Preliminary hearings are being held by the Goddard inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice this week.
The inquiry into child sex abuse in England and Wales is investigating 7,000 submissions of evidence relating to the Anglican church, according to the counsel to the inquiry.
In a preliminary hearing today at the Royal Courts of Justice, Ben Emmerson QC updated Justice Goddard, who is chairing the inquiry which could last at least another five years.
He said that 114 sources of information were being considered, along with case studies relating to church abuse, including in the Chichester Diocese.
The Anglican section of the inquiry is expected to focus to a considerable extent on abuse by the former Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball, who was jailed last year over crimes committed in the 1980s. A legal representative of Ball was in court today.
Emmerson said that more than 7,000 items of disclosure had been received from the Archbishop’s Council, and from police forces and survivors including ‘core participants’. So far 188 applicants have been granted core participant status by Goddard. Of these, 36 relate to the Anglican church.
Outlining the approach being taken by counsel, Emmerson said the inquiry was examining the extent to which the culture of the church “inhibits or has inhibited” exposure of abuse cases, along with “the nature and extent of any failures in the church to protect children from abuse”.
He added that the inquiry was examining “the extent to which institutions and bodies failed to respond appropriately” to allegations against Ball, and the extent to which failings in the Chichester Diocese and relating to Ball “are representative of wider failings in the church”.
Graham Tilby, National Safeguarding Adviser for the Church of England said: “We welcome today’s update on the investigation into the Anglican Church in England and Wales and the acknowledgment from the Inquiry that the material already submitted is relevant and useful. We note that the Inquiry has received a substantial amount of material from us and other core participants and the analysis of this is now underway as is the process of identifying possible witnesses. As we said after the initial hearing in March we are committed to engaging with the Inquiry in an open and transparent way and believe its work will play a vital part in our commitment to making the Church a safer place for all.”
The inquiry is currently considering whether it should be broadcast. Tomorrow it will hear an update regarding the Catholic Church.
On Monday, Emmerson said of the inquiry as a whole that “we are receiving 80 to 100 allegations a week and we are making an average of 20 to 25 police referrals each week,” meaning it is generating potentially 1,000 new police inquiries a year.