It is always heartening when any institution chooses to initiate formal scrutiny when something has gone badly wrong. In the Church of England, the House of Bishop’s guidance states that once matters relate to a safeguarding concern or allegation against a church officer have been completed, lessons should be identified and learnt from the case.
Most of these reviews should be internal reviews but in more complex cases independent reviews are commissioned. In my opinion, independent reviews must beat internal reviews hands down, to ensure robust and non-biased scrutiny in the often complex context of abuse in religious settings.
The independent ‘Lessons Learnt Review’ of the serial paedophile Reverend Graham Gregory published last year was commissioned by The National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England and carried out by Ray Galloway (who previously led the Jimmy Saville inquiry at Leeds General Infirmary).
Reverend Graham Gregory was a prolific offender, sexually abusing young girls over an expansive geographical area. As a priest of the Church of England, he moved a number of times including in to parishes across five dioceses - Southwark, Chichester, on the Isle of Man, Southwell and Nottingham, and York. The Review exposed that he had likely committed sexual offences in almost every Diocese.
Galloway’s evidence demonstrated that Gregory was a determined and persistent abuser of children who actively sourced out and created opportunities to sexually abuse his victims. His victims included daughters of parishioners, the daughter of a family relative, the daughter of the vicar whom he assisted as curate, and a child whose parents were visually impaired and had trusted Gregory with her safety.
Regrettably, the Review’s conclusions highlight the missed opportunities presented to the church, which could and should have been acted upon but failed to do so. The report cites repeated examples of child victims and victims’ parents seeking support and protection from members of the clergy, including senior members. They were not listened to, and no action was taken. Such apathy continued for almost 50 years and included on at least one occasion an allegation, which was actively suppressed by a senior member of the clergy. Gregory was simply moved on to another diocese.
Gregory was finally brought to justice and was convicted of 2 counts of indecent assaults of a girl under 13 at Kingston Crown Court in 2014, for which he was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. He was further convicted in 2018 of 3 indecent assaults against 3 separate victims, (all children) and was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months. He died in prison in 2019.
In his report, Galloway points out that while safeguarding matters in the past did not benefit from the profile and awareness that they do today ‘there was still a fundamental, moral and professional duty to protect children’. The Church’s dereliction of their duty to the vulnerable resulted in Gregory’s continuing and un-challenged further abuse over several decades. Had key individuals stopped to scrutinise Gregory’s behaviour and take action to protect the children and families involved, Gregory would have been brought to justice sooner and fewer victims would have been harmed.
The Lead Safeguarding Bishop of the Church of England Jonathan Gibbs released a statement following the publishing of This Lessons Learnt Review:
‘This report is a stark and harrowing reminded of how the Church failed victims and survivors over many years and allowed Graham Gregory to continue in the Ministry. We are deeply sorry, and we are aware that the publication today will remind victims and survivors of the appalling abuse they suffered and the awful breach of trust by many Church leaders who sought to support Gregory rather than believe their story and on occasions proactively covered up’.
It is believed such public apology extended to individual apologies to Gregory’s victims.
Emmott Snell recently represented one of Gregory’s victims. Gregory had access to them through a family connection, he started abusing our client as a child, and such abuse extended for very many years, even into adulthood. It was highly invasive, including penetration. Gregory would use his role as a priest to manipulate and threaten our client into complying/acquiescing to his abuse.
Our client pursued the churches to which Gregory was connected in his role as a Priest and was ultimately successful in their compensation claim. They commented ‘’From the first phone call to Emmott Snell Solicitors, the receptionist that I spoke to was very understanding and then Tracey, my appointed Solicitor, was very professional. She totally understood the sensitive nature of my case and dealt with me with compassion and most certainly went above and beyond to achieve an excellent result for me.’’
In the Review report, Ray Galloway made recommendations to each of the Dioceses where Gregory had worked in his role as a Priest and also made recommendations to the National Church of England. It is hoped and indeed expected that those recommendations have been heeded and implemented at every level.
Should you happen to be a victim of institutional abuse, and wish to obtain advice about financial compensation routes of justice, please feel free to contact us. We are here to help and will do our best to assist you.