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Diocese of Chichester launches review after choirmaster jailed for child abuse

by Will Maule
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The Diocese of Chichester has announced it will undertake a review after a church choirmaster was sentenced to 40 years in prison for abusing children. 

Mark Burgess, 68, was convicted of abusing 12 boys and one girl between the 1970s and 2000s. Mr Burgess was a teacher at Portsmouth City Boys’ School and conducted choirs at St John’s Church in Westbourne, West Sussex, and All Saints Church, Portsmouth. 

A Diocese of Chichester spokeswoman said that after hearing the evidence presented at the trial of Mr Burgess, the Diocese is "reviewing the chronology of events involving this case".

They added: "We have no indication that there was ever an official diocesan investigation which is very different to individuals making enquiries at various times, which they obviously and rightly did.

"In the light of what we now know, and with the benefit of new and serious information which has recently come to light as a result of this trial, we are working closely to establish what lessons can be learnt as we move forward." 

During the trial in June, the court heard how Mr Burgess had used his positions of influence and power to groom children, sometimes plying them with alcohol before abusing them. Judge William Ashworth, who was presiding over the case, talked of the "devastating, lifelong effect" the abuse had on one victim, while another had experienced "terrible anxiety and panic attacks" as a result of the choirmaster's actions. 

After sentencing, Det Insp Adam Edwards commended the victims for their "bravery and strength" in giving evidence.

He said: "Burgess made a choice to exploit his position and manipulate certain scenarios that would give him the opportunity to carry out these heinous and evil acts.

"These were young children, and he deliberately preyed on their naivety for his own sordid agenda."

The Church of England Diocese of Portsmouth called Burgess' actions "abhorrent". 

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