Why did priest stay as chair of governors despite police arrest?

Eastbourne Herald, UK/March 16, 2012

Concerns have been raised as to how a priest arrested on historic sex abuse charges was allowed to remain as the chair of governors at an Eastbourne school.

Canon Gordon Rideout was allowed to continue as a governor and chair of governors at Bishop Bell School despite it being known that he had a blemished disclosure on a police CRB check.

This related to allegations made against him in 1972 and again in 2001 when he was arrested but no criminal charges were brought.

Mr Rideout was only removed from the post when the Independent Safeguarding Authority stepped in.

Now 73-years-old, Mr Rideout was arrested earlier this month at his home in Polegate.

He was quizzed for two days by detectives on suspicion of sexually assaulting young people in London, Sussex and Hampshire in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Mr Rideout was released on police bail until April 17, and return to Eastbourne Police Station the following day.

The saga has led to concerns from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

Spokesperson Lucy Duckworth said she was concerned that Mr Rideout had been investigated by the police yet still held the position of chair of governors.

In a letter to Bishop Bell's headteacher, Terry Boatwright, asking for the school's current safeguarding and child protection policy, she wrote, "I am extremely concerned for the safety of the children in your (the school's) care.

"I can only deduce from these recent events that your safer recruitment practices are not effective.

"As you know, a safeguarding meeting was held in summer 2010 with senior clergy to discuss the allegations that had been made against Mr Rideout.

"I understand his responsibilities changed shortly after this meeting, but Mr Rideout still held a position in the school with access to pupils; I assume parents were not told of the potential risk he posed to their children."

Questions now remain unanswered how Mr Rideout was allowed to continue as the chair of governors at the school in Priory Road once senior clergy and school officials knew of the blemished CRB check.

East Sussex County Council says it did not appoint Mr Rideout as a governor and it is believed he was co-elected by fellow governors.

The Diocese of Chichester was also not involved with Mr Rideout's appointment.

Terry Boatwright, the executive head at Bishop Bell School, said he could not comment while the police investigation is ongoing.

He said, "I understand a man has been arrested by police investigating historic allegations of sexual abuse against young people.

"I can confirm this man had connections with the school but was not a member of staff.

"Clearly, given that there is an ongoing investigation, I cannot, at this stage, give any detailed information.

"However, I would like to give parents my complete reassurance that all the allegations are of an historical nature and are not in any way connected with this school."

Chairman of the governors John Godby also remained tight-lipped.

He told the Herald, "I am in full agreement with the statement made by the school and am not willing to add anything to that.

"In the fullness of time, and at the appropriate point, the school will answer all relevant questions, but now, with an ongoing investigation in place, is not the appropriate time.

"We would, however, stress again that the alleged offences are historic and are not in any way related to this school or any pupils here."

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