Rowing back from reporting sexual abuse?

Is the Anglican Church going to change tack and not report all allegations of sexual abuse to the police? It has been reported in the Australian that Anglican Primate Phillip spinall has given personal support to the two Catholic Church leaders in the eye of the Hepworth sexual abuse affair, urging people not to rush to judgment over what happened to the future archbishop or the handling of the case  The Australian reports that r spinall praised the Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, as "one of the church leaders in the country most educated" in dealing with sex abuse complaints, while archdiocese vicar-general avid appo was "deeply understanding" of victims' needs. The report goes on to say that it has been revealed that r spinall had commissioned a review into the policy he had developed in Brisbane to report all sexual abuse complaints against Anglican clergy and church staff to police, regardless of the complainant's wishes or any time lapse. r spinall emphasised that he could not comment on the Catholic hierarchy's management of the complaint by Archbishop John Hepworth of the breakaway raditional Anglican Communion that he suffered systematic sexual abuse for more than a decade at the hands of Catholic clergy in Adelaide and Melbourne, forcing him to flee the priesthood. The Anglican Primate told The Australian he knew Archbishop Wilson and Monsignor appo and had great respect for both. "You know, I think there are two sides to the story," he said. "And I recognise the restrictions on some of the people in authority in churches about being able to tell what they know." The unresolved response of the Catholic archdiocese in Adelaide has been contrasted unfavourably with that of Melbourne's, which handles sex abuse claims differently to the rest of the church in Australia. It dealt with Archbishop Hepworth's complaint within a year, apologised, offered a financial settlement and acknowledged he had been sexually abused by late Catholic priest Ronald Pickering and in "many other instances" by clergy in South Australia. Archbishop Hepworth according to the Australian says he told Monsignor appo of his ordeal four years ago, but the archdiocese disputes that he requested a church probe in 2008. This began in February this year, as the Melbourne archdiocese was approaching its settlement with Archbishop Hepworth, reached in August.

I mentioned last week in my blog that independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon subsequently used parliamentary privilege to name serving Adelaide priest Monsignor Ian Dempsey as the only survivor of the trio alleged to have raped and sexually abused Archbishop Hepworth between 1960 and 1972 in Adelaide and Melbourne. Monsignor Dempsey has rejected the claim he was involved in any abuse. The Australian further reports that r spinall said he was "very slow to judge other churches", having had extensive experience in dealing with sex abuse complaints against clergy and church workers, including the claimed cover-ups in Queensland in the 1990s that caught up with his predecessor as archbishop of Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth, and forced him to quit his post as governor-general in 2003. "I know when you are dealing with any abused person how much pain and trauma this causes to people," r spinall said. "And I know I have done my utmost . . . to make sure that we do the right thing by people. "And I know how often we still disappoint people, and seem unintentionally to exacerbate their hurt. "Sometimes what we try to do is misunderstood and misinterpreted because there is a lack of trust there, which I understand. "Sometimes what is recorded is to my mind not accurate it doesn't fully reflect what I know we have bent over backwards to try to do, and I am restricted in what I can say about the particular circumstances because of the need to protect the privacy of the person. "So it just makes me pause when I hear stories of other churches, and particularly about people whom I know personally and have great respect." The Catholic archdiocese in delaide has said Archbishop Hepworth was encouraged over a "significant period of time" to take his complaint to the police. Archbishop Hepworth says he has spoken to the police three times since this newspaper broke the story of his ordeal, but the South Australia police would not say last week if this meant a criminal probe. Surely all allegations of sexual abuse should be reported to the police? If the complainant subsequently prefers for charges not be brought then so be it. That is a matter for them and the police. Experience has shown me that victims are to put it mildly are very nervous of reporting the abuse in the first place and should be shown and given support to follow through. It is not in my opinion for the church or any other organisation to decide what should and should not be reported to the police. hat is a recipe for brushing serious criminal offences under the carpet. I hope that the nglican church does not recoil from its policy of reporting all crime to the police. If you have been abused and would like to me Alan Collins or my colleague Charles Derham please contact us in confidence. Alan Collins Charles Derham (0) 2392492472


Charles has considerable specialist experience in pursuing claims for compensation for those who have been abused in childhood. His specific expertise means that he is recognised locally, nationally and internationally for his work which has taken him all over the world including, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

He is also recognised for his significant involvement in the high profile litigation against St Georges School (Anglemoss Limited) and Cyntwell High School. These cases involved a staggering number of individuals who pursued those responsible whom despite heavily defending the claims brought against them settled by way of out of court settlements.

Charles regularly features in local and national press and he is often asked to provide his professional opinion and commentary on relevant abuse law issues and developments on radio and television broadcasts. Such broadcasts include BBC South Today, BBC Wales, ITV and ITN News.

Charles is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.

You can follow Charles on Twitter and Facebook.

Charles obtained his Law degree at Kingston University, before successfully completing his Legal Practice Course. He trained and qualified with Verisona Law beginning his specialism in the field of child abuse claims. He received his higher rights of Audience in 2012 making him one of the youngest Solicitor-Advocates in the country who is able to represent his clients in the High Court. Charles is head of the abuse team who collectively have secured compensation for hundreds of victims of abuse.

He began diversifying in to other aspects of abuse law and his team are one of the very few in the country who specialise in claims against social services.

He is involved in complex group action litigation and also represents a number of individuals and who are pursuing private companies, local authorities and perpetrators in pursuit of their justice.

Charles has strong contacts with some of the most prominent barristers who advise on abuse claims including a number of QC’s. He also has robust connections with highly qualified expert witnesses he instructs in support of those who he represents.

  • Child abuse claims
  • Claims against social services
  • Complex/Catastrophic Clinical Negligence claims

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