The Church of England now faces more than 3,000 sex abuse complaints all involving children, young people or vulnerable adults.
At the end of 2016, the total number of ‘concerns or allegations’ had reached 3,300.
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The figures do not distinguish new complaints from longstanding ones, but almost all involved the treatment of children, young people or vulnerable adults. If even a proportion were upheld the Church would have to pay millions in compensation.
One recent compensation payment in an unproven and heavily-disputed case of abuse alleged against long-dead Bishop of Chichester George Bell amounted to £15,000. Matching that sum in every complaint now facing the Church would cost almost £50million.
Despite the growing controversy over false allegations, bishops will continue to call those who make claims of sex abuse ‘victims’ and ‘survivors’. But they say this ‘does not presuppose that any allegation will be substantiated’.
Details of the abuse complaints were prepared for bishops and will be given today to the General Synod, the Church’s parliament. The disclosure follows difficult months for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and colleagues over a series of damaging sex abuse scandals.
They include the case of former bishop Peter Ball, jailed for 32 months in 2015 for sex abuse against boys over three decades. An independent inquiry last summer said the Church had failed to protect boys and then concealed evidence of Ball’s crimes. Most recently, Archbishop Welby has been criticised for his handling of the George Bell case.’
Of the 3,300 sex abuse complaints the Synod will hear about nearly one in five, 18 per cent, involved ‘church officers’, likely to be mainly clergy. Other complaints are likely to have been made against lay individuals or churchgoers.
The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, said in documents prepared for the Synod that during 2016 dioceses did 338 ‘risk assessments’ after complaints against individuals. Of those assessed, 19 were clergy. The Church made 867 ‘safeguarding agreements’ with individuals – drawn up to ensure someone assessed as a risk is kept away from possible victims of abuse and is supervised.
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