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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Bishop of Carlisle’s apology for sex case vicar

The Bishop of Carlisle has apologised for the church’s handling of a vicar guilty of child sex crimes.

Ronald Johns photo
Ronald Johns

Perverted Ronald Johns first admitted abusing children in 1993.

But he did not face a criminal prosecution until this year because his boss, the then Bishop of Carlisle, The Right Reverend Ian Harland, chose to transfer Johns from his job as a canon at Carlisle Cathedral to a new post at Caldbeck.

The Bishop did not report the matter to the police.

The Bishop’s decision appears to have been based on the unwillingness of the victims – by then adults – to speak to police themselves and on the report of a forensic psychiatrist who judged Johns was unlikely to reoffend.

In a highly unusual move, the current Bishop of Carlisle, The Right Reverend James Newcome, attended a private meeting in Caldbeck on Monday night to apologise for the church’s handling of the case.

At Carlisle Crown Court recently, Johns, 75, admitted a string of sex crimes carried out against three boys over eight years.

A former vicar at Borrowdale, he worked as a canon at Carlisle Cathedral between 1989 and 1993.

He served as rector of Caldbeck and Castle Sowerby with Sebergham from 1994.

Church officials have confirmed that Bishop Newcome attended a private meeting in Caldbeck.

He offered his personal apology on behalf of the diocese to the communities Johns worked in from 1994 until his retirement six years later.

Richard Pratt, Archdeacon of west Cumberland, and a spokesman for the Diocese, said the church has admitted Johns should never have been moved – though he stressed there was no evidence the vicar was abusing children at the time in question.

He said: “Bishop Ian Harland should not have moved him to Caldbeck. So in that sense, we have wronged the people of Caldbeck, Castle Sowerby with Sebergham.”

If a similar situation were to arise today, said Mr Pratt, the police would be contacted and the clergyman would not simply be moved.

The protection of children would be the church’s priority, he said.

A trawl of church records for the last 50 or so years had revealed two similar cases.

One was wrongly dealt with internally and the man involved in the second case had moved away. Both clergymen are now long dead.

“We have made careful and vigorous enquiries, and we believe there are no recent cases where we have mishandled cases by moving somebody on,” he said.

“There are no other cases like Ron Johns. The world is very different now.”

Johns, who now lives in Kings Road, Coltishall, Norwich, admitted two charges of indecent assault and four counts of gross indecency in relation to one victim.

He will be sentenced on November 19. Bishop Ian Harland died in December 2,008 after a long illness.

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