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Church says sorry for child abuse

The Church of England has offered an "unreserved apology" for historic cases of child abuse by some members of its clergy.

Officials said it was a matter of "great sorrow and deep regret" and they recognised the harm caused to the victims. The apology coincided with the publication of another critical report detailing how convicted paedophile Roy Cotton went on to be ordained as a priest.

Cotton was convicted of indecent behaviour with a child in 1954 aged 25 while in training for the priesthood and further damaging allegations were made against him years later. But despite his criminal past, he was readmitted to theological training and was ordained in 1966.

The Scouts agreed to re-license Cotton after he apparently persuaded his diocesan supporters to lobby the movement, the report by independent reviewer Roger Meekings said.

It said: "This was a significant step as it resulted in Cotton receiving 'authorised' and unsupervised access to young people in organised groups. It enabled him to be regarded as an authority figure and a person 'of trust' by parents."

The Meekings report said the way Cotton came to be ordained and how he was given the green light as a Scout leader was "fraught with concerns and questions". Cotton managed to achieve both due to the time that had elapsed since his conviction in 1954 and because senior officers played down the seriousness of it, the report added.

Procedures in sharing information were not followed and the victims were denied the opportunity of being believed, it went on. It made a series of recommendations, including training senior staff in the diocese in the management of allegations and establish a diocesan child protection management group.

Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham Paul Butler, the joint chair of the Church of England's safeguarding liaison group, said the Meekings report and another, published last year by Baroness Butler-Sloss, were "particularly damning of past safeguarding procedures going back to the 1960s".

Bishop Butler said they were now confident that measures to protect children from abuse had been tightened up.

He said: "We seek to ensure that we provide the safest possible environment for everyone through endeavouring to implement our safeguarding polices. The safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in our care is central to all our activities and is part of the life and ministry of the Church."


From Belfast Telegraph