David Greenwood, Director and Head of the Child Abuse Law department at Switalskis, has campaigned for an official examination of the church responses to abuse allegations. Below are his comments on the report on abuse within the Methodist Church which was published today (28th May 2015):
“The report into the Methodist church tells only part of the story.
The cases examined are only the ones documented in the past. Many will not have been recorded. We will never know how many cases have not been handled properly. Many of those affected do not trust that churches will take their complaints seriously which means we are left with thousands of survivors who do not even report their abuse.
Church organisations have enjoyed unquestioned trust to care vulnerable members of society. Churches are closed organisations and have been trusted to regulate themselves in relation to child abuse allegations.
This means that those who are brave enough to speak up about wrongdoing in their organisation are forced to speak to someone with a vested interest in protecting the church. Typically very few allegations are taken seriously and reported to the police. The report itself acknowledges that only a tiny minority of cases are passed to the police.
This has amounted to systematic covering up of allegations of abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
My campaigning colleagues and I have heard apologies and commitments to improve yet church organisations of every denomination have refused to hand over complaints handling to an independent body.
I have campaigned for changes to improve church responses to allegations and for a thorough investigation as part of a national inquiry. The Methodist church is not alone as a wrongdoer. All churches require scrutiny. I hope that the inquiry headed by Mrs Justice Goddard will thoroughly examine church handling of allegations and consider recommending the establishment of an independent organisation for taking reports of abuse and mandatory reporting of allegations to the police.”
Solicitor and chairman of the Stop Church Child Abuse campaign: www.stopchurchchildabuse.co.uk
Executive member of Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors: www.macsas.org.uk