Church of England shares ‘regret’ over priest’s suicide after false accusations

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Father Alan Griffin, 78, died in November 2020 after spending a year under scrutiny over allegations he carried out child abuse. The Church of England’s statement followed a scathing coroner’s report into the priest’s death.

Coroner Mary Hassell, in a July report into Fr Griffin’s death, said the priest killed himself “because he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told”.

The report added: “Father Griffin did not abuse children.

“He did not have sex with young people under the age of 18. He did not visit prostitutes.

“He did not endanger the lives of others by having sex with people whilst an HIV risk. And there was no evidence that he did any of these things.

“He was an HIV positive (viral load undetectable) gay priest.”

Responding to the coroner’s report, the Church of England took responsibility for its poor investigation.

The Diocese of London and Lambeth Palace said in a submission to the coroner: “We take responsibility for what went wrong.

“We acknowledge that there were either poor processes or systems, or mistakes, that led to unreasonable pressures on Fr Alan…

“We accept that the concerns raised in respect of Father Griffin were unsubstantiated … that good practice around evidence gathering, verification, and evaluation of information prior to action was lacking.”

The Diocese of London added a new head of safeguarding “with 30 years policing experience” had been installed at the start of the month.

It also said it is “committed to undertaking a Lessons Learned Review and implementing any necessary actions”.

Fr Griffin had been a Church of England priest before converting to Roman Catholicism in 2012.

An investigation into allegations of child abuse was started by the Anglican diocese of London in 2019, with the claims passed to Roman Catholic safeguarding authorities.

The late priest was said to have “used rent boys”, an outdated phrase suggesting the use of male sex workers, but often interpreted as involving the abuse of children.

The coroner found no evidence of either, but found the head of operations at the Diocese of London included the claim, as part of a “brain dump” of information as he was retiring, and said it was for the archdeacon to deal with.

The Church was heavily criticised for Fr Griffin’s suicide and for mishandling the inquiry.

The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, said in a statement: “Alan Griffin’s death was a tragedy and my heart goes out to his family for all they have endured. I am deeply sorry for their loss.

“Following the inquest, we have commissioned a ‘Lessons Learned’ review so that we can fully reflect upon the diocese’s actions, and the coroner’s comments, in the period leading up to Alan Griffin’s death.”

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