Child abuse victim to Butler-Sloss: ‘I did not change my story’
A man who was systematically abused by two Anglican priests has told Christian Today why he released a recording of a conversation with Baroness Butler-Sloss at the Chichester Abuse Inquiry.
Phil Johnson says he was forced to defend himself after being accused of ‘changing his story’ by Butler-Sloss when she guest-edited Radio Four’s Today programme at the end of December.
She resigned as chairwoman of the Westminster inquiry into establishment child abuse last summer after claims she was not impartial.
At the time Johnson was among the voices calling for her to stand down. He said that during the Diocese of Chichester Inquiry she told him she wanted to exclude his allegations of abuse by a bishop because she ‘cared about the church’ and ‘did not want to give the press a bishop’.
But on Radio Four Butler-Sloss said Johnson had given an inaccurate account. He had agreed with her not to include the reference to the bishop and agreed it was in his best interests, she claimed.
Johnson, who sits on the Safeguarding Panel of the Church of England, has now released part of a recording of that conversation in 2011.
He told Christian Today: “On Radio Four Butler Sloss says I wilfully agreed to her strategy and that I’d subsequently changed my story, which I regarded as publicly accusing me of lying really.
“So I felt I had no option but to release a tape recording of the conversation, which she didn’t know that I had, in order for people to make their own judgement.
“I asked for an apology and I haven’t received one.
“I did feel pressured into going along with what she wanted to do regarding the report. But it seemed it had nothing to do with me whatsoever, it was all about protecting the image and the institution of the church.”
As a choirboy Johnson was abused for a decade by two priests, Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard, and met Butler-Sloss after she was asked by the Church of England to review how it handled the allegations against the men.
Talking about abuse and the church in general Johnson said: “My view is that the church and the established Church of England – and other big institutions – have this natural inclination to protect themselves and their revenue stream and everything else which from a Christian perspective is the wrong approach.
“If they want to put things right and if they want to be forgiven and rebuild some credibility they have to repent. They have to truly repent not only for the abuse that happened but for the way they behaved as an institution. And the only way they can do that is to show an act of contrition; that is to be open and truthful, not be defensive and try to hide things.”
During the Today programme recording Butler-Sloss cautioned against giving abuse victims too much influence over who runs the planned inquiry into historical child abuse, adding there could be “real problems” if they were to decide who is its eventual chair.
But Johnson commented: “Nobody is suggesting that survivors should run the inquiry. The survivors are just saying they need to be consulted and they need to have faith in the people running the inquiry.
“They need to know they are not the very same people who have this inclination to cover up and protect state institutions and the evidence that we’ve seen so far is that a lot of these people do have that inclination.”
Butler-Sloss told Radio Four she had “enormous sympathy” for survivors, adding:
“I do believe the establishment has in the past looked after itself, partly because people did not really recognise the seriousness of child abuse and they did not think it was so important, and it was important to protect members of the establishment.
“So I would want to go in with a knife and cut the whole thing open and expose it, as to what happened, bearing in mind, of course, that the views of those people are not the views of people today and that is a difficulty.”