Church pays victims of paedophile priest

The Roman Catholic Church has paid compensation to victims of a paedophile priest who was allowed to carry on working in the priesthood despite concerns about his behaviour.

The Roman Catholic Church has paid compensation to victims of a paedophile priest who was allowed to carry on working in the priesthood despite concerns about his behaviour.

The payments were made to victims of Father Michael Hill, who was jailed for five years in 1997 for ten sex attacks on altar boys and other children.

The new Archbishop of Westminster today insisted he had not acted irresponsibly by allowing the paedophile to work as a priest.

Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor defended his decision to give Hill a job as a chaplain despite warnings about him from parents.

In 1985, the Archbishop - who was then Bishop of Arundel in West Sussex - allowed the priest back to work after earlier revoking his licence to work in a parish.

Hill was later made chaplain at Gatwick Airport, where he would have less contact with children.

But he abused a boy with learning difficulties he met at the chapel after the boy missed a flight.

The compensation payments were made after some of Hill's victims decided to sue the church over the way it handled the case.

The Rt Rev Murphy-O'Connor said today: "It is true to say that if the strict procedures for child protection that are now in place had been in operation in 1985, then (Father Hill's) situation would have been handled differently.

"I maintain that with the facts then known to me, the decisions made at that time in his regard were not irresponsible."

The Archbishop has now agreed that boys abused by the priest should receive compensation, though the church is not prepared to discuss how much.

The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton today issued a statement which said: "In 1983, after concerns had been raised with diocesan clergy and Bishop Murphy-O'Connor, Father Michael Hill was removed from his parish in Heathfield (in East Sussex) for professional assessment and later therapy.

"In the light of advice received, following that treatment, Bishop Murphy-O'Connor withdrew Father Hill's licence to work in a parish.

"In 1985, based on the professional advice which had been given - and which had included as one option that Father Hill work in a limited pastoral capacity - he was then offered an industrial chaplaincy.

"The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton has paid compensation to certain individuals who were victims of Father Michael Hill, who was convicted in 1997 of offences relating to the abuse of young persons in the diocese.

"The diocesan trustees concluded the settlement of a compensation claim on a voluntary basis so as to save the claimants having to undergo the ordeal of giving evidence before a civil court.

"It should be noted that a voluntary agreement is not an admission of liability on the part of the diocese or the then bishop.

"The names of the individuals and the details of the settlement agreed with them will remain confidential.

"The diocesan trustees also wish to convey to the individuals concerned and their families their deepest sympathy for what they had to endure as a result of Father Hill's offences."

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