Former York archbishop denies cover-up of sex abuse

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A former Archbishop of York has denied covering up allegations that a senior Church of England clergyman sexually abused choirboys.

The Very Rev Robert Waddington, a former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, who died from cancer in 2007, is said to have groomed and abused a chorister in Manchester in the 1980s, The Times reported.

He is also said to have targeted a pupil at a boarding school in Queensland, Australia, of which he was the headmaster in the 1960s.

Lord Hope of Thornes, who was Archbishop of York from 1995 to 2005, was informed of the two claims in 1999 and 2003, the newspaper said.

He spoke to Mr Waddington about the allegations and then banned him from taking church services but he did not pass on the claims to the police, it added.

Lord Hope wrote to the North Queensland Diocese in 1999 and said Mr Waddington was “deeply sorry for anything he may have done to offend” and that the clergyman offered “an unreserved apology”.

Lord Hope added Mr Waddington had made it clear “there is no question of any such behaviour occurring again” and that he was a “sad and despondent person” having had cancer treatment.

Australian church authorities later paid £50,000 compensation to the former choirboy, Bim Atkinson, 58, but made no admission of liability.

In 2003 the Diocese of Manchester was made aware of the complaint against Mr Waddington from the family of a former chorister at Manchester Cathedral.

Excerpts from the diocese’s child protection report at the time, printed in The Times, showed that it was aware of the North Queensland case and contained advice that “little could be done” until the Manchester abuse victim officially reported the matter.

Lord Hope told The Times he had followed the Church’s child protection procedures at the time.

He said: “I didn’t report to the police. With hindsight, probably there ought to have been. He was in such a fragile and frail state.

“I would strongly resist any suggestion that I was in the business of covering up anything. I would absolutely deny that.”

Another alleged victim of Mr Waddington has waived his anonymity after he heard about the allegations. Former Manchester Cathedral choirboy Eli Ward, 40, said he was also abused in the 1980s. In October he contacted police and is taking legal action against the Manchester diocese.