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Archbishop of Canterbury ‘promises sex abuse inquiry’

The Archbishop of Canterbury has promised to investigate sex abuse in the Church of England if the judge-led abuse inquiry does not look into it within six months, survivors say.

Justin Welby made the promise during a private meeting with survivors earlier this week, they say.

The independent inquiry into child sex abuse led by Justice Lowell Goddard is expected to last five years.

Lambeth Palace said the archbishop wanted the Church to be reviewed first.

But it said if this did not happen within six months, then the archbishop would instigate an “independently-led past cases review”.

Muhammed al Huseini, who was one of five people representing survivors’ groups at the meeting at Lambeth Palace, said: “During the meeting that we had with Justin Welby he promised that he would undertake an independent audit into abuse in the Church of England and this independent audit would be overseen by survivors’ organisations, representatives, sat alongside representatives of the archbishop.”

‘Momentous’ day

Marilyn Hawes is founder of Enough Abuse UK, which she set up after her sons were abused by a Church of England headteacher.

She was at the meeting and told BBC Radio 5 live that day was a “momentous one for the survivor community”, adding that there needs to be an emphasis on abuse prevention in future.

“If we don’t care for our children, for healthy well being and healthy lives, if we don’t do that it defines what we are as people.

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“And if we don’t care for our children, then actually we care for nothing and nobody, and the people who should lead that are the Church.”

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, said the Church had covered up sex abuse in the past.

“We’re very supportive of the [judge-led] inquiry so we don’t want to do anything that runs counter to it.

“If they take us first, and they look at all those files and find that the way in which the [2010] review was done needs to be readdressed then we’re very happy to have an independent audit of that review.”

Justice Goddard has said the independent abuse inquiry could last until 2020

Institutions scrutinised

Home Secretary Theresa May ordered the independent inquiry into abuse in England and Wales in July 2014, following claims of a high-level cover-up of child sex abuse involving public figures, including politicians and clergy.

The inquiry, which was given statutory powers and a new panel in February, was opened earlier this week by Justice Goddard, who is a New Zealand High Court judge.

It will investigate whether “public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales”.

Justice Goddard has issued a call for anyone with information about sexual abuse cases to come forward, urging institutions responsible for caring for children, which may come under scrutiny, to take a “proactive stance towards the inquiry”.

She has written to more than 240 institutions, including the police, National Health Service and churches, asking for any documents that could be used in the inquiry.

‘Inadequate’ inquiry

The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt said not all survivors of clerical abuse wanted the church to investigate itself.

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“Some point to its last case review in 2010, which identified only 13 cases needing further action. Survivors say it was inadequate,” she said.

That review came after a three-year investigation by the Church of England into child abuse in the church.

About 40,000 diocesan files dating back more than 30 years were examined during the inquiry.

And victims of alleged abuse in the Church of England compare this with a recent review of historical abuse cases by the much smaller Methodist church, which showed over 900 such allegations going back to 1950, our correspondent added.

The Methodist Church’s investigation uncovered reports of nearly 2,000 cases of abuse – including 914 allegations involving sexual abuse.


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