THE Archbishop of Canterbury has slammed the local diocese for its child protection failings claiming many lives have been “blighted”.
A new 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.
Roy Cotton was ordained in 1966, despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choirboy in the 1950s.
He then went on to abuse at least ten boys.
Former Sedlescombe and Bexhill vicar Colin Pritchard, a friend of Cotton’s, was jailed for five years in 2008 after admitting sexually abusing two boys.
The problems have continued with three more priests in the diocese 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.