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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Church tackles child abuse
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham
The Archbishop of Birmingham: "Looking at behaviour"
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham has announced a set of guidelines which it hopes will help prevent child abuse by priests.

The publication of the guidelines comes as the archdiocese faces a High Court action for damages brought by former altar boy.

The guidelines are based on the statutory "paramountcy principle" - that the welfare of the child is foremost.

They set out how the diocese will deal with allegations of sexual abuse involving children within the church.

As a result of the guidelines, priests who have been cleared in court of child abuse will still face a risk assessment and possible sanctions, such as a bar on working with children.

Risk assessment

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said: "What we are looking to is people's behaviour and not just their words.

"What we will gradually be able to do, as the whole of society has to do, is begin to spot where things are not quite right."


When a priest commits a sin like this, the guilt of that spreads

Archbishop Nichols

Archbishop Nichols said: "In the case of somebody who has had allegations made against them, been brought to court and been found not guilty, there still remains the issue of any abiding risk to children and the paramountcy principle."

Last week, former altar boy Simon Grey was given permission to pursue a 100,000 High Court action for damages against the archbishop and the archdiocese.

Mr Grey claims he suffered eight years of abuse from the assistant parish priest of Christ the King church in Coventry, Father Christopher Clonan.

It is the first time a case has been brought against the church rather than the abuser.

'Burden of responsibility'

Father Clonan fled the country when complaints were made against in 1992.

To date, his whereabouts are unknown.

Speaking about the case, Archbishop Nichols said: "When a priest commits a sin like this, the guilt of that spreads.

"Though he remains responsible for his actions, the burden goes much more widely and I accept that."

The archdiocese has been hit by a series of high profile cases of Catholic priests being convicted of sex offences against children.

Father Eric Taylor was jailed for seven years in 1998 for abusing boys at the Father Hudson's home in Coleshill, Warwickshire during the 1950s and 1960s.

He died last year in prison at the age of 82.

Earlier this month, Father John Gerard Flahive was jailed for nine months for sexually abusing three young girls in his care over a 17 year period.

Flahive, 52, was also placed on the sex offenders' register for 10 years.

Archbishop Nichols said on Wednesday that no priest convicted of offences against children would have a "role of trust" in the diocese.


Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online

Click here to go to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire
See also:

19 Nov 01 | England
12 Jan 02 | England
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