Two former Bishops of Lincoln, one now dead, failed to act when told about alleged child abuse, according to the BBC One investigative series Panorama.

In a program broadcast April 29, the BBC said the names of 53 clergy and staff were passed to the police amid concerns about failures to deal adequately with abuse allegations across many years.

So far police investigations have led to three people being jailed. The Diocese of Lincoln has acknowledged its bad track record in dealing with abuse accusations and expressed its commitment to learning from its past errors.

Roy Griffiths is serving a sentence for abusing boys when he was on the staff of Lincoln Cathedral’s choir school. The Rt. Rev. Kenneth Riches, Bishop of Lincoln from 1957 to 1974, learned of Griffiths in 1969 but he failed to act.

Griffiths kept his job for another year. Following a further complaint, he left the United Kingdom and worked at a boys boarding school in Papua New Guinea. He was jailed in April 2018.

Detective Superintendent Rick Hatton, the police officer who led Operation Redstone, the investigation of affairs in Lincoln, told the BBC: “When he was sentenced, the feelings I had for the victims and what they’d been through, what came out in court, was quite heart-wrenching.”

In another instance Panorama found that a retired bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert Hardy, now 81, took no action against a diocesan employee, John Bailey. In the 1990s, Bailey admitted to Hardy he had “touched up” a woman on staff. Apparently Hardy took his word that this was a one-time incident.

It emerged that Bailey, director of education for the diocese at the time, abused three girls between 1955 and 1982. Bailey was jailed in 2017 after admitting to 25 cases of indecent assault against the girls. Hardy apparently did not contact the families of the girls. He said he took Bailey’s word, which he now regrets.

The Rt. Rev. Nicholas Chamberlain is the lead bishop for safeguarding in the diocese. “The diocese of Lincoln wishes to acknowledge that past matters have not been handled well,” he said. “The diocese is committed to learn from its mistakes. I am very sorry that it took so long for justice to be served.”

Panorama investigators say they have seen new evidence from a review of 40,000 files conducted between 2007 and 2010. They found just 13 cases requiring further action. But there are claims the review was flawed because it involved only paper files rather than interviews with victims.

John Martin

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