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More than 50 priests defrocked for abuse since 2001

by Antony Bushfield

In new figures released today the Church said they had been removed from the priesthood after new rules were put in place to protect children and vulnerable adults.

The Church said in addition it has received many more complaints about sexual misconduct by members of the clergy.

Officials said there had been a number of cases involving child abuse images where the victims could not be found, meaning the actual number of victims was hard to know.

The number of "covenants of care" orders, withdrawing people from ministering and severely restricting what they could do in the Church, increased from 384 at the end of 2013 to 462 at the end of 2014.

The official report highlighted 79 allegations of abuse against children during the last year involving 97 different forms of abuse against 118 victims, abused by 83 suspects.

Acting chairman of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission Christopher Pearson said: "This report highlights in full the work of the Commission and this announcement is just a snapshot of some of that work and findings over the last year.

"We are moving towards a much more consistent and sensitive approach in response to the victims and survivors of abuse."

Speaking at a special conference on abuse within the Church, Mr Pearson stressed that "survivors and victims are at the heart of safeguarding.

"To listen, to hear their voice - they have to be central."

He placed an emphasis on pastoral care, supporting a potential victim as soon as an allegation is made and ensuring the person is made to feel safe and listened to when they report an incident.

Christopher Pearson added that early engagement was important because it gave a person the confidence to share their story.

The Church also made clear that everybody in the community is responsible for safeguarding and if people are ever unsure it is always best to report an incident.

There is also a new communications strategy in place that aims to make engagement with the church a smoother process.

With regards to safeguarding in the community the Church has also set up an e-learning system where people can access information about safeguarding, reporting and take a test at the end - however the results and training have no legal standing.

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak to Christopher Pearson here:

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