Abuse: The balancing of duties in the investigation of allegations?

In England, Coroner M E Hassall recently published a Regulation 28 (Prevention of Future Deaths) report (9 July 2021) following a coronial hearing regarding the late Alan Griffin. The narrative determination was of suicide and stated:

He killed himself because he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told. The investigation had been ongoing for over a year and was being conducted by his former Church of England diocese and subsequently also by his current Roman Catholic diocese (to whom the Church of England had passed a short, written summary of allegations that contained inaccuracies and omitted mention of Father Griffin’s earlier suicide attempt on learning of his HIV status). Father Griffin did not abuse children. He did not have sex with young people under the age of 18. He did not visit prostitutes. He did not endanger the lives of others by having sex with people whilst an HIV risk. And there was no evidence that he did any of these things.

The coroner expressed a number of concerns into the conduct of the investigation by the Church of England, as set out in the report linked above. A similar report was provided to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster.

The Regulation 28 report may be usefully read in the context of a submission from the Church fo England which put to the Coroner that referrals to child protection and safeguarding professionals must not be reduced and urged the Coroner not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations. A response by the Church of England (Diocese of London) to the Regulation 28 report was published on 24 August 2021.

The history of this incident appears to be a complex one, which this brief summary may not cover well. However it appears likely to give rise to further discusion about the processes involved in the handling of allegations of abuse.