Exclusive: Police kept in dark on complaints of priest’s sex abuse

Father Joseph O'Brien
Father Joseph O'Brien
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A ROMAN Catholic diocese which ordained a priest despite his dismissal for abusing boys at a children’s home received more abuse allegations after his ordination but did not report them to the police, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

The Diocese of Middlesbrough, which appointed Joseph O’Brien to a series of clerical posts in Middlesbrough and North Yorkshire after he had been sacked from the St William’s children’s home in East Yorkshire, kept fresh allegations of abuse ‘in-house’ from 2000 onwards.

The latest revelations surrounding Father O’Brien, who served for 15 years in the parish of Thirsk until retirement in 1998, are contained in an executive summary of a report compiled by a Catholic child protection agency.

The Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) carried out an inquiry following a Yorkshire Post investigation into the priest, who died in 2010. The summary reveals that the diocese kept two separate files, one of which – termed the ‘Bishop’s file’ – was only discovered last year.

However, the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) report found the diocese did nothing wrong by not informing the police and concluded the suspension of Father O’Brien from clerical duties was a “proportionate” response.

CSAS also attached no blame to the diocese for accepting Father O’Brien for training as a priest in 1972 – and subsequent ordination in 1975 – despite his dismissal from a home operated by the same diocese in 1965. The executive summary said the diocese was unlikely to have known about the reasons for his dismissal, even though a record has been held since 1965.

The findings have drawn an angry response from campaigners who accuse the Catholic church of failing to tackle child abuse despite a spate of scandals.

The Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) campaign group and the Lantern Project both said the findings did not comply with the church’s own guidelines, including reporting to the police.

Barrister Anne Lawrence, from MACSAS, said: “This review has done nothing to ensure Dioceses follow procedures to ensure children and vulnerable adults are effectively safeguarded from harm.”

Graham Wilmer, who founded the Lantern Project following his personal experience of abuse at a Catholic school, said: “This is yet another example of ineffective and incompetent child protection policies and procedures that are in place within the Catholic church.”

The Yorkshire Post asked the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, why the findings appeared to be at odds with the church’s own recommendations.

A spokesman for the Archbishop said: “Archbishop Nichols, as Archbishop of Westminster, has no jurisdiction outside of Westminster Diocese and it would not be appropriate for him to comment on matters being dealt with by another Diocese.”

Middlesbrough Diocese but it declined to answer questions or provide the full report.

CSAS said it was happy with the findings of the report but also refused to provide a copy of the full version because it was only in the gift of the diocese to do so.

Adrian Child, CSAS director, said: “From my reading of the report I am satisfied that the current practice is consistent with national procedures and that there is no evidence to support a ‘cover up’.”