The Church of England has apologised after an independent lessons learned review found it had missed opportunities to protect child victims from abuse by a vicar.
The late Rev Graham Gregory was sentenced to three years imprisonment in 2014, on two counts of non-recent indecent assault on a girl under 13 years and was further convicted in 2018 of three non-recent indecent assaults against three separate victims, all children and was sentenced to four years four months in prison. He died in jail in 2019.
The review, commissioned by the Church’s National Safeguarding Team was informed by reviews across five dioceses where Gregory had worked - Chichester, Sodor & Man, Southwark, Southwell & Nottingham and York.
Ray Galloway, who conducted the review said victims and their parents had repeatedly sought protection from the Church but hadn't been listened to.
He said Gregory was a determined and persistent abuser of children who actively sought out and created opportunities to harm his victims.
Galloway, who led the inquiry into the paedophile Jimmy Savile, found the Church had missed opportunities to avoid harm by not listening to the victims and their parents.
He said on at least one occasion, an allegation was actively suppressed by a senior member of the clergy and Gregory was merely moved to another diocese :
“Clear and multiple opportunities were missed by the Church to listen to victims, scrutinise Gregory’s behaviour and to take action to protect those children and families involved.
It is vital that the Church acknowledges and accepts the findings of this report and makes meaningful and transparent arrangements to address these findings.”
The Church of England’s lead bishop for safeguarding, Rt Rev Jonathan Gibbs described the report as a “stark and harrowing reminder of how the Church failed victims and survivors over many years and allowed Graham Gregory to continue in ministry.
“We are deeply sorry…..and truly ashamed by the failings highlighted in the report about individuals in the Church. Where there is criticism of poor handling in the past, the National Safeguarding Team will be seeking reassurance that current safeguarding practice is up to date and that a very different approach would be adopted now.”
Richard Scorer is a lawyer for victims of abuse at Slater and Gordon. He’s been speaking to Premier :
“It’s a profoundly shocking report. I think it is one of the most shocking that I've read.
“Obviously, we've heard a lot about abuse scandals in the Church of England and we saw a lot of information about those coming out of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. So we've seen these sorts of things before, but this is one of the most shocking reports I've read because of the extent of church knowledge of this man's behaviour over decades, and the number of missed opportunities that were there to do something about it.“
Many victims and survivors are calling for a mandatory reporting law to be introduced. That would make it compulsory for people who know of, or who suspect abuse is taking place to report it to the authorities. Richard Scorer agrees :
“Unless we have mandatory reporting we can't have any guarantee that these sorts of scandals won't happen in the future. You would hope that there's more awareness of safeguarding and things have moved on, but there is simply no guarantee of that.
“When you look over the history of what happened with Gregory, it is truly shocking as there was opportunity after opportunity to stop him. Mandatory reporting would have ensured that those people who knew about the abuse or suspected that abuse was going on would have had a legal duty to report that, whether they wanted to or not.”