England

Chichester church abuser 'allowed back into choir'

Alesha Racine
Image caption Alesha Racine has waived her right of anonymity to speak to BBC South East

A woman who was sexually abused by a lay vicar in Sussex says she was "completely failed" by the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.

Alesha Racine wrote to Lord Carey in 1992 after discovering her abuser had returned to the church where she had been sexually assaulted.

On Monday Lord Carey announced his resignation as an honorary bishop.

A review by Dame Moira Gibb found he had failed to pass on information about abuse carried out by Bishop Peter Ball.

Ms Racine's abuser, Michael Walsh, was convicted of five indecent assault charges and confessed to sexual relationships with a further eight children.

He was sent to prison in 1990.

He had been a teacher, a lay vicar at Chichester Cathedral and also ran a choir at a church in Chichester.

Child abuse 'inevitable'

After his release in 1992, Walsh returned to the same church to be part of the choir.

Concerned for the safety of other girls, in July of that year Ms Racine wrote to the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, requesting his help.

Image caption Alesha Racine says the church failed to reach out to her as a victim of sexual abuse

Speaking after Lord Carey's resignation, Ms Racine, 54, said: "I was very concerned that my abuser had just come out of prison and it appeared that he'd just gone straight back into the parish church where he'd originally worked, and was again in a position of authority in the choir there where young children - specifically girls - sang.

"I was really worried that these girls were at a huge risk. I felt it was inevitable that children would be abused."

Three months after writing her letter she was told Lord Carey had been unable to consider her concerns because he was "committed to a series of visits overseas, together with his summer break".

'Duty of forgiveness'

She was informed one month later that the "Archbishop had been assured that there was no question of Michael Walsh being reinstated in the choir," but nine months after raising her concerns she received a letter from the Archbishop's chief of staff confirming her abuser was back in the choir.

Lambeth Palace wrote to Ms Racine saying the parish authorities had taken "great care" in coming to their decision to allow Walsh's return to his position "weighing carefully the risk of re-offending against... the Christian duty of forgiveness".

Image caption Michael Walsh, seen here in the 1990s, was allowed to return to the same church choir after his release from prison

The letters revealed Lord Carey regretted the decision which allowed Alesha's abuser back into churches and offered her his sympathies.

Ms Racine said: "I thought his response was deeply hurtful, in that it had taken me a lot of courage to write to him at all.

"Most of what he said was in defence of the Church and the people in it, rather than try to reach out to me as a victim.

"I do feel it was a complete failure on his part."

A spokesman for the former Archbishop of Canterbury said the correspondence with Ms Racine had been conducted on Lord Carey's behalf by his chief of staff.

He said: "Lord Carey has absolutely no memory of this chain of correspondence or these events. He cannot therefore comment."

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