The conviction of a former social worker and churchman who carried out a string of sexual attacks on boys in his care in cases dating back more than 50 years shows the ‘desperate need’ for a Church redress scheme, specialist lawyers have said.
Clive McCleester, from Winchester, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual abuse including eight counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency with a child, against two teenage boys – at a hearing at Inner London Crown Court, and has now been sentenced to 16 years in prison.
One of the victims, who sadly passed away in 2020 before he was able to see justice done, suffered abuse while attending Tylney Hall School in Hampshire in the 1960s and early 1970s, where McCleester had been employed as a child welfare officer.
The other victim whose bravery brought about the conviction had been abused between 1984 and 1987 whilst he was a chorister at Southwark Cathedral, where his attacker was the head verger.
Following the conviction, the police are now urging other victims of McCleester, who has also held a number of high-profile roles within the Church over the years, including working at Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel, to come forward for support.
A call to action backed by Hywel Thomas, a specialist abuse lawyer at Simpson Millar, who added that the case demonstrated the ‘desperate need’ for a scheme to help people who experienced abuse by someone representing the Church to be bought in as quickly as possible.
A proposed redress scheme was announced by the Church of England last month, which said it had set aside £150m in funds to provide financial compensation as well as a range of wider support and, where possible, an apology from the institution where the abuse took place.
While abuse survivors are currently able to bring a civil claim against the employer of their attacker, including individuals who worked for the Church, the Church of England’s proposed redress scheme is intended to demonstrate in ‘tangible and practical ways’ that the Church is truly sorry for its past failings relating to safeguarding.
“What is particularly concerning are the reports suggesting that McCleester’s behaviour had come under scrutiny previously and, like the police, if there are any further victims we would urge them to come forward to get the support that they need and are entitled to.
“Anyone who has been affected may also be able to bring a civil claim for compensation against the Church, which can provide them with vital funds that can help them to access the help needed to rebuild their lives following the abuse that they endured.
“However, this case also demonstrates the need for a redress scheme, which also holds the Church to account for its safeguarding failures.”
Speaking to press following the conviction, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwark offered a ‘full and unreserved apology to all those affected by this matter, and we commend the bravery of those who brought this to light’.
Hywel added: “The apology from the Church will be well meant, but words mean little to many of our clients who feel badly let down by the very institutions that were supposed to protect them.
Simpson Millar’s Abuse Team has been helping survivors of abuse for more than 30 years to bring a civil claim against their attacker’s employer, or a criminal injuries claim.
The firm has helped many survivors bring a successful claim even if the abuse happened many years ago, allowing them to get the closure and justice they deserve.
If you or a member of your family suffered abuse as a result of the actions of Clive McCleester you can contact Simpson Millar for free confidential advice.
Legal Aid may be available, depending on your financial situation or you claim could be dealt with on a No Win, No Fee basis.
You can read more about bringing a claim here: Physical and Sexual Abuse Claims