SUBMISSIONS ON BEHALF OF RC-A31, RC-A32, RC-A33
IICSA – ARCHDIOCESE OF BIRMINGHAM
- We act for A31-A33, instructed by Switalskis. Two were victims of James Robinson. The other of Eric Taylor. You heard evidence from A31. All have campaigned tirelessly for justice. The Church opposed them for decades.
- Our submissions are:
- The Archdiocese of Birmingham has proved to be a deceitful and malign institution. It is has proved to have little understanding of how to protect children in its care. Successive top level staff have ignored and covered up allegations. Jane Jones with her dubious views on child protection was recruited to do the Archbishop’s bidding keeping matters in house wherever possible. We reject the excuses and apologies and emphasize the impediments to self-governance presented by:
- Catholic teaching;;
- Its hierarchical structure;
- Its culture;
- Its unincorporated status.
- We recommend, in summary:
- Mandatory reporting as recommended by the MANDATE NOW campaign group.
- The creation of a new statutory body with powers to police and enforce basic standards of child protection. We envisage a body similar to the Health and Safety Executive.
- You have seen 78 reported cases in Birmingham [INQ002763]. In Robinson’s case he was sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment for offences committed over decades. There were at least six victims. I do not know if that sentence is a record for the many perpetrators you have heard in the course of this Inquiry. It is a sentence reserved in our society only for the gravest crimes.
- The Dioceses’ response must be measured against the seriousness of what they knew or suspected these priests had done. Robinson’s sentence is a measure of the sort of criminal that the Catholic church has harboured, protected and supported.
- You heard from A31 that he had ‘confessed’ as a child to the sexual abuse in the confessional. You heard how Robinson then ‘vanished overnight’ to Newcastle-Under-Lyme. The ‘seal of the confessional’ was apparently breached to protect Robinson and the Church.
- Later, Robinson was allowed to make a new life in California, probably after the police tipped the Church off about A31’s allegations in 1985. He was given a stipend of £800 a month, paid to him in a circuitous, difficult-to-trace way.
- Despite A31 obtaining and providing to the police a compelling tape recording of Robinson, the police refused to pursue the matter further in 1995. It is deeply concerning that Robinson felt able to implore the Vicar General Leonard, at the time to use his influence with the police to stop any investigation [CHC000246_127] (probably 11/10/95).
- It took a BBC investigative journalist to help track Robinson down in 2003. Archbishop Nichol’s response was not gratitude, but fury at what he took to be anti-Catholic bias. The IOPC only decided to investigate the police’s actions at the start of this Inquiry. Three-years in the making, the report is cursory and superficial. DI Higgins refused to cooperate. The IOPC investigation has exposed serious short-comings with the agency and the police complaints legislation.
- These men, these damaged men, have had to fight for right, largely on their own and against formidable opponents. Many others will have been broken before they got any sort of justice. These are only some of the cases that we know about. Many others will have been successfully covered-up or dealt with internally in closed ecclesiastical courts.
- Despite Robinson’s conviction in 2010, he was only defrocked in February 2018. A31 [and the others?] has yet to receive a penny in compensation. Anybody involved in litigation with the Catholic church will know how hard they fight even the clearest cases. Any technical defence available to the Church is seized upon and argued to the bitter end. You will look around this room and note the eminent counsel deployed on the Church’s behalf. When it comes to the Church’s interests, no expense is spared. When it comes to the victims of their most heinous crimes, parsimony.
- You have heard i) how hard COPCA and the Safeguarding Commission had to fight for resources ii) how Jane Jones would put money from speaking engagements into the pot iii) how badly paid the staff were compared to their professional peers iv) the reliance on volunteers, part-timers’ and agency staff. It is hardly surprising – and perhaps it was the intention – that only devout Catholics were likely to take these posts. In Jane Jones’ case it resulted in a biddable amateur with – to the Church – agreeable views on the nature of child abuse as Child Protection Coordinator in Birmingham. This was a ‘Safeguarder’ who committed to paper and circulated her views that ‘The first victim was [the abuser] himself.’ This was a ‘Safeguarder’ who never did, and was never likely to, challenge the authority of His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols. This was a ‘Safeguarder’ who refused, point-blank, to provide the name of a suspected abuser to COPCA despite clear and repeated requests to do so. Her answer to why she refused was simply that that was what the Commission had resolved. This was the Safeguarder who took exceptional umbrage at failing Adrian Child’s audit.
- You have also heard how Cardinal Nichols was, despite the obvious conflict of interest, both chair of COPCA and Archbishop of one of the most scandal-ridden Dioceses in the country. You have heard how he was seemingly unable to get his own Diocese to comply with what Eileen Shearer said were the clear national policy requirements of the Church. COPCA was powerless to do anything about it. The Church instead cavilled about the meaning of a ‘volunteer’, the use of the word ‘compliance’ and tried to chisel away at policies they regarded as too onerous.
- That is, in the opening words of Counsel to the Inquiry, the ‘uncontroversial’ background. ‘Uncontroversial’ because that background is not, and could not be, controverted. But it remains one of the most scandalous accounts of cover-up in the Catholic Church – that we know about.
- You will understand that when His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols writes that, “I wish to express my profound distress and sorrow for these repeated acts of evil committed in our Church”, the victims wonder at the sincerity of it; that when he writes, ‘We have not always understood the dynamics of the abusers, the web of deceit and manipulation which create to imprison a victim’, he understands only too well because the Church was a party to that deceit and manipulation; that when he says he offers ‘no excuses’, he knows the Church has ducked responsibility at every turn.
