Church admits failure over Portsmouth paedophile priest put children at risk

COURT Former Priest Terry Knight arrives at Portsmouth Crown Court where he appeared charged with indecent assault dating back to the 1980s

COURT Former Priest Terry Knight arrives at Portsmouth Crown Court where he appeared charged with indecent assault dating back to the 1980s

Police called after man seen ‘walking towards’ traffic on A27

  • Parents complained about inappropriate behaviour in 1985
  • Vicar was asked by church to control his behaviour and kept on for 10 years
  • Revelation comes at fresh trial after new abuse complaint last year
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CHURCH leaders have apologised for putting children at risk of child abuse by not sacking a paedophile priest.

It comes as Terry Knight, who in 1996 admitting abusing boys, has for a second time been convicted of abuse in the 1980s at St Saviour’s Church in Stamshaw, Portsmouth.

Former Bishop Timothy Bavin, who has apologised for how Knight was dealt with by the Church

Former Bishop Timothy Bavin, who has apologised for how Knight was dealt with by the Church

During a trial over historic abuse claims Knight, now 76, revealed to jurors how the church asked him to promise to ‘control his behaviour’ after mothers of child victims confronted him in 1985.

Claims of a cover-up have been repeatedly denied by the Church of England in Portsmouth.

But now the Diocese of Portsmouth admitted the church put other children at risk by leaving Knight in post between 1985 and 1995 – when he was arrested.

A former bishop continues to deny a cover-up but the church admitted a former Archdeacon of Portsmouth was told by Knight about ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

We apologise unreservedly that the reaction of the church in 1985 was not more robust, and that these actions may have put others at risk

Church of England Diocese of Portsmouth spokesman

Former Bishop of Portsmouth Timothy Bavin, who was asked to speak to Knight, apologised for not reporting Knight’s confession to police and treating it as a ‘pastoral’ issue rather than criminal.

Mr Bavin has previously allowed a clergy member convicted of child abuse back into the church in 1990. He later apologised.

In a statement to The News he said: ‘I do offer a sincere apology, on behalf of myself and the church, to all who were abused by Terry Knight. They were badly let down.

‘Some time in 1985, Terry Knight was sent to see me by the then Archdeacon of Portsmouth, after he received a complaint from a parent.’

FLASHBACK How The News reported Knight's earlier crimes

FLASHBACK How The News reported Knight's earlier crimes

Mr Bavin, now living a monastic life at Alton Abbey, added: ‘Terry confessed some inappropriate behaviour with boys to me, but did not admit any actual physical contact.’

Knight told him he had apologised to the parents and said it would not be repeated. He added: ‘I was wrong to have accepted his word.’

A Diocese of Portsmouth spokesman added: ‘We apologise unreservedly that the reaction of the church in 1985 was not more robust, and that these actions may have put others at risk.’

Knight was jailed for three-and-a-half years in 1996 at Winchester Crown Court after admitting abusing seven boys aged between 11 and 14 between 1975 and 1985.

FLASHBACK How The News reported Knight's earlier crimes

FLASHBACK How The News reported Knight's earlier crimes

There are no post-1985 allegations.

Mr Bavin’s apology and the church’s admission come after a survivor reported abuse by Knight to Hampshire police last year.

Knight, a former member of the General Synod – the church’s ruling body – was then put on trial accused of four indecent assaults.

Jurors last month heard he asked boys, including the victim who was aged 12 or 13 during the abuse in the 1980s, to put on leather lederhosen.

The court heard Knight would dress in a black cassock and sit on the bath next to the boy before rubbing his back.

Assaults would then take place in a bedroom in the vicarage – Knight would then take Communion the next day.

A jury found Knight, of Kingfishers, Shipton Bellinger, Tidworth, guilty of three out of four indecent assault charges but acquitted him of one.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told jurors: ‘I remember the first time it happened I lay in bed crying.’

Detective Constable Amanda Waite said: ‘It’s affected his whole life, from how he deals with day-to-day events, relationships.

‘It’s shaped the person he is today having had something happen to him in his vulnerable years.

‘Knight was in a position of trust and a lot of the community at the time respected him – he took his position and used it to his own ends.

‘If there’s anyone else that has been a victim of sexual abuse by him or anyone else, then it’s something that we take seriously.

