Child abuse in Sussex: new laws 'essential' after decades of Church scandals

The Church in Sussex has been wracked by child abuse allegations over the years
The Church in Sussex has been wracked by child abuse allegations over the years

Decades of child abuse and cover-ups in Sussex mean that tough new controls must be enforced to keep children safe, a top abuse lawyer has said.

The Church of England has been the centre of countless high profile scandals across the country and is currently subject of a national inquiry.

Richard Scorer represents many survivors of clerical abuse in Sussex at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Picture: IICSA

Richard Scorer represents many survivors of clerical abuse in Sussex at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Picture: IICSA

The Diocese of Chichester – which covers the whole of East and West Sussex – is being used as a case study.

Richard Scorer, who represents many abuse survivors at the inquiry, said the Church faces a ‘damning’ report on its failures.

He said: “Every diocese in the country has abuses of the kind that were there in the Diocese of Chichester.

“I think that the report will certainly be damning about safeguarding failures.”

Former Bishop of Lewes Wallace Benn faced criticism over his handling of abuse allegations against priests in his area. Picture: IICSA

Former Bishop of Lewes Wallace Benn faced criticism over his handling of abuse allegations against priests in his area. Picture: IICSA

READ MORE: ‘Wilful blindness’ existed towards Church child abuse in Sussex, inquiry hears

Those who suspect abuse and do not report it should be punished by law

The inquiry is due to publish a report into clerical abuse in the Anglican Church in Sussex in the next couple of months.

Mr Scorer says that tough new measures are needed to keep children safe in Sussex and the rest of the UK.

He called for not reporting child abuse to the police when you know or suspect it is occurring to be made a criminal offence.

The inquiry heard last year that a former Sussex bishop failed to report paedophile priests to authorities and may have gone so far as to actively protect them.

Call for Church volunteers to face background checks

Mr Scorer also addressed the large numbers of volunteers working in the Church in Sussex, and the problem that creates for safeguarding when they do not have background checks.

He said: “Because of the number of children that are passing through church organisations and church institutions it is essential that those proper checks are done.”

'Self-interested' Church must not be allowed to investigate itself

He continued: “The other issue we have been stressing particularly in relation to the Church of England is we want some independent body to investigate and examine complaints of abuse and sexual harassment.”

Mr Scorer argued that processes that allow the Church to investigate abuse allegations itself risk people being ‘conflicted’ and ‘self-interested’.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is due to publish an interim report on the Church in Sussex in the coming months.

The Diocese of Chichester declined to comment until the inquiry is completed.

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The Truth Project, allows abuse survivors to tell their story in a supportive setting.

It is run in conjunction with the IICSA. Visit: truthproject.org.uk.