Sussex

Diocese of Chichester: Abuse victims welcome 'powerful report'

Peter Ball Image copyright PA
Image caption Peter Ball was jailed for sex offences against teenagers and young men

Victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the Diocese of Chichester have welcomed a "powerful report" that exposes the "devious" methods used by offenders.

Authors of the independent report, commissioned by the diocese, said abusers had been "safe in the knowledge that no one would believe the victims".

More than a dozen victims and survivors, who were abused by clergy in Sussex over decades, gave evidence.

The diocese said safeguarding had improved.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has described the "appalling sexual abuse against children" in the diocese, with 18 members of the clergy convicted of offences during a 50-year period.

Bishop Peter Ball was jailed in 2015 for 32 months for offences against 18 teenagers and men between the 1970s and the 1990s.

The latest report found victims felt priests were seen by parishioners as "above reproach".

Victims also spoke of a "culture of unheeded or ignored warnings", the report said.

Image caption Former priest Colin Pritchard was jailed for 16 years for abusing a 10-year-old boy

Phil Johnson, a survivor of abuse in the diocese, said the "very powerful report" allowed the voices of victims to "shine through" in a way that previous investigations had failed to achieve.

The report's recommendations would "go a long way" to preventing abuse and ensuring reports of offending are quickly shared with police, he added.

The report said the diocese should review its screening methods and urgently restrict unsupervised access to children.

It also proposed research be conducted into what motivates offenders to show the diocese "wishes to do something radical about the pernicious problem of sexual abuse".

The report was written by Prof David Shemmings and his wife Yvonne, who are both child protection experts at the University of Kent.

'Insistence of god'

They said they had aimed to expose the "patterns within the organisation itself" and the "devious methods of grooming".

Prof Shemmings said abusers had "recruited a deity, a god, into the abuse," which had a "particularly pernicious and very powerful effect".

"They were told that it wasn't the priest abusing them, it was at the insistence of God because they had sinned," he said.

He praised the diocese for commissioning the research, and said it now had "well-devised" child protection policies.

The diocese said the report provided "insight into some aspects" of its past, and was not to be seen as a "survey of the current state of the diocese".

It vowed to work "relentlessly" to end abuse.

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