A review undertaken by the Church of England into the Reverend Michael Hall, Vicar of St Margaret’s, Tylers Green, in Buckinghamshire, from 1981 to 2000 uncovered a 20 year campaign of abuse by the Vicar upon many of his parishioners.
The report, published on 21 July 2022, examines how Revd Hall, was able to carry out physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual abuse without intervention by the diocese.
An investigation into Hall, who died aged 88 in 2021, began in 2020 following a former member of the congregation taking his own life, but it did not conclude until after Hall’s death. Some witnesses to the investigation described Hall’s ministry as being akin to a cult. Parishioners were described as being frightened to leave because Hall told them that they would face litigation, ostracism, and damnation.
The investigation report makes reference to the way in which Hall controlled parishioners and states “He made parishioners want to please him and to fear his rejection. In this way, Reverend Hall groomed parishioners and made them vulnerable through spiritual abuse.” The investigation found that the then Bishop of Buckingham received thirteen written complaints during Hall’s time as Vicar, but no investigation was ever undertaken. In many cases, there is no record of replies having been made to the letters. The report states that complainants were told by the Diocese that there was little they could do, unless they were willing to go public.
Complaints about Hall’s inappropriate sexual behaviour included allegations that Hall had encouraged men to touch women sexually as they arrived at a party. It was also alleged Hall had engaged in naked saunas and massages with members of the congregation under cover of what he called a “healing ministry”. Some of this behaviour was said to have been witnessed by children.
The report, in conclusion, makes 13 recommendations, amongst them that briefings and other resources on spiritual abuse be provided to congregations. Other recommendations include better monitoring and logging of complaints.
David Hawkins, a specialist in Child and Adult abuse compensation law, said ”Although the report into the failures in safeguarding parishioners is welcome, it has come too late for the Reverend Hall’s victims. Had the Church taken action when it first knew about Hall’s behaviour then he may have faced justice before his death in 2021.” Biscoes Solicitors has extensive experience in obtaining compensation for people abused in the Anglican and Catholic Church. If anyone has been affected by these issues, please contact our team who will be able to advise you, in complete confidence, as to your legal rights.