Letter: Protecting our children

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Sir: Banning a convicted child sex offender from attending any church services in the diocese of Sheffield ("Churches close their doors to paedophile", 8 May) will not provide adequate protection for children.

This solution suggests that the only risk is from those who have already been convicted: it fails to address the possible danger posed by others who have not yet been found out, or who have not yet assaulted children but may do so in the future. Acting after the crime has been committed is no substitute for a preventative approach to child safety where working practices, procedures and safeguards are established to ensure children are routinely protected.

Most people who sexually abuse children use manipulation and coercion rather than physical force, and exploit the social power which adults necessarily hold over children. In the church context, as in any other, the best protection we can offer children is to equip them with the social skills to deal with situations in which they feel deeply uncomfortable or threatened, and to seek adult intervention. This is not an easy task, but it has to be faced.

Finally, of course, one should not underestimate the challenge which such offenders present to any concept of forgiveness. Of course the Church of England would be wrong to employ this individual in a role where he had access to children, but excluding him from a community of faith and denying his right freely to celebrate his religion surely reduces rather than enhances his opportunities for reflection, repentance and rehabilitation.

LIZ PARRATT

Liberty

London SE1

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