Churches Child Protection Advisory Service calls on Rowan Williams to extend Church of England child abuse review

A promised review by the Church of England into historic cases of possible child abuse must be extended to include the church’s current employment practices, child protection experts have said.

Independent charity the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service welcomed Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ announcement last week that historic cases would be reviewed, in the light of the recent jailings of vicar David Smith and choirmaster Peter Halliday.

But CCPAS chief executive David Pearson said the inquiry needed to go further.

Both Halliday and Smith had gone unpunished for years for abusing children despite allegations being put to church authorities.

Pearson, who had called for a review of historic cases, said the Smith case raised question marks over current church employment practices.

Allegations against Smith, then vicar of St John the Evangelist, Clevedon, north Somerset, were made in 2001, but not pursued because the complainant declined to make a police statement. In a statement after he was jailed this month, Smith’s employer, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, said that without a formal complaint to the police there were no grounds to remove him from his post.

However, Pearson said: “It’s not the case that nothing can be done about a vicar’s employment because he hasn’t been found guilty in a criminal court.”

Williams said the church’s main child protection body, the central safeguarding liaison group, would consider how the review would proceed but he said it could be based on a local inquiry announced this month by the Bishop of Manchester.

The bishop has appointed an independent lawyer to examine 850 clergy files to check for outstanding child protection issues.

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