Archdiocese of Birmingham issues child protection guidelines

 The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols has announced a set of guidelines to help prevent clerical child abuse. Based on the statutory "paramountcy principle" - that the welfare of the child is foremost - they set out how the diocese will deal with allegations of sexual abuse involving children within the church. Under the guidelines, priests who have been cleared in court of child abuse will still face a risk assessment and other sanctions. Archbishop Nichols said at a press conference on Wednesday: "What we are looking to is people's behaviour and not just their words. What we will gradually be able to do, as the whole of society has to do, is begin to spot where things are not quite right." Archbishop Nichols said: "In the case of somebody who has had allegations made against them, been brought to court and been found not guilty, there still remains the issue of any abiding risk to children and the paramountcy principle." The archdiocese is currently facing a High Court action for damages brought by a former altar boy, Simon Grey, who claims he was abused for eight years by assistant parish priest Fr Christopher Clonan. This is the first time a case has been brought against the church rather than the abuser. Fr Clonan fled the country when complaints were made against him in 1992. To date, his whereabouts are unknown. Speaking about the case, Archbishop Nichols said: "When a priest commits a sin like this, the guilt of that spreads. "Though he remains responsible for his actions, the burden goes much more widely and I accept that." In 1998 Fr Eric Taylor was jailed for seven years for abusing boys at the Father Hudson's home in Coleshill, Warwickshire during the 1950s and 1960s. He died last year in prison at the age of 82. Earlier this month, Fr John Flahive, 52, was jailed for nine months for sexually abusing three young girls in his care over a 17 year period. Archbishop Nichols said: "no priest convicted of offences against children will have a role of trust in the diocese."

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