Archbishop announces independent review of child protection

 Lord Nolan is to head a review body on child protection within the Catholic Church. At the invitation of Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and with the consent of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, Lord Nolan agreed on Friday to chair the group whose remit is: "to examine and review arrangements made for child protection and the prevention of abuse within the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and to make recommendations." The review body will build on the existing guidelines published by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales in 1994, 'Child Abuse: Pastoral and Procedural Guidelines'. It will not investigate or comment on individual cases but will take into account the experience of operating these guidelines in practice and the experience of other churches and voluntary organisations. It will also examine the latest relevant developments in the whole area of child protection in this country and elsewhere, taking into account the requirements of human rights and charity law, and the canon law of the church. The committee will make recommendations for the development of the 1994 guidelines. The review body will report to the Archbishop of Westminster. He will present its report to the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and it will be published. The members are: the Rt Hon Lord Nolan, chairman; Sir Swinton Thomas, vice chair; retired Lord Justice of Appeal; Caroline Abrahams, director of public policy, National Children's Homes' Action for Children; Hilary Eldridge BA Hons Dip SW CQSW, director, Lucy Faithfull Foundation; Monsignor Jack Kennedy, child protection coordinator, Archdiocese of Liverpool; Dr Maurice Lipsedge, MPhil FRCP FRCPsych FFOM (Hon) consultant psychiatrist, South London and The Maudsley NHS Trust; Gill Mackenzie, chief probation officer of Gloucestershire; chairman of the Association of Chief Probation Officers; The Rt Rev Peter Smith, Bishop of East Anglia; chairman of Bishops' Conference department of Christian responsibility and citizenship; David Veness, assistant commissioner, Metropolitan Police. Background In November 1992, the department of Christian responsibility and citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales approved a paper on 'The Sexual Abuse of Children'. It said: "The sexual abuse of a child is a reprehensible act directed at a most vulnerable member of our society." Following the report, the Catholic bishops asked for more specific guidelines for dioceses on the procedures to be adopted in cases of alleged abuse by a priest or church worker. Some dioceses adopted their own guidelines while this was in preparation. (The Home Office published a code of practice for voluntary organisations, 'Safe From Harm', in September 1993.) The Church's report, 'Child Abuse: Pastoral and Procedural Guidelines', was approved by the bishops in April 1994. This was believed to be the first such report by a religious organisation in Britain. It emphasised that the welfare of children is paramount, and that the Church must work closely with child protection teams, statutory authorities and other professionals. In his introduction to the guidelines, Bishop Budd said: "I wish to apologise sincerely to the survivors of abuse and their families and communities, particularly when there has been abuse by people exercising responsibility in the Church. They have been hurt, not just by the abusers but also by mistaken attitudes within the Church community at all levels. I acknowledge that far too often there has been insensitivity and inadequate response to their hurt." He added: "In commending this document to the dioceses, I wish to repeat once again the Church's commitment to dealing with this evil wherever it occurs." Since its publication, the dioceses of England and Wales have adopted the guidelines, and many have additionally drawn up local ones or amended existing guidelines in the light of it. The Bishops' Conference began a review of the national guidelines in November 1999. In November 1993, the bishops asked for further advice on how the Church could best offer care and support to victims and survivors of abuse, their families and others affected. The report, 'Healing the Wound of Child Sexual Abuse: a Church Response', was published in September 1996. The introduction stated the importance for everyone in the Church to "appreciate the depth of pain in the lives of those who suffer; listen carefully to those who are victims and survivors, and acknowledge their prophetic voice in the Church; promote open dialogue about child sexual abuse in the Church; activate pastoral resources." Between 1995 and 1999, 21 Catholic priests were convicted of sexual offences against children. There are a total of 5,600 Catholic priests in England and Wales. (Home Office research published in 1997 indicated that, in England and Wales, 110,000 men aged 20 or over had a conviction for a sexual offence against a child (Research Findings No. 55, 'The Prevalence of Convictions for Sexual Offending'). NSPCC research in 1998 revealed that in 40 per cent of cases abusers were fathers or stepfathers; 30 per cent other relatives; five per cent friends, neighbours or carers; four per cent teachers, doctors, priests or lodgers: 91 per cent knew the abuser ('Childhood Matters').

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