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The Church of England apologises for sexual abuse

The Church of England formally apologised for the sexual abuse perpetrated by Anglican priests. The apology was backed by a unanimous vote of the Members of the General Synod on Sunday 7th July 2013. 

Whilst the apology does not right the terrible abuse that people have suffered, we are pleased to see that the Church is accepting its failure to protect vulnerable children. Rt Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, has commented that the failures have gone on for too long. The Church has admitted that they failed to listen properly to those who attempted to speak out and failed to acknowledge the wrong done. Instead, the Church all too often protected the institution at the expense of those brave enough to report the abuse.

An inquiry into the safeguarding procedures in place when the abuse occurred has prompted the Church to take action and improve its policies and practices. These changes are long overdue and are necessary to prevent further abuse being perpetrated. We hope that the Church is able to learn from its past failures. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby has described the need for a complete change of culture and behaviour within the Church to ensure they do not find themselves in this situation once again in 20 years time.

We are pleased to see a shift in the Church’s approach to sexual abuse. This shift has been recognised by the courts in the recent development of the law of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability allows an institution to be held responsible for the wrongful acts of an abuser. In the past, proving vicarious liability rested on whether or not the abuser was an employee. In the 2012 case of JGE v The Trustees of the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust the court held it was sufficient to show the relationship was one “akin to employment”. This change in the law has made it easier for the Church to be held vicariously liable for the acts of its clergy.

At Slater and Gordon Lawyers we are campaigning for mandatory reporting requirement to be brought and feel strongly that this will greatly assist in preventing further instances of abuse. We hope that the Church will implement mandatory reporting as part of their policies and practices in the future.

If anyone would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article please do not hesitate to contact a member of our specialist abuse team on 020 7657 1658/1653/1502. Any communication will be dealt with in the strictest confidence.