Archbishop apologises to abuse victims for 'failure' over allegations

Updated: 

The Church of England has apologised and said it "failed terribly" amid reports allegations of physical abuse by a former colleague of the Archbishop of Canterbury were mishandled. 

A series of accusations have been levelled against a former leader at Iwerne holiday camp - which had close links with the church - where the Most Rev Justin Welby worked as a dormitory officer in the late 1970s.

The historical allegations have come to light following a Channel 4 News investigation.

The Iwerne Trust, which oversaw the camps, was made aware of the allegations and compiled a report in 1982 but failed to tell police, Channel 4 News said. 

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Welby said: "We recognise that many institutions failed catastrophically but the church is meant to hold itself to a far, far higher standard and we have failed terribly.

"For that the archbishop apologises unequivocally and unreservedly to all survivors."

Mr Welby, who stopped working at the camp in 1978, was not aware of the allegations at the time and had only stayed in touch with the alleged perpetrator through an "occasional card", Lambeth Palace said.

Graham Tilby, the Church of England's national safeguarding adviser, said the church had "immediately informed" police after they were alerted by an alleged victim in 2013. 

Lambeth Palace said the archbishop was then made aware of the allegations.

Mr Tilby said a report by the trust into the allegations should have been referred to police at the time.

The Titus Trust, which took over some functions of the Iwerne Trust, said it was made aware of the allegations in 2014 and informed police and the Charity Commission. 

"These are very disturbing allegations and our thoughts are primarily with all those affected," a spokesman said. 

"The allegations are very grave and they should have been reported to the police when they first became known in 1981."