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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 17:17 GMT
Child abuse priest housed by Church
Father Michael Hill
Hill abused again as chaplain to Gatwick Airport
A paedophile priest who abused nine boys is living rent-free in a flat owned by the Roman Catholic Church, the BBC has discovered.

One of Father Michael Hill's victims said he was "sickened" to learn the disgraced priest was being helped by the Church, 14 months after his release from prison.

The Catholic diocese of Arundel and Brighton, which had employed Hill as chaplain to Gatwick Airport in 1985 even though he had had his licence revoked, said it had a duty to house him.

The Church said it arranged his accommodation in the 100,000 flat, three minutes walk from a primary school, at the request of the probation authorities to help ensure he was properly supervised.

Learning difficulties

Hill, who had served three years of a five-year sentence, was tracked down by Radio 4's Today programme, which did not name the town he is in.


It is absolute hypocrisy that the Church should be giving solace to this man

'Peter' - abuse victim
He had been jailed for abusing boys, including a child with learning difficulties, who he met through his work with the Church.

One of Hill's victims - named only as Peter - said: "I went to see Father Hill when I was homeless as a teenager and Father Hill abused me, betrayed my trust and betrayed the trust I had in the Catholic Church.

"It is absolute hypocrisy that the Church should be giving solace to this man and yet his victims like myself have had to fight tooth and nail for everything.

"I think the Church have a duty of care to the victims and more time should be given to helping the victims rather than helping the priest who committed crimes."

The Church authorities have paid compensation to victims of Hill.

'Difficult dilemma'

The present Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Kieran Conry, told Today the Church must "accept a certain moral responsibility for Michael Hill".

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor knew Hill was a sex offender
He added: "It is a difficult dilemma to be in, because we do appreciate that victims and families of victims would see that we would appear to be providing something to an offender."

Diocese spokesman Father Kevin Dring said: "We are not providing accommodation for the sake of it, we are trying to ensure that he is in a position to be properly supervised."

Eileen Shearer, director of the Catholic Office for Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, told Today the Church had learnt from the case.

"What the Church is doing is helping to protect the community by making sure people know where he is and that he can be supervised," she said.

Supervision

Hill was initially released under licence and told he must live at a full-time residential centre under the supervision of the Probation Service.

He was recently the centre of controversy when it emerged the current head of the Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, was the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton in the 1980s who allowed him to continue working.

The Cardinal had been warned Hill was a danger to young people, and the scandal led to the establishment of new rules to stamp out sex abuse in the Church.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Angus Stickler
"His victims have expressed outrage"
See also:

10 Jul 00 | Education
The child protection blacklists
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