A disturbing child sex abuse case that raises awkward questions about insurers
My colleague Tim Wood reveals on the Exaro website today a damning story about how a victim of historic child sex abuse was failed by the Church of England because it took more notice of its insurers than survivors of abuse.
Joe as he was publicly known eventually won £35,000 in compensation over a case involving abuse by a church official dating back to the 1970s.
As Tim Wood writes on Exaro: " Joe claims that the church initially put financial considerations above its duty of pastoral care when handling his case, and called on the Church of England to do more to help abuse survivors.
Joe told Exaro: “The church should stop seeing child sex abuse survivors through a corporate lens and start viewing us through a theological lens of healing and justice.”
In an emotional letter to the Right Reverend Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, Joe claims that the church played out a “monstrous charade” in initially trying to close down his case.
The letter, written in April and seen by Exaro, claims that the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), founded by the church in 1887, administered Joe’s case and started what he describes as a “damage limitation process.” Joe also claims that Bishop Butler, the Church of England’s head of safeguarding, was complicit in the strategy and began “blanking him” despite appeals for help.
To his credit Bishop Butler who is head of the Church of England's safeguarding body has apologised to Joe saying : " “I am also extremely sorry that when the solicitor’s letter arrived regarding a claim, I did not over-rule the legal and insurance advice I received regarding having no further contact with you. I should have made it clear it would have been better to maintain contact.”
And the insurance company has also said it was misunderstood and didn't intend to interfere with pastoral care.
However there is a wider question about the role of insurance companies and suppressing allegations of child sexual abuse.
Ann Clwyd, the Labour Mp for the Cynon Valley, has been campaigning for changes in the law to prevent insurers putting up road blocks in investigating child sex abuse in council run homes.
Last year she secured a debate in the Commons in which she said that reports into abuse in homes run by the former Clwyd County Council had been “prevented from publication by the council’s insurers.”
Ms Clwyd said: “[The] council did not allow the inquiry to place a notice in the local press seeking information because this was considered to be unacceptable to the insurers. It’s interesting that the insurers of the county council were also the insurers of the North Wales Police.”
Describing how the report was then “suppressed”, she said only 12 copies were made and it was “virtually unseen by committee or council members”. She argued that if it had been published “it would have sounded alarm bells and things would have moved much faster”.
She added: “It was not until July 2013 that the redacted version of the Jilliings report was finally published after a request by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act.”
So far ministers have not taken any action despite a recommendation by the Law Commission way back in 2004.
This seems to be to be an ideal issue to be taken up by the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse. And the Church of England case appears to be yet another example that should be investigated.