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Bishop of Grantham 'very sorry' over reports Diocese of Lincoln failed to properly handle historic abuse allegations

A list of 53 clergy and staff from the Church of England’s Lincoln Diocese was referred to the police in 2015 after the diocese realised it had failed to properly handle past allegations and concerns about abuse, some involving children, BBC Panorama will reveal tonight.

Some of the names could have been referred years earlier as part of the Church of England’s national Past Cases Review, which examined tens of thousands of Church records in 2008 and 2009 to discover whether abuse cases had slipped through the net.

Not all the names on the Lincoln list related to child abuse allegations, according to the BBC.

Bishop of Grantham (9287633)
Bishop of Grantham (9287633)

Panorama reports Lincolnshire Police and Lincoln Diocese investigated 25 names on the list, with three cases leading to convictions. The investigation, codenamed Operation Redstone, is ongoing.

Detective Superintendent Rick Hatton, who leads Operation Redstone, told BBC Panorama: “We whittled it down to about 25 names whereby we either knew that they’d committed offences or there was some issue around risk to members of the public from them. There was the ongoing concern that actually those people were working with children. Potentially there was still a risk.”

Detective Superintendent Hatton explained that a team of detectives contacted hundreds of potential victims and survivors around the world.

He said: “Just because they are what we call non-recent cases, doesn't make them any less serious. In fact it makes them more serious because they weren't dealt with at the time so there's a risk from the offender ongoing.”

The programme reveals two former bishops from Lincoln Diocese, who were made aware of abuse concerns at the time, failed to act.

The late Rt Revd Kenneth Riches, former Bishop of Lincoln, was told in 1969 that Roy Griffiths, a deputy head teacher at Lincoln Cathedral School, had attempted to indecently assault a pupil.

But Roy Griffiths kept his job at the school until 1970, when another boy complained about abuse of boys by Griffiths. He remained at the school for at least two further months, and was able to move to a job at an Anglican school in Papua New Guinea.

Neither Lincoln Cathedral School nor Lincoln Diocese informed the police at the time, the programme reports.

One of Roy Griffiths’ victims, who now lives in Canada, has spoken to Panorama.

He said: “It should have been dealt with right away, and the Church should have instructed the police for being a paedophile. And they didn’t. They just turned a blind eye and moved on.”

The programme says it was another 45 years before Lincolnshire Police became aware of the alleged abuse.

Roy Griffiths finally admitted abusing six boys at Lincoln Cathedral School last year, and is now serving a prison sentence of six years and seven months.

Detective Superintendent Rick Hatton told Panorama: “When he was sentenced, the feelings I had for the victims and what they'd been through, what came out in court, was quite heart wrenching. I was really proud of the team, the job they did and the investigation they did was first class.”

For the first time, Panorama can name another former Bishop of Lincoln who failed to discover more when told about abuse in the past.

Rt Revd Robert Hardy was Bishop of Lincoln in the 1990s when he was approached by his then Director of Education, John Bailey.

John Bailey had abused three girls from 1955 to 1982. After the family of one of his victims wrote to him at the diocese to tell him of the ordeal he had caused their daughter, Bailey spoke to Bishop Hardy.

Panorama can also reveal that John Bailey told the then Bishop of Lincoln, Rt Revd Robert Hardy, that he had “touched up” a female, but that it was a one-off. Bishop Robert Hardy did not contact the woman or her family to discover more, and Bailey was allowed to continue working at the diocese for another six years.

The programme interviewed one of John Bailey’s victims. The woman said he had become friends with her family. She said: “He would take the opportunity to come upstairs when I was in bed if they were playing cards downstairs and he would touch me under my clothes while I was in bed between my legs. It went on from when I was four ‘til when I was 11. And it happened quite frequently.”

Detective Superintendent Rick Hatton said: “They were some of the worst sexual offending that’s imaginable, really.”

Bishop Robert Hardy told Panorama no-one had contacted him at the time or subsequently to make a comment or complaint about John Bailey. Had they done, he would have investigated it. He said that when John Bailey was appointed Director of Education there was no indication of misdemeanour in his past.

He said his failing was to trust John Bailey’s word. With what he has learned since he deeply regrets that, and grieves for the damage it has done.

In 2017, following an investigation by Operation Redstone, John Bailey finally admitted abusing three girls and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Rt Revd Nicholas Chamberlain, Bishop of Grantham and now lead bishop on safeguarding for the Diocese of Lincoln, told BBC Panorama: “The Diocese of Lincoln wishes to acknowledge that past matters have not been handled well. The diocese is committed to learn from its mistakes. I am very sorry that it took so long for justice to be served.”

He added: “Our safeguarding team have developed an effective partnership with Lincolnshire Police, working together on Operation Redstone. Together they have worked tirelessly to ensure that convictions were secured where possible and where this was not an option, that risk was managed appropriately.”

He also said: “Every effort is being made to ensure that safeguarding is part of the DNA of the Diocese of Lincoln.”

Panorama has also interviewed Rt Revd Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Church of England’s lead bishop on safeguarding.

He told the programme: “The Church is very clear that we’re aware that we’ve failed and I hope that we are increasingly transparent. We take this now very seriously. It will be my hope as we go forward I hope it will be increasingly understood that if survivors and victims of abuse wish to come forward, what they need is a response from a church that is compassionate, that is fair, that is appropriate, and that is swift.”

However, when pressed by Panorama on how many past abuse cases have been reported to the Church of England, he was unwilling to give figures.

He said: “We’re building an ongoing picture between years to see how many cases we’re looking at, what sort of cases they are. Looking at an overall number isn’t, I don’t think, the most helpful way. Those numbers are being brought together at the moment, they will go to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, they will be made public.”

BBC Panorama: Scandal In The Church Of England will be broadcast tonight at 8.30pm on BBC One.

The programme is a joint investigation with BBC Look North. Viewers in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire can see more on Look North on BBC One tonight at 6.30pm.

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