Two former Bishops of Lincoln failed to act on abuse allegations

Lincoln Cathedral

Two former Bishops of Lincoln failed to act at the time when informed of alleged abuse, BBC Panorama has found.

The BBC investigation also revealed the names of 53 Lincoln Diocese clergy and staff were passed to police - amid concerns about the handling of past abuse allegations - years after they could have been.

The eventual police investigation led to three people being convicted.

Lincoln Diocese acknowledged past matters had not been handled well.

It told Panorama, which carried out a joint investigation with Look North, that the diocese was committed to learning from mistakes.

The Church of England's Past Cases Review was announced in 2007 but Lincolnshire Police was not told about the 53 names - some, but not all of which, related to child abuse allegations - until 2015.

Detective Superintendent Rick Hatton, who led the force's Operation Redstone investigation, told Panorama: "We whittled it down to about 25 names, whereby we either knew that they'd committed offences or there was some issue around risk to members of the public from them.

"There was the ongoing concern that actually those people were working with children. Potentially there was still a risk."

'Church turned a blind eye'

In one of the cases where a former Bishop of Lincoln failed to act, Panorama found that the late Rt Revd Kenneth Riches was told in 1969 about abuse carried out by Roy Griffiths.

At the time, Griffiths was deputy head teacher at Lincoln Cathedral School.

He kept his job there until the following year, when another boy complained about his abuse of pupils.

Neither Lincoln Cathedral School nor Lincoln Diocese informed the police at the time, and Griffiths was able to get a job at an Anglican school in Papua New Guinea the same year.

It would be another 45 years before Lincoln Diocese informed Lincolnshire Police about Griffiths.

Kevin Bennington, who was abused by Griffiths as a boy, said his mother told the bishop about the teacher after learning what had happened.

He told Panorama: "It should have been dealt with right away, and the Church should have instructed the police [...] and they didn't. They just turned a blind eye and moved on."

In 2018, Griffiths admitted abusing six boys at Lincoln Cathedral School. He's now serving a prison sentence of six years and seven months.

Det Supt Rick Hatton told Panorama: "When he was sentenced, the feelings I had for the victims and what they'd been through, what came out in court, was quite heart-wrenching."

'Trusted his word'

Panorama also found that another former Bishop of Lincoln, Rt Revd Robert Hardy, failed to act in the 1990s when one of his diocesan employees admitted to him he had "touched up" a female in the past, saying it had been a one-off.

The employee, John Bailey, was director of education for Lincoln Diocese at the time, and had abused three girls between 1955 and 1982.

He approached the bishop after the family of one of his victims wrote to him at the diocese, telling him of the ordeal he had caused their daughter.

But Bishop Hardy did not contact her family to find out any more details.

Bailey was jailed in 2017 after an investigation by Operation Redstone. He admitted 25 counts of indecent assault against the three girls.

Bishop Hardy said no-one had contacted him at the time or subsequently to make a comment or complaint about Bailey. Had they done, he would have investigated it.

He said his failing was to trust Bailey's word, which he deeply regrets.

Mandatory training

The Rt Rev Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, Bishop of Grantham and lead bishop for safeguarding for the Diocese of Lincoln, said: "The Diocese of Lincoln wishes to acknowledge that past matters have not been handled well.

"The diocese is committed to learn from its mistakes. I am very sorry that it took so long for justice to be served."

The diocese said its safeguarding team has now developed an effective partnership with Lincolnshire Police, working with them to secure convictions and, where this was not an option, to make sure that risk was managed appropriately.

It said there is mandatory safeguarding training and promises to offer support to anyone who contacts the diocese about issues of harm or abuse.

New evidence

Panorama has also seen new evidence about cases that were left out of the Past Cases Review, carried out by the Church of England between 2007 and 2010.

The review concluded in 2010 that after looking at 40,000 files, only 13 cases of abuse or alleged abuse required further action to ensure everything had been done to protect children.

The Church of England had told its dioceses they were not expected to examine files relating to dead clergy as part of the review, nor to talk to survivors of abuse.

Three years after the review had concluded, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, publicly ordered his own investigation of alleged abuse cases involving dead clergy from York Diocese.

All dioceses in the Church of England were asked to do the same shortly afterwards.

The York review identified 32 cases which included allegations of abuse against young boys and young girls.

The Diocese of York has never made public the results, and neither have other dioceses.

Dr Sentamu told Panorama that he wanted to consider the privacy of victims and the families of alleged abusers. He said lessons learned were shared within the Diocese of York.

Image caption Bishop Hancock said the Church takes safeguarding very seriously

Rt Revd Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who leads on safeguarding for the Church of England, acknowledged it had been an oversight not to initially include dead clergy in its Past Cases Review and to not speak to survivors.

While he said that had partly been done due to a pastoral concern about not re-traumatising people, he added: "I think there was too much concern about the reputation of the Church, and there was not enough care for those who are themselves victims of abuse."

He said the Church of England now takes safeguarding matters very seriously, and that survivors of abuse need "a response from a Church that is compassionate, that is fair, that is appropriate, and that is swift".

BBC Panorama: Scandal In The Church Of England is on Monday 29 April at 20:30 BST on BBC One. Viewers in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire can see more on Look North on BBC One at 18:30.

More on this story