Sussex

Priest Roy Cotton's abuse victims in public inquiry call

Roy Cotton
Image caption Paedophile priest Roy Cotton abused at least 10 boys from Eastbourne

A public inquiry should be held into church child abuse, a solicitor representing victims of an East Sussex priest has said.

Tracey Emmott, one of eight lawyers appealing for the inquiry into abuse within the church in England and Wales, made the call in a letter to The Times.

Her seven clients are among victims of paedophile priest Roy Cotton, who worked for the Diocese of Chichester.

A Church of England spokeswoman said it would co-operate with a public inquiry.

Cotton was ordained in 1966, despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choirboy in the 1950s, and went on to abuse at least 10 boys from Eastbourne.

A church-commissioned report by Baroness Butler-Sloss, released in May 2011, criticised both senior clergy and Sussex Police over how they dealt with historical claims of abuse.

The Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Lewes later issued a joint apology for abuse in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s by Cotton, who died in 2006, and another priest, Colin Pritchard.

In 2008, Pritchard, former vicar of St Barnabas, Bexhill, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys and was jailed for five years.

An inquiry into child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester has been set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury's office.

"There is limited acceptance of the inquiries thus far in the Diocese of Chichester because they have been commissioned within the Anglican church," said Ms Emmott.

"Therefore I think both the public and the victims would be more satisfied if the matter had been scrutinised by an independent body.

Image caption Phil Johnson, one of Cotton's victims, backs the call for a public inquiry

"That is why I think it would be necessary to something have more objective ordered by the government."

Ms Emmott's client, Phil Johnson, backs the call for a public inquiry.

He and his brother, Gary, were both abused by Cotton and have waived their right to anonymity to criticise the Church of England's failure to protect them.

"It needs somebody from outside to investigate, to look at all of the facts and for their findings to be reported publicly," said Mr Johnson.

The Church of England said it recognised the "pain and hurt caused by abuses within a church context".

"We continue both to promote the safest possible arrangements now and to try to respond well to people who come forward from the past," it said in a statement.

"This involves working closely with the statutory authorities involved and with organisations that support the victims.

"We recognise this is an ongoing process and the Church would of course co-operate with any public inquiry and work closely with those setting it up."

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