REPORT OF A CASE REVIEW BY EDINA CARMI COMMISSIONED BY JOHN HIND, BISHOP OF CHICHESTER, IN 2004
Although this report is dated 2004 the purpose of publishing it now is threefold. At the time, Serious Case Reviews were not generally published. But pressure from some of the victims has grown, while society has changed greatly. As recent events have shown, there is concern that child abuse was and is more widespread than anyone might have assumed.
The report followed a long-standing period of child abuse involving Chichester Cathedral and its choir school. There were several perpetrators, and the main one was neither a member of the clergy nor a teacher at the school, but a layman who had grown up in theCathedral close as a result of his family’s longassociation with the Cathedral. He had a voluntary post at the Cathedral and was liked and trusted, as well as having a certain standing within Cathedral society. For much of this time he had access to the School and its pupils through choir activities. The period of abuse ranged from the early 1970s to 2000, when he was charged as the result of one of his many victims going to the police.
It is clear that at the time there was a culture (not confined to the Cathedral) which sought to protect the institution at the expense of the victim. Although training procedures had been put in place in the parishes in 1997, the Cathedral was slow to institute them. As a result, traditional precepts such as requiring evidence of an incident, or refusing to consider anonymous information,were followed. But under the child protection legislation, it is enough to have concerns about the welfare of a child, as the Children Act of 1989 makes the interests of the child paramount. The change of emphasis took a long time to be comprehended: at the time it was perceived that introducing children to homosexual practices was more harmful than the abuse itself, with its lasting psychological damage.
The school seems to have had a clearer awareness of procedures relating to complaints of child abuse than did the Cathedral, although a complete change of Cathedral personnel and the implementation of proper procedures were subsequently achieved. It was felt at the time that complaints could be dealt with in-house, whereas it is imperative in these matters that the safeguarding (child protection) officer of the institution be involved straight away. The result was that some dissatisfied parents took matters into their own hands and went to the police. Another consequence was that the children were in general protected while at school, but when they entered the Cathedral precincts – where some lessons took place– safeguards fell away. There was no joined-up supervision. The articles of association of the school have now been changed to sever the dependence of the school on the Cathedral and to change the character of its governing council.
The chief offender was sentenced to 16 years in prison. A number charged with lesser offences were also sentenced. Some of them (‘lay vicars’ or adult choristers) were on release re-admitted to the Cathedralchoir and other church choirs, making their assimilation controversial because of the close-knit character of Anglican society in Chichester. This was hard for victims and their families to accept. A second Chichester school was also involved and one teacher was convicted.
Some of the men who were practising Anglicans admitted their behaviour under the seal of the confessional. The rule at the time was that confession was entirely confidential, but although this is still sothere is now pressure for change. Current thinking is thatin such circumstances absolution should be conditional on the perpetrator reporting him– (or her–) self to the police.
This report fed the investigations which led to the later reports of Roger Meekings, Lady Butler-Sloss and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commissaries (following theVisitation). The main emphasis of the above was on abuse by clergy within the Diocese of Chichester. The Carmi report deals exclusively with offences by lay people in and around Chichester.