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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Archbishop's 'sorrow' over abuse
Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams released the statement after the jailing of a choirmaster
The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of his "deep sorrow" for the suffering of victims of child abuse involving the Church of England.

Dr Rowan Williams has released his first statement since the jailing of Hampshire choirmaster Peter Halliday.

In it he said the church had developed greater expertise at handling complaints since Halliday, 61, sexually assaulted a boy 17 years ago.

The Church has been criticised for failing to tell police about the abuse.

We can only express our keen awareness of the damage and deep sorrow for the suffering caused
Dr Rowan Williams

The victim told a church camp leader about the abuse in 1990 and Halliday, who was choirmaster at St Peter's Church in Farnborough, admitted it when confronted.

He was asked by the church to resign his position, not work with young boys again, and get counselling, but it was not reported to police.

Unknown to the church, Halliday - who was described by his victims as a bully and revolting - had attacked two other youngsters who had not complained.

Dr Williams admitted in his statement that any case in which the church failed to prove itself a safe place for children was "deplorable".

'Sad events'

He said: "This is one such case, and we can only express our keen awareness of the damage and deep sorrow for the suffering caused.

"The principle that the welfare of the child must always take priority has sometimes been misunderstood to mean that a child should not be put through the distress of public legal procedures.

"It appears to me that this misunderstanding may have been involved in this instance.

"Since these sad events occurred, the church - like other public bodies - has developed greater expertise and far more stringent procedures.

"This does not help victims of an earlier era, but the awareness of the cost they have borne is something that underlines the imperative need to keep all our procedures in the strictest working order."

Halliday, from Farnborough, was jailed for 30 months at Winchester Crown Court on Thursday after admitting 10 counts of indecent assault between 1985 and 1990.




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