Statement for BBC documentary of December 12th 2023.

Monday December 11th, 2023

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle said: “We are dedicated to the effective safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in our parishes and institutions, and we treat any allegation of abuse extremely seriously. We are therefore grateful to the BBC and those who have contributed to this programme for examining our strategy and we would be happy to act upon any new information that might result in improvements in our practices and procedures.

“The allegations made against the Diocese in this programme, however, are significantly inaccurate and we reject them. We have not refused to acknowledge past failings but have repeatedly apologised publicly for them and do so again. Since his installation in July, Bishop Stephen Wright, the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, has met victims/survivors and will continue to do so.

“We are not hiding behind a report by the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA). This body is an independent regulator headed by a nationally-respected former Crown prosecutor and it is free to make any recommendations it wishes, including the appointment of personnel. The audit did not find fault with the conduct of present senior officers. The audit suggested areas of improvement in policies, procedures and processes, both local and national, which are being addressed. This is not evidence of scandal. It is the reverse.

“It is not true that individuals in senior positions ‘did not act’ in respect of Robert Byrne, the previous bishop. Unless the bishop decided to relinquish his office of his own volition, he could be removed only by the Pope. His conduct was challenged by diocesan personnel on numerous occasions prior to his resignation.

“The Diocese has moved forward. We are implementing all of the recommendations of the CSSA. The Diocese has been consistently open to hearing about any safeguarding concerns raised both internally or by outside parties and it is untrue to say that we have ignored them. We have not attempted to silence anyone who has raised safeguarding concerns with us. This also applies to our clergy. To suggest that in doing so they might be punished is totally inaccurate. The Diocese has published a complaints policies and procedures which can be used by anybody.”

For further information please contact Simon Caldwell, communications officer for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, at simon.caldwell@stgabrielnews.co.uk.