquiry is into John Smyth QC, the Anglican lay reader who beat young men in his shed in Winchester, before being spirited away to Zimbabwe, where he continued his attacks on boys as young as 11. The church could have launched an inquiry in August 2013, when a full account of the abuse arrived on Archbishop Justin Welby’s desk. Instead it waited another five years, then failed to appoint a reviewer for a further year.

The report was originally due in May 2020 but has been postponed twice and is now expected in 2021. It is likely to criticise dozens of prominent clergy who had known about Smyth’s abuse since the 1980s but said nothing. The reviewer is paid £650 a day, so he can hardly be blamed for taking his time.

Known abuser
One known abuser who is still alive to spill the beans is Revd Jonathan Fletcher. He was patron and mentor to a generation of evangelical leaders, including Revd Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton, Revd Hugh Palmer of All Souls, Langham Place, and Revd Will Taylor of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate.

Curiously, the national C of E has chosen not to inquire into Fletcher’s predatory behaviour with generations of young men (Eyes passim). It has been left to his former church to commission its own review. That began in December 2019 and was due to report in May 2020. Surprise, surprise, the deadline has now been extended to an unspecified time in 2021.

More top stories in the latest issue:

CHARITY QUIZ
An aid charity lost track of millions of pounds’ worth of goods shipped to Syria and allowed an individual with dodgy links to act as its spokesman.

TRYING AND TESTING
The government is spending more than £60m a year fighting disability claims – even though it loses three out of every four cases that end up at a tribunal.

SENIOR MOMENTS
A scheme to pull talented managers into the senior ranks of the police from other sectors brought in tiny numbers of recruits, the College of Policing says.

TIME FOR ANSWERS
The infected blood inquiry resumes public hearings this month, aiming to find out how and why so many haemophiliacs and transfusion patients were affected.

NORTHERN EXPOSURE
Cyber attacks on Newcastle and Northumbria universities left students and staff with no access to systems as they tried to prepare for the new academic year.

BAIL FAIL
A damning high court judgment has forced the government to abandon its “systemically unfair” policy towards immigrant offenders.

PRIMODOS SUSPECT
Baroness Cumberlege criticised the medicines regulator in a damning report on the pregnancy-test drug Primodos – but the signs are that little will change.

TROUBLE BREWING
Changes to the small brewers’ duty relief scheme came as a nasty surprise to smaller independent brewers already facing severe financial uncertainty.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1530 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 22nd September 2020
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