THE Archbishop of Canterbury has slammed the local diocese for its child protection failings claiming many lives have been “blighted”.
The report branded the child abuse as “wicked and shameful”.
Former Brede vicar Roy Cotton died before he could face fresh charges relating to child abuse, but there was outrage that he was allowed to carry on as a priest, by the Church of England, despite the fact the church knew of earlier criminal convictions for child abuse.
Cotton served at Brede and Udimore for a number of years and had access to the village primary school.
Despite an apology from the Church of England the child abuse problems have continued in the diocese with three more priests in the being charged with child sex offences this year alone.
An inquiry by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office identified a “profoundly negative culture” within the Diocese of Chichester, which led to child protection failures over a period of two decades.
It said that “fresh and disturbing” aspects of the way in which abuse claims were handled keep surfacing.
The report, believed to be the first of its kind in the Church of England for more than a century, said reported incidents were “the tip of an iceberg”
And Lambeth Palace has said it will now oversee clergy appointments and child protection matters in Sussex.
The report stated: “It is clear to us that many lives have been blighted. Some have sought justice through the courts of law and clergy have gone to prison for their abuse of children.
“We are clear that those who have sought justice from the courts are but the tip of the iceberg.”
The report said the abuse was made worse by the “very slow” way the diocese recognised the events and failed to act with rigour and expedition”.
It went on to say: “A whole series of investigations and reports across two decades bears witness to a profoundly unhelpful and negative culture in parts of the diocese which led to its failure to take the action needed.”
Responding to the report the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: “Safeguarding and appointments matters should be conducted under the supervision of this office until uniformly better practice can be assured.” The report said the diocese had “lost the respect” of many in the public services who safeguard children and vulnerable adults.
Matt Dunkley, Director of Children’s Services at East Sussex County Council, said: “We have been deeply frustrated by the slow, and sometimes ineffective response to the concerns we have made, including the length of time taken to produce this report.”
Roy Cotton was ordained in 1966, despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choirboy in the 1950’s. He then went on to abuse at least ten boys.
Former Bexhill vicar Colin Pritchard, a friend of Cotton’s, was jailed for five years in 2008 after admitting sexually abusing two boys.
This year three Church of England priests in the diocese have been charged with sexual offences against children.
Canon Gordon Rideout, 73, is accused of 38 sexual offences against 18 children and young teenagers; Robert Coles, 71, faces 29 charges against three boys and Father Wilkie Denford, 77 has denied four charges of indecently assaulting a boy under 16 in the late 1980’s.
An inquiry, commissioned by the Church, and conducted by Baroness Butler Sloss, criticised child protection when it was published last year.
The report said that claims of historic child abuse were not take seriously by the Church.