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News

Safeguarding office moves 'in-house' to bishops' HQ
20 March 2014 12:33 by Christopher Lamb and Elena Curti

The Church’s safeguarding office is to be relocated from Birmingham into the headquarters of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales at Eccleston Square in central London.

The Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) will move to London before the lease expires on its current offices in February 2015. In a statement, the trustees for the Catholic Trust for England and Wales (the legal entity of the Bishops’ Conference) said the relocation will fulfill recommendations of the 2007 Cumberlege Commission, which called for CSAS to be fully integrated into mainstream church structures.

CSAS is funded by the bishops’ conference and advises the Church on child protection. In recent years it has completed safeguarding audits of all 22 dioceses in England and Wales. Its work is overseen by the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC), which lists the same Birmingham address as CSAS on its website.

Both organisations replaced the fully independent Catholic Office for Child Protection and Vulnerable Adults (Copca) that was set up in compliance with the recommendations of the Nolan Report of 2001.

Adrian Child, the director of CSAS, said that while his body is not independent, “I think we’ve built up a reputation of impartiality and I feel reasonably confident that will continue in the new premises.”

Mr Child added there had been discussions about CSAS having a separate switchboard and postal address adding that it might be difficult for some victims of abuse to come through the Eccleston Square switchboard.

Meanwhile a senior lawyer has criticised the Vatican for failing to issue its official approval to the Church in England and Wales’ child protection procedures.

Richard Scorer, who has represented victims in some of the highest profile abuse cases, said the Holy See had yet to issue its recognitio for child protection procedures set out in the Lord Nolan and Cumberlege reports. In 2007 Baroness Cumberlege insisted that the Church get the recognitio, which the United States Bishops’ Conference received for their child safeguarding norms in 2002.

In his new book, Betrayed, Mr Scorer also described as a “betrayal” the Church’s failure to meet the needs of abuse victims and also calls for the Church to introduce a code of conduct for priests in their relations with women. A code had been drawn up by Copca in 2006 but was rejected by the bishops.

Mr Scorer is head of the abuse unit at the law firm, Slater and Gordon. Earlier in his career he represented victims in some of the most high-profile clerical abuse cases in England and Wales, including that of Michael Hill, who was convicted of sexually abusing children in his diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The case led to media disclosures in 2002 that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor had allowed Hill to stay in ministry after he abused children, giving him the opportunity to assault another child.

But Danny Sullivan, the chairman of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, stressed that the child protection norms in England and Wales had been sent to Rome in 2012 and are seen as “a model of good practice in the Vatican and in the wider Catholic world”. He said that they were having positive discussions with the Holy See over the possibility of receiving the recognitio and had not encountered any resistance to this possibility. Mr Sullivan added that support for victims of abuse is an “area of continuous development”.