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Monday, March 8, 1999 Published at 07:24 GMT


Church 'ignoring rules' on abuse

Child protection procedures were set up by the Church in 1994

Catholic priests accused of child abuse are being allowed to continue working, an investigation by BBC News has found.

The BBC's Angus Stickler: "Lawyers are preparing to sue the Church for negligence"
Church officials have admitted that some bishops in the UK may be failing to follow the Church's own child protection guidelines.

Since 1994, the Catholic Church has had strict child protection procedures.

Nicholas Coote of the Catholic Bishops' Conference: "There was no question of breaking guidelines"
These state that in any case where a complaint is made against a priest, social services should be informed and the priest removed from parish duties.

An investigation for Radio 5 Live found one priest under investigation who was still working.

Another, recently suspended, was allowed to work in a primary school while under suspicion of abusing children.

He had been accused of abuse twice before.

Several complaints

Since 1996, six priests have been convicted of child abuse.

In each case, the church knew of previous allegations.

Radio Five Live: Mother of an abused child: "Priest should have been stopped"
The Church introduced the guidelines following the case of a Midlands priest jailed for sexually abusing seven children.

Numerous complaints had been made against him, but the Church failed to call in the authorities.

Nine offences

The Catholic Church in England and Wales says it it is fully committed to child protection, but said there may be individual cases where the guidelines are not being followed.

One priest, Father Michael Hill, was jailed two years ago after admitting nine counts of of indecent assault and one of gross indecency.

The mother of one of the children he abused said he should have been stopped.

She said he should have been barred from working in any parish and given help, rather than allowed to continue working as a priest.

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