On 21st January, we put up a post on a meeting which was taking place to discuss the issue of child abuse within the church; the minutes of this meeting are now available.
The meeting was held in London and was organised by highly concerned lawyers and victims of this kind of abuse. It was also attended by Esther Rantzen, film makers, journalists and charities. The minutes can be found below:
Minutes of Meeting of Interest Groups
27 January 2012
Conway Hall London 1.30 – 3.30 pm
David Greenwood (Chair) explained the reason for the convening of the meeting was that he and others had noticed an escalation in complaints of abuse by members of church organisations and he believed that there had been a number of missed opportunities for churches of all denominations to put in place and implement effective safeguarding procedures for children.
Richard Scorer of Pannone LLP spoke regarding the level of press interest and on legislation on Public Inquiries. Richard explained that the call for a public enquiry as set out in the Times article on the 17 January 2012 needs to be built by working effectively with the media.
Richard mentioned that the national catholic safeguarding commission has an annual budget of only £30,000 and that Baroness Scotland has recently resigned as it’s chair. He also mentioned that a Catholic safeguarding conference is due to take place on the 6 February 2012 in Rome and it is highly likely that there will be very little input from survivors.
Richard went on to mention that the Inquiries Act 2005 enables ministers to set up an inquiry so Richard suggests that we should focus attention on bringing this issue to the attention of the relevant ministers. He suggests that we should identify post Nolan commission cover up cases. Richard pointed out that Michael Gove needs to be educated as his recent comment that he has confidence in Vincent Nichols suggests that there are gaps in his knowledge of him.
Anne Lawrence of Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACAS) spoke. She explained that her view was abuse was endemic in the Catholic church and Church of England and as the two organisations are intertwined with the state we would be directly challenging the state in our call for a public enquiry and changes to the law. She expressed her view that there are likely to be compromises to be made in dealing with the scope of the enquiry. She explained the background to her comment is that she sees churches trying to explain abuse away by saying that the problem they have is small or does not exist. She had some interesting statistics and confirmed that every catholic order has had schools in which there have been abuse allegations. Churches will say that it is limited and they will try to minimise abuse and explain that churches leaders point to the Nolan Commission 2001 to say that they have put their house in order but she makes the observation that the Nolan Commission did not look at the extent of the abuse but only really dealt with the question of ‘what can we be seen to do about protecting children?’ Anne went on to say that there is a mindset of church organisations minimising abuse. She explained that there appeared to be a dynamic of abuse and then collusion after the event in some church organisations and we need to gather all possible evidence together and put together a series of cases to demonstrate the point. She mentions the cases of Pearce at Ealing, Robinson in the Arch Diocese of Birmingham and Clonan also in the Arch Diocese of Birmingham. These are only a few of the cases which could be used. Ann suggests that we need an open and transparent analysis as to the extent of abuse and cover ups and only a public enquiry will be able to cut through the churches’ structures. She mentioned that Northern Ireland, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands and Ireland have all held enquiries so why can’t England and Wales? She suggests that the department of education is likely to be the department most likely to be the decision maker of a public enquiry. She also mentioned that in North Wales an enquiry took place and said that there are many more children who had been abused in church organisations.
Tracey Storey of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors made a point that many do not realise how deeply embedded the culture of self protection is within church organisations.
Tom Perry, co writer of the docu-film “Chosen”, made a point that the Carlisle Report into Ealing Abbey was an exercise in re veneering and highlighted the lack of transparency involved with that inquiry.
Phillip Johnson who has complaints with the diocese of Chichester criticisms of the Butler-Sloss Inquiry.
Sue Cox of survivorsvoice-Europe explained that she had spoken at the protest the pope march in 2010 suggesting that the government appeared blind to the number of complaints of abuse. She made a point that in the last 10 years the approach of the Catholic church had not changed and that this had become an enormous issue. Statistics on the recent study of abuse in the Netherlands states that since 1940 10% of Dutch people have been abused by catholic clergy. She gave the example of the 70 deaf victims in Verona who had been horribly abused and spoke highly of their courage to come forward.
Sue made the point that she had met Frederico Lambardi, spokesman for the Pope and that Lombardi appearing to be deaf of the calls for real change and instead simply makes the point that other churches have had complaints of abuse recorded against them. She also makes the point that church organisations should be kept out of any decision making process.
Tracey Storey of Irwin Mitchell made a point that since changes in the civil law the depth of the legal enquiry into church records has become shallower.
Esther Rantzen of Child Line explained that she was shocked by the cover ups and conspiracies. Whilst she is not convinced that a public enquiry will take place, she is enthusiastic to help possibly through the medium of film or theatre. Esther made links with others at the meeting.
Tom Perry co-author of chosen certainly has a feeling that nothing has changed. In 1964 when he was abused there was no legal requirement for a school to report anyone and he stated that 2012 this is still the same position. Whilst there was discussion with Esther Rantzen and Anne Lawrence regarding this point any obligation to report abuse is non statutory would be simply good practice as opposed to a legal obligation.
Jonathan Wheeler of Bolt Burdon Solicitors made 4 points. He supported the call for it to be made an offence to fail to report suspected abuse. He suggested a redress scheme would assist victims. He felt a well known figurehead would also be useful for a media campaign. Jonathan also felt the campaign should be driven by survivors.
There were further suggestions from others present at the meeting notably regarding the inclusion of other denominations such as Islam and Shaun O’Neill from the Times stressed the sensitivity of working on a media strategy.
It was agreed that a working party would be formed comprising of:
A representative from CCPAS
A representative from the Lantern Project,
Peter Saunders of NAPAC
Their task was to work on gathering more evidence, making political connections and starting a medical campaign.
David thanked all for attending and for offering their support.
The meeting closed at 3.30 pm
Many thanks to David Greenwood, who is a partner at Jordans Solicitors, for allowing us to post the minutes and for alerting us to this event.