The Royal Commission’s report of Case Study 36 - The response of the Church of England Boys’ Society and the Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney to allegations of child sexual abuse - was released today.
This report follows public hearings held in Hobart, Tasmania in January and February 2016 that investigated the responses of the Church of England Boys’ Society (CEBS) and the Anglican Dioceses to allegations of child sexual abuse made against lay people and clergy associated with CEBS in the 1970s and 1980s.
In particular, the Royal Commission examined the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse perpetrated by convicted pedophiles Louis Daniels, Garth Hawkins, Simon Jacobs and John Elliot and alleged pedophile, Robert Brandenburg.
CEBS, which has now changed its name in some jurisdictions to the Anglican Boys’ Society and Boys’ Ministry Australia, was a youth group set up by the Anglican Church for boys between six and 16 years and had various branches within numerous dioceses of the church.
A network of sexual perpetrators
The report concluded that most CEBS branches could operate in an autonomous and unregulated way and that the abuse often occurred on camps, sailing and fishing trips as well as overnight stays at rectories and private residences.
As a result a culture developed in which perpetrators had easy access to boys and opportunities to sexually abuse those boys.
There were networks of sexual perpetrators at CEBS who had knowledge of each other’s sexual offending against boys and in some instances facilitated the sexual abuse of children, the report found.
A number of survivors gave evidence to the Royal Commission that they believed they were either shared by their abusers or that there was awareness between their abusers of each other’s conduct.
There was also evidence that in some branches CEBS leaders created a sexualised atmosphere and perpetrators manipulated the sleeping arrangements of children on overnight trips.
Daniels, who gave evidence at the hearing, said the camps provided an “opportunity” to those attracted to children and when asked to describe the culture of CEBS, said “a boys’ society, unless it is carefully managed, is a sitting duck” to potential offenders.
Responses to the allegations of child sexual abuse
The Commissioners found the CEBS National Council’s only formal response to child sexual offending was to revoke the CEBS national awards given to certain offenders.
The council considered making a formal apology over child sexual abuse offending in 2008 and 2009 but decided against it.
The Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide and Brisbane had three separate independent inquiries into child sexual abuse but no investigation or inquiry conducted by the church looked into whether there was an organised network of offenders within CEBS or a culture that facilitated child sexual abuse.
This is despite the fact that those dioceses and the national Anglican Church knew about child sexual abuse at CEBS and the relationship between offenders.
The report also identified a number of systemic issues within CEBS, the Anglican Church of Australia and the Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney. They included:
Child sexual abuse being treated as one-off offences or isolated incidents of aberrant behaviour
Historically, allegations of child sexual abuse not being reported to the police either at all or in a timely way
Limited information-sharing between the dioceses about allegations of child sexual abuse
A lack of child protection policies and procedures within CEBS
A lack of consistent record-keeping about complaints in CEBS at a national and state level
Minimisation of the offending
A focus on protecting the reputation of the church, dioceses, CEBS and individual clergy
Links not being made at a national level in the Anglican Church regarding the possibility of a network of perpetrators within CEBS.
Read the full report.