Church to be sued

Click to follow
TWO FAMILIES whose children were sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest are to make legal history by attempting to sue the Archbishop of Birmingham and his archdiocese for negligence, writes Jason Bennetto.

Father Samuel Penney was jailed in March for seven-and-a- half-years at Warwick Crown Court after he admitted indecent assault against seven children aged from seven to sixteen. The abuse of both girls and boys was over a 23-year period.

Tonight's BBC Everyman programme, made by the independent company Boxclever Productions, will present new evidence alleging that the Archdiocese of Birmingham knew about Penney's long record as a paedophile, yet he was allowed to continue to work, although he was moved from one parish to another. Two of the families involved have been granted legal aid and plan to start proceedings.

Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville maintains that the first time the Archdiocese of Birmingham was aware of allegations was in July 1991. The Church did not inform police or social services because 'the people who brought these things to our attention specifically asked us not to prosecute, and not to go to the police . . . looking back on it I think we made a mistake.'

Penney was eventually prosecuted only after families of the abused children complained to the police.