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55% of church allegations 'sexual'

The Catholic Church in Scotland is expected to announce a further audit of all cases of historic abuse allegations between 1947 and 2005 and a full review of its safeguarding procedures
The Catholic Church in Scotland is expected to announce a further audit of all cases of historic abuse allegations between 1947 and 2005 and a full review of its safeguarding procedures

More than half of all complaints of abuse received by the Catholic Church in Scotland over a six-year period were sex-related, according to a report.

The church has published the results of its Diocesan Safeguarding Audits from 2006/12, giving a breakdown of incidents reported during that time.

A total of 46 allegations were reported, of which 55% related to sexual abuse, 19% to physical abuse, 11% were allegations of verbal abuse and 15% were in connection with emotional abuse.

Of those accused , 56% were priests , 22% were volunteers, 11% were parishioners and the remainder were staff or other people connected to the church.

There have been no prosecutions in relation to 61% of all cases reported, the church said. A further 15% resulted in a prosecution, 10% are still under investigation and the remaining 14% are described as "unknown historical cases".

More than a quarter of all the accused reported (27%) are now dead, according to the audit report prepared for the Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Service.

The church also announced a further audit of all cases of historic abuse allegations between 1947 and 2005, and a full review of its safeguarding procedures.

The three initiatives, it says, were launched "in a spirit of openness and transparency".

Members of the Catholic community were told about the plans at mass yesterday and a formal announcement was made by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland today.

Bishops of the eight Scottish dioceses make up the Bishops' Conference, which represents the Catholic Church in Scotland.

The audit report revealed that the ministry of almost a quarter (24%) of those accused had been restricted.

A further 12% had been removed from their post, while 11% left voluntarily, 8% were dismissed, 3% were in prison and another 3% had been acquitted. The outcome of the remaining 11% of cases was unknown.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, president of the Bishops' Conference, said: "We recognise the trauma and pain that survivors of abuse have suffered and we are committed to providing for them both justice and healing."

He said that 2013 had been "a test of faith" for Catholics but the Church was committed to "consolidation of our safeguarding practices, the renewal of trust in our unshakeable commitment to atoning for abuse in the past, guarding against abuse in the present and eliminating abuse in the future, and supporting those who have been harmed".

It emerged in August that the Bishops' Conference had commissioned an independent examination into historic allegations of abuse back in 2011, but this was halted by the then-president, Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

He withdrew his support for the review a year before resigning over his own inappropriate sexual conduct.

The cardinal stepped down as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.

An external review into the "suitability and robustness" of the church's safeguarding procedures and how they have been implemented will now be carried out by the Very Rev Andrew McLellan, a former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and one-time chief inspector of prisons.

Mr McLellan said his first concern was to seek the best protection for vulnerable and adults.

"In pursuing that aim, I will be determined to discover the truth and to make clear recommendations," he said.

"I am very much encouraged by the independence I will have in selecting the membership of the panel, detailing its remit and deciding on its timescale, and by the assurance I have been given that the Catholic Bishops will accept our recommendations."

On average, half of all complaints made to the church each year between 2006/12 were historical, dating from before the year 2000, the audit report said.

A review of all historical allegations of abuse from 1947 to 2005 will also now be carried out, with each bishop's office providing information from files which will be subjected to independent analysis.

The results will be published next November as part of that year's annual statistical return.

Responding to the three initiatives, Tina Campbell, the church's new national coordinator for safeguarding, said: "These are incredibly positive and exciting developments.

"I look forward to working with the bishops of Scotland, our clergy and the many dedicated people across the country who both implement and support our national safeguarding policies and procedures in their parish communities."


From Belfast Telegraph