The Archbishop of Canterbury should face disciplinary action for his role in a sexual abuse scandal, lawyers have said.
Justin Welby failed to alert police when a priest was accused of sexually assaulting a worshiper – despite knowing he was a convicted pedophile.
Canon John Roberts was then jailed for offenses against three people, including the accuser who spoke to Mr. Welby.
The Daily Mail can today reveal that Mr Welby, then Dean of Liverpool, rejected the faithful’s claims and even banned him from the city’s cathedral for being “abusive and threatening” in 2011.
Instead, he accepted Roberts’ denials and urged him to “avoid meeting people at home alone.”
Roberts, 87, who was convicted of indecent assault in 1989 but was allowed to return to work, is serving a nine-year prison sentence.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby should be disciplined for his role in sexual abuse scandal, lawyers have said
Richard Scorer of Slater and Gordon, who represented one of the victims, called on the Church of England to take disciplinary action against the Archbishop.
“Justin Welby’s actions in this case were unacceptable and his cover-up of these allegations in 2011 likely delayed further police action against Roberts by nearly a decade,” he said.
“The Diocese of Liverpool, in which Mr. Welby had a leading role, knew of Roberts’ past and his conviction in 1989.
“So that makes Mr. Welby’s inaction and his dismissal of the allegations at the time all the more shameful and completely contrary to the Church of England’s public promises at the time.
“If the Church is to keep its promises, then Welby should now face disciplinary action from the Church for it.”
David Greenwood of Switalskis Solicitors, who advised another victim, has called for an investigation. “Anyone in their right mind would have taken advice and barred Roberts from any future work with the church,” he said. “It was a very bad decision. “
Canon John Roberts was then jailed for offenses against three people, including the accuser who had gone to Mr. Welby
When questioned in court during Roberts’ trial, Mr. Welby insisted he reported the original allegation to the Diocesan Safeguarding Counselor. But he admitted he did not recommend disciplinary action, saying his conclusion and that of his colleagues was “it was just one person’s word against another.”
The Archbishop has publicly apologized for the way the Church of England has handled allegations of sexual abuse in the past.
He also supported calls for mandatory reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
Canon Roberts ministered from 1980 at St Peter’s Church in Woolton, where Paul McCartney and John Lennon first met. He was convicted of indecent assault on an altar boy in 1989 and fined £ 500.
Craig Freedman (pictured with his wife Jemma) was abused by John Roberts in the 1980s. After being caught stealing collectible money from church, he was ordered to make money. odd jobs at the parsonage, but it quickly turned into sexual grooming supported by a constant flow of freebies.
But he was reinstated within a fortnight and then worked as a chaplain at Liverpool Cathedral.
In 2011, a member of the congregation told Mr Welby that Roberts had treated and sexually assaulted him. But instead of informing his bishop or the police, Mr. Welby accepted the convicted pedophile’s denials.
“I testified to stop him … but he was given a new job”
Caught in the act of stealing money from church collection, Craig Freedman quickly fell under the power of John Roberts.
At first, she was ordered to do odd jobs at the parsonage, but this quickly turned into sexual grooming supported by a constant flow of gifts. The priest took full advantage of the confused teenager, who had been adopted as a result of a troubled upbringing.
Mr. Freedman was traumatized by the escalation of the abuse and his behavior became so disruptive that he ended up being taken care of. Things came to a head when the canon exploited him in a youth club.
He was in such a bad condition afterwards that the staff at his children’s home called the police. In 1989 he testified against Roberts in Liverpool Magistrates’ Court and the cleric was convicted of indecent assault.
“I spent four hours in the witness box. It was horrible, ”said the former altar boy from St Peter’s Church in Woolton.
“They told me he would never work again. That’s why I went to court, to prevent this from happening to others.
Instead, Roberts was greeted again after the shorter of the suspensions.
In contrast, Mr Freedman, pictured left as a teenager, only ended up with a dark bed when he was 18. He changed his life after meeting his wife Gemma and is now a Wirral-based security guard with two children.
After launching an offer of compensation from the Church of England, he was stunned to find that Roberts had been promoted to canon at Liverpool Cathedral.
But the fact that it went public in 2017 encouraged three more victims to contact police, which led to Roberts being jailed for nine years on nine sexual abuse offenses.
Roberts retired two years later. The story took a turn in 2017 when former altar boy Roberts tackled a lawsuit for damages in the 1980s. It was only then that he found out that his attacker had continued his ministry.
Three men came forward with similar accounts. They included the cathedral spectator whose testimony was rejected by Mr. Welby.
After the trial in which Mr. Welby testified for the prosecution, Roberts was convicted of several counts of indecent assault and sexual assault. He was imprisoned for nine years.
Jurors heard that the Church of England had closed ranks to protect Roberts, who was “encouraged” to believe he would not be caught due to the failure to investigate the allegations against him.
The Daily Mail obtained a transcript of Mr Welby’s testimony detailing how he dismissed the charge.
He admitted to being made aware of Roberts’ background and story, which involved “child sexual abuse”. After becoming dean, Mr. Welby told Roberts “he had to be especially careful because of his history,” he said.
In 2011, Mr. Welby received a complaint about Roberts’ behavior from a loyalist – referred to at trial as Victim Z. But Mr. Welby did not believe the allegations and forbade the accuser of leaving the cathedral for threatening his PA.
He wrote to Roberts the same day to tell him that “in the absence of any independent evidence” he accepted the priest’s version of events. He asked her to “avoid meeting people alone in houses”, adding: “For obvious reasons, you are more vulnerable to baseless accusations than others.”
The trial learned that later that same day, Victim Z had sent Roberts a sarcastic email – copied to Mr Welby – to “congratulate” him on his “successful meeting with your bosses at the cathedral”.
In it, he accused Roberts of making “sexual advances towards myself in my own home” and predicted that he would exploit “vulnerable young men”. When asked at trial if he believed Roberts’ account following Victim Z’s allegations, Mr. Welby replied, “I suspect I believed him.”
Roberts was convicted of eight indecent assault and one sexual assault.
A Lambeth Palace spokesperson said: “The Archbishop has said publicly that if he had known the full details of Roberts’ conviction in 1989 he would have treated it differently. He also said he regretted the handling of the specific complaint while he was Dean of Liverpool Cathedral.
“The Archbishop apologized for his response.”
He added that Mr. Welby had “fully cooperated” with an internal investigation into the safeguarding of the church, which concluded that no further action was necessary.
The Diocese of Liverpool has said it recognizes its “shortcomings” in the case. Sources insisted that the 2011 allegations were not passed on to the police in accordance with the accuser’s wishes.