‘It’s the most revolting type of crime.

‘There’s no time limit – providing the offender’s still alive we can do something about it.’

She added: ‘Hopefully the three counts he has been found guilty of go some way towards the victim’s healing.’

In court, Knight could not remember if he abused the boy as he abused several.

Summing up evidence, Judge Ian Pearson said Knight had said: ‘I had to give an undertaking to control my behaviour’.

He served 21 months of his jail sentence and was taken off the sex offenders’ register in 2013.

Knight, who attended treatment at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which 
works with sex abusers, will be sentenced later this month.

‘Our actions may have put children at risk of abuse’

DIOCESE of Portsmouth statement:

WE WERE horrified to hear of these further charges against Terry Knight.

Our prayers are with the survivor of this abuse, who has had to live with this knowledge for more than 30 years.

We expect the highest standards of our clergy, and this was an appalling breach of trust. We commend the survivor’s bravery in coming forward.

We were disturbed to hear that Terry Knight said in court he was asked in 1985 to ‘control his behaviour’ by someone in the Church. Safeguarding in the Church of England, and in society in general, has been transformed over the past 30 years and you can be reassured that this simply wouldn’t happen today.

The safety of children and young people in our care is of paramount importance. Our diocesan safeguarding policy includes a requirement that any such concerns are reported immediately to the police and statutory authorities.

We do take these matters very seriously, so we have made efforts to discover exactly what happened. It appears that Terry Knight confessed some inappropriate behaviour with boys to the then Archdeacon of Portsmouth.

It was this archdeacon (who has since died) who advised him to control his behaviour, and referred him to the then Bishop of Portsmouth.

Clearly, this was not the correct response, especially by today’s standards. We apologise unreservedly that the reaction of the Church in 1985 was not more robust, and that these actions may have put others at risk. We apologise especially to the survivors of Terry Knight’s abuse, who had every right to expect better from Church leaders.

More recently, the national Church of England carried out a review – in 2008-09 – of historic cases of abuse.

That involved each diocese appointing an independent safeguarding reviewer who analysed personnel files for all current and past clergy, lay staff and lay ministers. The number of cases across the whole CofE where formal action was needed was 13. None were in this diocese.

Terry Knight’s file was among those looked at by our independent reviewer.

Because the original allegations against him had been reported to the police and he had been convicted on those charges in 1996, the review found no new information about him.

Bishop ‘wrong to accept’ paedophile priest’s word

Statement from Bishop Timothy Bavin, Bishop of Portsmouth 1985-95:

BEFORE giving an account of what I remember about the events leading up to the conviction of Terry Knight in 1996, I would make two points.

Firstly, it is hard to be clear about the details of exactly what happened 30 years ago.

Secondly, people’s attitudes to disclosures of sexual abuse have rightly been transformed over the past 30 years.

We correctly judge these things differently today, but that understanding simply wasn’t there across the whole of our society at that time.

I say this not to offer excuses, but to ask you to understand why there was not a more robust response by the Church to Terry Knight’s abuse.

Had this occurred today, it would have been handled very differently.

Indeed, I have no wish to offer excuses. I do offer a sincere apology, on behalf of myself and the Church, to all who were abused by Terry Knight. They were badly let down.

Some time in 1985, Terry Knight was sent to see me by the then Archdeacon of Portsmouth, after the archdeacon had received a complaint from a parent.

Terry confessed some inappropriate behaviour with boys to me, but did not admit any actual physical contact.

It was only much later, after he was arrested and charged, that I realised there had been indecent assaults on the boys.

Without knowing this at the time, I wrongly assumed that no actual crime had been committed, although clearly he was guilty of inappropriate behaviour.

I understood that he had apologised to the parents of the boys, and given them the assurance that it would not happen again.

I was wrong to have accepted his word, and I was wrong to have treated this as a pastoral problem, rather than a potentially criminal one. But it was certainly not an attempt to cover up any unpleasant facts. I believed the situation had been resolved, and was horrified to discover later that this wasn’t the case.

The sexual abuse of children is abhorrent, and the steps taken over the last 30 years have ensured that these things are handled very differently in the Church and across the whole of society today. Safeguarding policies and procedures are now protecting our children and young people from precisely this kind of situation.

Again, I apologise unreservedly to all who were let down by me and by the Church.

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