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Church warned over rights of suspected paedophile priests

By John Bingham, Telegraph

The Church of England has been warned it cannot carry out a risk assessment of suspected paedophile priests in case it breaches their human rights, it emerged yesterday.

The warning came as members of the General Synod voted to issue an "unreserved" expression of regret for the Anglican authorities' failure to prevent sexual abuse in the past or even to listen to the victims.

Members of the Synod also backed a string of proposals designed to tighten up child protection arrangements.

In a joint statement, supported unanimously, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said: "The sexual and physical abuse that has been inflicted by these people on children, young people and adults is and will remain a deep source of grief and shame for years to come."

But the Church's legal officials admitted that privacy rules, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, could make it difficult to force "credibly suspected" paedophile priests to go for a professional risk assessment.

An earlier report, conducted in the wake of the child abuse scandals in the diocese of Chichester, recommended sending anyone reasonably suspected of abuse to see professionals. But a briefing paper prepared by the legal office warns that this would involve "intrusive inquiries" and could run into problems with Article Eight of the European Convention – the right to private and family life.

Bishops would therefore be forced to compile a case against suspected priests just to send them for a risk assessment.

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