CHURCH of England senior clergy and Sussex Police have been criticised over how they dealt with claims of child sex abuse by Brede vicar Roy Cotton.
Cotton, who was vicar at Brede in the 1990’s, abused children in the 70s and 80s together with Bexhill priest Colin Pritchard.
Pritchard admitted the crimes in 2008. Cotton, who has since died had a conviction dating back to the 1950’s which the church was aware of, but he was still allowed to take up the position at Brede.
Now the Bishop of Chichester has said he is “ashamed on behalf of the church community”.
The church appointed top judge Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to carry out a review.
She said the victims’ claims were not taken seriously.
Now the Bishop of Chichester has apologised.
In a statement, the Rt Rev John Hind, said: “I feel deep and profound sorrow for the pain caused to all victims and for the institutional failings of the church in this diocese.”
He added: “The report has now been completed, and her conclusions and recommendations are in line with what we are now doing and will continue to build on.”
Baroness Butler-Sloss, a church-going Anglican, said abuse allegations made by victims between 1996 and 2010 were all from male adults reporting historic child abuse, with none of the cases more recent than about 1984.
In the report, she said across the diocese “and probably in many other dioceses” there had been “a lack of understanding of the seriousness of historic child abuse”.
She said there was inadequate communication between senior clergy and child protection advisors in the diocese, and there was “seriously inadequate record keeping”.
The retired senior judge also said Sussex Police did not take the disclosures of victims in their area sufficiently seriously.
She said officers’ record-keeping was deficient and even though at least two victims of the same abuser gave similar accounts, there was no connection made by the police.
Commenting on Cotton, Baroness Butler-Sloss said: “There are, I believe, at least 10 victims of this priest and the failure of the police to discover that he had been convicted of a sexual offence on a boy in 1954 led them to treat the disclosures of two of his victims with an unfortunate lack of seriousness.
“This had the effect that the victims were not able to see justice take its course.”