- This uncontroversial background demonstrates:
- The Church will go to extreme lengths to protect even the most heinous abusers and cover-up;
- A lack of will, even to this day, to do the right thing by those they know to have been victims of the most serious abuse;
- A willingness to admit only that which is incontrovertible;
- A willingness to pay lip-service only – and sometimes not even that – to their own national policies and guidelines;
- That the leaders of the Church – even if I am wrong about all that – are incapable of imposing any good will they may possess. The structure of the Church means that every Bishop and head of religious is accountable, ultimately, only to himself. That is why Cardinal Nicols writes, ‘Persuasive cooperation is more of the manner of working in the Church. Conformity is not easily achieved, but convinced cooperation is more effective in the long-run.’ That is essentially an admission that leaders of the Church have great influence, good or ill, but little real power over its members.
- As the SCIE audit concluded only a month ago, “the gap between [the vision] and a safe, reliable safeguarding system functioning across the Archdiocese is stark’ and ‘A radical culture change is needed’.
- But it will not come from within. The Church is institutionally incapable of self-reform. When this Inquiry is over and the Catholic church vacates its current hot-seat, who can trust that it will not revert to type?
- None of this is new to you with respect to the Catholic Church. You concluded your executive summary into Ampleforth and Downside with David Molesworth’s contemporary assessment on those schools “‘I do not believe currently that the organisation as a whole understands or accepts their responsibilities for child protection issues … . We appear to be dealing with denial or downright obstruction.” The same applies here.
- There must be an end to the special pleading that the Catholic Church is a special case requiring special treatment. There must be one set of national standards for all with real sanctions for breach. We do not see how ‘name and shame’ could possibly be described as the ‘nuclear option’. That is the very least that is required.In 1985 A31 reported to police and to his local priest. Police met his complaint with an allegation that he was attempting to blackmail Robinson and gave his statement to the Vicar General. The police told his Father to keep him quiet. Within 2 days Robinson was out of the country. We do not know what the police did with A31’s tape recording in 1985 but his statement was passed to the Vicar General allowing Robinson to escape. The police had been recruited as an agent for the church just as Jane Jones would be in subsequent years.
- A new law should require professionals who work with children in ‘Regulated Activities’ to inform the LADO (‘Local Authority Designated Officer’) or, in appropriate circumstances, children’s services, where the professional knows, suspects, or has reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting child abuse or sexual abuse by those in a position of trust. We support and promote the work of www.mandatenow.org
- Strong laws should lead cultural change. In the absence of a legal requirement to report those staff who do report presently are, by default, whistle-blowers with very little protection. Without strong laws any institution – no matter how benign its culture – is vulnerable to a powerful person within that organisation acting without integrity.Mandatory reporting must make no exception for the confessional. We have seen in this case how the seal of the confession was gladly broken to relocate Robinson in Newcastle-Under-Lyme.
New statutory body
- The creation of a new independent statutory body to enforce basic standards of safeguarding, and to receive and deal with complaints of child sexual abuse in all institutions which are responsible for the care of children.
- This new statutory body would police and enforce minimum national standards of child-safeguarding. This body would have similar powers to the Health & Safety Executive. The Health & Safety Executive operates for the safety of workers. Children are an even more vulnerable group. The absence of a powerful statutory body dedicated to their protection is a serious defect.
- The new independent statutory body will:
- Establish a register of relevant Institutions that look after children.
- It will be an offence to look after children without being on the register.
- To be on the register institutions have to introduce a corporate structure.
- Registered institutions will be forced to adhere to minimum safeguarding regulations.
- The body will have the power to prosecute regulated organisations for breaches of these regulations (similar to prosecutions by the Health & Safety Executive). Fines will be imposed.
- All complaints are to be passed to the independent body by a receiving institution with a criminal sanction for failing to do so.
- The body will gather information from complainants, regulated institutions and third parties. It will have the power to compel disclosure of material.
- It will liaise with and assist civil authorities such as the police and social services. It would ensure the police and other statutory organisations are taking appropriate action within reasonable timescales. It will have the power to compel the police to investigate and refer cases to the CPS.
- It will provide coordinated support to victims, particularly those required to give evidence.
- The body will investigate the complaint using the balance of probabilities as the standard of proof. There will be no statute of limitations. It will have the power to make an award of compensation, similar to the CICA. It will decide the support to be offered to the complainant. A scheme will be established to provide adequate compensation for victims of child sex abuse which takes into account the effect on quality of life and a series of relevant factors (as opposed to the rigid CICA system).
- Complainants will be allowed to take advice from lawyers and a contribution towards legal costs will be awarded.
- The cost of the body’s work, support, reparations and legal costs are to be paid from a levy on the institutions with those found culpable paying the costs of dealing with individual cases in which they are involved.
- It will provide to Government regular reports on its progress and, inter alia, the extent to which its activity is promoting the UK’s obligations under the UN convention on the Rights of the Child.
Standing Inquiry into institutional failures in child abuse
This Inquiry is considering particular case studies. Many more examples of very bad practice have and will emerge and are worthy of full inquiry. We ask the panel to recommend that the Inquiry’s work is extended indefinitely to allow the investigation of other institutions.
16th November 2018