A retired vicar jailed for sexually abusing children was permitted to work in churches for 25 years despite being previously convicted for a similar crime.
On Monday, David Beater, 80, was jailed for more than four years after being found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in the 1980s. However, the BBC has learned that Beater was free to work in churches until 2010, despite being convicted for abuse in 1985.
At the time of Beater's first conviction, Bishop Michael Turnbull, then the Archdeacon of Rochester, said Beater would be "staying within the care of the church" and would receive counselling. Beater was fined £250 and resigned from his role at the church. The following year, Beater moved to St George's in Bickley, remaining in the Diocese of Rochester. Then, between 1990 and 1997 he was a priest at St Thomas's in Stanley, Durham.
At the sentencing on Monday, His Honour Judge Philip Statman told Beater that he was guilty of a "profound and grave breach of trust", noting that some of the offences "took place within the vicarage".
The judge praised Beater's victims for their "guts" in coming forward.
"One of your victims is now suffering from PTSD... but he has had the bravery to come forward and has now been vindicated," he said. "Sexual offending leaves the greatest of scars upon its victims."
One of the victims talked about how the abuse had a "profound effect" on him, leaving him unable to trust others and like a "closed book".
"What I don't understand is why the Church of England allowed him to continue to practise religion," they said. "I just feel that he has been protected and that really disappoints me."
In a statement, the Rt Rev Simon Burton Jones, Bishop of Tonbridge on behalf of the Diocese of Rochester, said the case had raised "concerning questions about decisions and actions taken in relation to David's ministry".
He said: “We are deeply saddened and appalled by the Rev David Beater’s crimes and will be keeping all those affected by his actions in our prayers.
“The victim impact statements read out in court demonstrate the devasting and lifelong impact David Beater’s abuse has had on their lives.
“We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward and acknowledge how difficult this would have been.We apologise unreservedly to them for what has happened and for what they have experienced.
“The facts of this case raise concerning questions about decisions and actions taken by the Church in relation to David’s ministry. Because of this, the matter has now been referred to the National Safeguarding Team in accordance with the House of Bishops’ guidelines.
“Mr Beater is retired and has not been in active ministry for more than 10 years.
“As a diocese, we take the safety and wellbeing of children and young people very seriously and have robust safeguarding procedures in place.
“Anyone with any concerns relating to this case, or any other safeguarding is encouraged to get in touch directly with one of our safeguarding advisers who will offer confidential support and advice - or to speak with someone else they trust."
Following the sentencing, DCI Keith Roberts from Kent Police said: "Owing to the position Beater occupied, people naturally trusted him and viewed him as a person to turn to for support. He abused this trust in the worst possible way.
"Many years may have passed from the time of the offending, but that does not in any way undo the harm he has caused.
"His offending has impacted each victim’s life in unimaginable ways and it took exceptional courage for each of them to speak to us about their ordeal.
"I am pleased Beater has now been held to account and I sincerely hope this outcome provides the victims with a sense of justice and closure."