Churches blamed for priest’s suicide over false sex abuse claims
- Father Alan Griffin, 76, who was falsely accused of child sex abuse and having sex with men knowing he was HIV positive, took his own life last November
- He endured a year of torment over a Church of England inquiry in which he was given no information about the ‘unsupported’ allegations made against him
- Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, warned future deaths could occur
- Anyone seeking help can call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org
The Church of England and the Catholic Church have been condemned after a priest falsely accused of child sex abuse and having sex with men knowing he was HIV positive took his own life.
Father Alan Griffin endured a year of torment over an inquiry about which he was given almost no information.
Coroner Mary Hassell ruled that the 76-year-old cleric had ‘killed himself because he could not cope with an investigation’ and that the allegations against him were ‘supported by no complainant, no witness and no accuser’.
She has written to Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, warning that the C of E had still not recognised its errors: ‘There is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken,’ she said.
Father Alan Griffin, 76, took his own life after he was falsely accused of child sex abuse and having sex with men knowing he was HIV positive
The report has also been sent to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England, whose safeguarding team was also criticised.
Father Griffin was rector of St James Garlickhythe in the City of London and chaplain to the Lord Mayor of London before converting to Catholicism in 2012.
The bungled investigation into abuse claims began in October 2019 after an official in the Anglican Diocese of London retired and undertook a ‘brain dump’ to his archdeacon, including ‘gossip’ acquired over two decades.
Within it was speculation that Father Griffin may have used male prostitutes, purely based on him being seen having dinner with men in an Italian restaurant.
In June last year, the Catholic safeguarding team met with Father Griffin, who was gay and HIV positive, to discuss a background check.
However, they refused to discuss the allegations because the ‘information was not theirs to give’.
Coroner Mary Hassell wrote to Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, warning that the C of E had still not recognised its errors
Distraught, the cleric took his own life at his home in East London last November.
In her report, Ms Hassell wrote: ‘The Church of England had passed a short written summary of allegations that contained inaccuracies and omitted mention of Father Griffin’s earlier suicide attempt on learning of his HIV status.’
Spelling out his innocence, she 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. There was no evidence that he did any of these things.’
Having recorded a verdict of suicide at an inquest last month, she wrote a Prevention of Future Deaths report to identify failings and seek to avoid a similar tragedy.
The Catholic Diocese of Westminster was criticised for failing to ‘exercise sufficient professional scrutiny’ of the allegations that came to them from the Church of England.
Father Griffin’s family have yet to comment, but after his death described him as ‘a kind and thoughtful gentleman who gave so much to so many with his wit and droll sense of humour’.
The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, said: ‘Alan Griffin’s death was a tragedy and my heart goes out to his family for all they have endured.’
Lambeth Palace confirmed: ‘The Archbishop has received a copy of the coroner’s report and the matter will be taken extremely seriously.’