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Clare, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 35042
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practice since 1985 with a wide general experience.
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I am anxious to check the background of a church minister and

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I am anxious to check the background of a church minister and have reason to be concerned about her possible links to child abuse going back 20 or 30 years.
I am even more concerned than others because she is named as Guardian to my son's young daughter (and indeed was very forceful in pushing the family towards this action) and is also Godmother to my grand-daughter.
Would be grateful for advice on this. I gather it is impossible to check on a person's criminal background in the UK unless it is a standard CRB check for employers etc.?
There is a possible link to Scotland and perhaps the law is different there?
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
Which Church is she a minister with?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The Church involved is the Church of Scotland. The lady in question is Minister of a C of S here in Newcastle upon Tyne. I think there are about 8 churches in England with the main one being St. Columba's in London. She lived in London for a number of years in the 70's and 80's and attended St. Columba's before training as a pastoral assistant and moving to Newcastle upon Tyne in the mid-80's. This church is linked to St. Columba's.

The headquarters of the C of Scotland generally is based at***** Edinburgh.

Call it instinct or whatever but I have a number of reasons to be concerned, mostly from a personal viewpoint in view of the' tie-up' with one of my grandchildren.

Every minister in the Church of Scotland should have undergone an Enhanced CRB check which shows up not only convictions but also any involvement of Social Services and indeed any allegations that did not go to court which were reported to the Police or Social Services.
If you wish to check that such a check has been done it would not be unreasonable to call the headquarters and ask them to confirm that she checks have indeed been done on all their ministers - no need to name names.
If there was any history of involvement with child abuse in her past it is highly unlikely that she would still be in a position to work with children in any capacity
Again that is a question you could ask the church headquarters.
You could also ask an enquiry agent to run a full background check although it is unlikely that they will find anything I fear - however they may be more adapt at asking questions about a named person that you!
Please ask if you need further details
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your advice.

I agree, when I first wondered about this situation, I assumed that checks would have been made.

Nevertheless, one just has to look at other churches, in particular priests at the Roman Catholic Church, never mind teachers at boarding schools, to see that there could be an issue. Presumably, the above have all been checked before working with children.

I suppose I am a 68 year old cynic about the establishment as well as institutional corruption (and I have a lot of evidence on other matters to back this claim) Sadly, the C of S is not known for being completely 'above board' in many aspects and I don't think there would be much point in checking facts with their headquarters. I can almost guarantee that there would be 100% reassurance, even if the facts were different or had been concealed over the years.

I think you are right, probably an enquiry agent would be the best course of action but, of course, would they be able to access police records? I just feel that it is quite worrying that it could become impossible to 'stave off' potential trouble and in this I am referring to my granddaughter, never mind other children.

My son and daughter-in-law are aware of the concerns and less than happy with the situation to say the least, but can see where I am coming from. They say that all they can do is to make sure their child is never left alone with the lady in question and that, should the worst be confirmed by an enquiry agent, then they need to see their solicitor - fast.

It is a very difficult situation and I feel dreadful in airing my suspicions about a church minister whom I have known for 18 years,but there it is. She once told me in a confidential chat that she had been a 'very naughty person' in her younger days. Somebody came into the room and the moment was lost.

As far as enquiry agents are concerned, please could you advise as to how to word the enquiry when I telephone one? I am aware that most agents might well be hesitant to become involved, but it would be helpful to know how to introduce this sensitive subject. Are there specific ones in the UK who willing to undertake such work?

May I ask is that conversation the only basis of your concern?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

No, not at all.

It is an accumulation of conversations, behaviour, even the insistence on being 'guardian' plus other issues which have raised the antennae, I'm afraid. I am not the only one to worry about this lady for various reasons - she has been described thus by members of the congregation ' I would not trust her at all' (!),' she is a nasty piece of work' (!), 'she is a hypocrite' etc. etc. Awful things and you wonder why anybody continues to go to church!

As far as I am concerned, that is all their business, but I am more concerned about my own family and I need help to try to solve this sensitive issue. As a grandmother, I just cannot sit back and adopt a 'wait and see' method. Apart from anything else, at this age, anything could happen and I cannot leave this earth without resolution one way or the other!!

I suppose the only other way is to contact a national newspaper, because presumably they have their own confidential ways and means to ascertain facts? An enquiry agent, however, would be the best way forward and I should be grateful if you could advise me on this???

Has your son changed his Will?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

No, he hasn't, but that may be the best solution.

Thank you.

Whilst I do understand your lack of trust of the church but it is the fact that historic abuse is now coming to light that makes it unlikely that the Church of Scotland is not going to be "cleaning house" - just as many other churches are doing
If you feel sufficiently strongly then you can approach the Church in confidence with your concerns.
Your son should quietly change his Will if he agrees that there are concerns - and God Parents have no rights in any event
There is no special enquiry agent to choose although one from a national chain might be better.
Do NOT involve the press - it is never wise to do so
Clare and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks, ***** ***** taking so much trouble on this. I would say that possibly the C of S is 'cleaning up' - at least, I hope they are doing so.

I always take the line that 'truth will out' eventually, so we shall just have to see, possibly with the aid of a national chain of enquiry agents. In the meantime, son and daughter-in-law say that they will deal with the legal aspect. They are living abroad at the moment, but are due back in the UK during the early part of 2015.

If okay, shall get back to you with any other queries on this matter.

Best regards, Christine

That all sounds very sensible I hope matters resolve for you