10 August, 2016
Covering up historic child abuse is now a permanent feature of the Church of England, says PETER FROST
IN ITS latest cynical attempt to bury bad news, The Church of England published a damning report on the horrific abuse of youngsters at a Church of England children’s home on the same day Theresa May became Prime Minister.
This latest of so many cases of child abuse by bishops, clergy and senior lay staff employed by the church concerns physical and sexual abuse at Kendall House in Gravesend, Kent over a 20-year period.
Vulnerable girls were regularly overmedicated on antipsychotic drugs, locked in isolation rooms, physically abused and even raped.
The Church of England has now issued a “wholehearted apology” following the investigation, which found the response of the dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury “woeful and inadequate.”
“Only the naive will believe this is not an attempt to bury bad news, especially as the Church has form on this,” said Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the National Secular Society.
He is just one of the critics who argue the Church should have delayed the publication of such a serious report until after former Home Secretary Theresa May was officially made Prime Minister.
“The Church’s concern remains protecting its reputation and pocket, rather than the many victims whose lives have been ruined,” Mr Porteous Wood continued.
This cynical attempt to manage the media echoes the disgraceful attitude of Baroness Butler-Sloss, the retired judge appointed by Theresa May in 2014 to lead a major review of previous child sex abuse allegations. Baroness Butler-Sloss admitted she kept allegations about a bishop out of a report on a paedophile scandal because she “cared about the church.” She once told a victim of alleged abuse by Bishop Peter Ball that she did not want to include the claims because “the press would love a bishop.”
During a meeting at the House of Lords, Lady Butler-Sloss stated that she would “prefer not to refer to him” because he was “very old now” and she wanted the focus of any press coverage to highlight two priests who were prolific abusers – one of whom is dead and the other is in prison.
Only last year, at the age of 83, Bishop Ball dramatically pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office between 1977 and 1992.
In 1993, Bishop Ball failed to get the case thrown out after claiming he accepted a caution for gross indecency on the understanding that he would face no further action.
The then archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey called an official at the Crown Prosecution Service saying: “I was told quite categorically that the other allegations would not be taken further as far as we are concerned.”
This pressure meant that no criminal charges were brought despite two other abuse complaints at the time and warnings that there was sufficient admissible, substantial and reliable evidence for a trial.
One of his alleged victims said: “The Church and the Establishment has colluded in covering up Bishop Ball’s offending at the highest level over very many years.”
Ball — the former Bishop of Lewes and Gloucester and a friend of Prince Charles. After Ball resigned as Bishop of Gloucester following the caution, the Prince of Wales invited him to live in a house owned by the Duchy of Cornwall in Aller, Somerset.
Now the latest damning abuse report on Kendall House has again taken decades to finally come to public attention.
Medicine was distributed by consultant psychiatrist Dr Marenthiran Perinpanayagam, known as Dr Peri, whose drug regime had an “experimental element,” according to the report. Both Law and Perinpanayagam are now dead. The review described Kendall House as “a place where control, containment and sometimes cruelty was normalised.”
“Girls as young as 11 were routinely, and often without any initial medical assessment, given antidepressants, sedatives and antipsychotic medication,” the report said.
“Often these drugs were given in dosages which exceeded usual prescribed adult levels.
“This served to control their behaviour, placing them in a constant stupor, restricting their ability to communicate or to learn, or have any personal autonomy.
“These drugs put them at risk of numerous side effects, many of which were distressing. The effects of the drugs also increased their vulnerability to emotional, physical and, in a smaller number of cases, sexual abuse.
“Those that resisted, challenged or overcame the effects of these routinely administered drugs faced sanctions. These included being locked in a room for long periods, and receiving emotionally abusive threats and actions.
“In a number of cases, even the slightest misdemeanours, the typical features of teenagers’ behaviour, were dealt with by physical restraint, sometimes violent, and intramuscular injections of powerfully sedating medication.”
Over the years several Kendall House victims have come forward to complain to the Church, but amazingly numerous clergies up to bishop level have had convenient lapses of memory.
As so often the church has waited until the offending Christians have died or are long retired before issuing belated admissions of guilt and grudging apologies.