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The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"The Archbishop of Westminster is determined the church should change"
 real 56k

The NSPCC's Neil Hunt
"If the national child protection unit has real authority, that will be very good"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jane Hughes
"Lord Nolan and his panel have made fifty recommendations"
 real 56k

Lord Nolan
"We didn't look at any specific cases"
 real 56k

A victim of abuse, 'Donald'
Says what he wants from the Nolan report
 real 28k

Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Clergy checks urged to protect children

High profile abuse cases have damaged the Church
A committee set up to advise the Catholic Church on how to stop sexual abuse has called for police checks to be carried out on all clergy, staff and volunteers.

The recommendation is among 50 put forward in a report by an independent committee, chaired by retired judge Lord Nolan.

Others include the establishment of a national database on candidates for the priesthood and a national child protection unit within the church to provide support and advice and information at a national level.


We are committed to ensuring that the Catholic Church becomes the safest of places for children

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor
The report says that cautioned or convicted child abusers should not hold any position that could put children at risk and that clergy should be dismissed in the most serious cases.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, launched the review last September after admitting "inadequate procedures" had led to errors in the past.

Between 1995 and 1999 a total of 21 Catholic priests in England and Wales were convicted of offences against children.

The nine-strong review committee included two senior judges, senior officials from the probation service and the psychiatric profession, a children's charity and Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner David Veness.

The report, published on Tuesday, recommends:

  • The Church should set up a national database of information on all candidates for the priesthood.

  • Every Catholic parish should have a designated child protection representative, with the Church adopting a single set of policies based on Home Office procedures for preventing child abuse.

  • Bishops and religious superiors do not overrule selection boards where reservations are expressed about a candidates suitability for ordination on the grounds of a possible risk to children and young people.

  • Allegations of abuse must be responded to swiftly, with police involvement.

    Lord Nolan said the overall aim of the report is to create a secure environment for children.

    "We believe the Catholic Church in England and Wales should become an example of best practice in the prevention of child abuse and in responding to it," he said.

    Convictions

    "Our proposals are meant to improve existing diocesan and national structures and procedures so that parishes are supported in their efforts to protect the children in their care."

    Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said the report was "extremely constructive and helpful" and would form a major item for discussion by all the bishops of England and Wales at their meeting next week.

    "We are committed to ensuring that the Catholic Church becomes the safest of places for children," he said.


    I think the church has been forced into owning up because its cover has been blown

    Susan ni Rahilly
    Child abuse author
    "I am very intent that the Catholic Church in this country, in England and Wales, will be an example to everyone on proper procedures for child protection and dealing with allegations."

    But Susan ni Rahilly, an author on child abuse, told BBC News 24 the report was "optimistic but very simplistic" and questions remained over how it would be implemented.

    She said the previous absence of vetting procedures was indicative of the "blanket denial" in the church of the child abuse problem.

    "I think the church has been forced into owning up because its cover has been blown," she told the BBC.

    Sexual offences

    The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the church needs to act on the recommendations with urgency.

    "We know that children often feel unable to disclose abuse because they fear the consequences or worry they won't be believed," said a spokesman.

    "Mechanisms and procedures need to be in place throughout the Church hierarchy so that allegations of all abuse are followed up immediately."

    Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was severely criticised last July over the case of paedophile priest Father Michael Hill.

    Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
    Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has faced strong criticism
    He faced calls to resign when it emerged he had been responsible for allowing Hill to continue working as a chaplain despite warnings he would re-offend.

    The poor vetting of prospective priests was also exposed in the case of teacher Joe Jordan, who had been accused of abuse while at a school in Doncaster and barred from teaching.

    When he then trained to become a priest this information was never passed on to the appointments board in the Cardiff Diocese which subsequently employed him.

    He was later convicted of more cases of abuse.

    The Nolan committee's full report is due to be completed this summer.

    It will recommend the Church builds on the guidelines it issued in 1994, which proved inadequate in protecting children from abusing priests.

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