Technology convicts child abuse vicar

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St Matthias Church in Stoke Newington Photo Credit: Robert Vasquez

As victims continue to tell harrowing accounts of child sexual abuse at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), former Hackney vicar Cyril Rowe was sentenced to four years imprisonment on three historic counts of indecent assault on a child.

The court heard that Rowe, now 78, committed the assaults between 1978 and 1981, while he was vicar at St Matthias Anglican Church in Stoke Newington.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was given permission for the evidence to be given over a video link from his hospice bed, from where he described how Rowe, after locking the church door, used to pin him down and abuse him sexually, afterwards giving him £1 and saying sorry.

In a first for a British Crown Court, the victim — suffering from motor neurone disease — gave evidence using technology similar to that used by Stephen Hawkings, who died yesterday. An assistant helped him use an eye-tracking system with a computer that turns blinks into words.

Sadly, the unidentified victim, now 47-year-old but then a chorister, died before Rowe was found guilty but having achieved his dying wish of giving evidence.

“The way Cyril Rowe’s victim was allowed to use this eye-tracking technology over video shows how the CPS can help victims and witnesses who might otherwise struggle to give evidence in court” said David Nixon, a CPS lawyers.

IICSA is investigating the institutional response to child sexual abuse within the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is set to be interviewed by the inquiry as hearings begin, and has previously said the Church “failed really badly” in the care of children and vulnerable adults.