Curia sets up commission on abuse of children and vulnerable adults

The commission will be tasked with investigating reports of abuse and will then advise senior church officials on a suitable course of action

Auxilliary bishop Charles Scicluna addresses the press at the launch of the new commission (Photo by Ray Attard)
Auxilliary bishop Charles Scicluna addresses the press at the launch of the new commission (Photo by Ray Attard)

The Maltese Episcopal Conference has set up a Commission for the Safeguarding of Children and Vulnerable Adults, that will begin functioning in February and will be composed of five members. 

Once functioning, the commission will take over five cases from the current response team, two of which have recently received media attention.

The five members are: Andrew Azzopardi, who will be the Head of the Safeguarding Commission, Dott. Roberta Attard, Dr Kevin Borg, Fr Antoine Farrugia S.D.B and Clarissa Sammut Scerri.

Two other persons, Dr Joseph Sammut and Ms Mariella Fenech Pace, will have the role of legal consultant and administrator, respectively.

“The team promises an excellent service as it is comprised of people who have worked in the field for many years,” said Azzopardi

"The commission's job will not be to try and replace the police, who will still conduct their investigations, it will advise a course of action to senior church officials, after investigating reports of abuse," he added

Azzopardi said that the commission would also determine whether individuals involved in abuse allegations are a risk to society charges and they will act accordingly, however the final decision of whether to suspend someone or not will still be up to senior members of the clergy.

Azzopardi stressed that the commission would strive to be as transparent as possible in its various procedures, while at the same time preserving the confidentiality of individual cases.

At the press conference, Andrew Azzopardi, Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, and President of the Conference of religious major superiors, Fr. Martin Micallef, presented a statement of policy for the procedures in sexual abuse cases. This policy is a revision of a policy adopted in 1999, which was not deemed satisfactory.

“The new policy is by no means infallible, and it will be subject to modifications if the need arises,” said Scicluna.

“We want to create a culture which holds the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults at its heart. This commission aims to work towards education and prevention of such cases,” he added.

The members

Andrew Azzopardi is a qualified social worker who previously worked with the NSPCC where he completed risk assessments and offered therapy in child sexual abuse cases with both victims and sex offenders. More recently he headed the safeguarding investigations team at the Football Association in England.

Roberta Attard is a chartered clinical psychologist and social worker with training in Applied Systemic Theory. She is a full-time lecturer at the University of Malta, and she is a consultant for various state boards and state run programs.

Kevin Borg is a medical doctor specialising in paediatrics since 2008, with training at various the University College London Hospital, as well as the Great Ormond Hospital.

Fr Antoine Farrugia SDB is a Salesian educator and registered social worker. Having graduated with an MSc in Child Protection and Welfare from Trinity College, Dublin in 2011, he is currently serving as Chaplain of MCAST and Rector of the Salesian Community in Senglea.

Clarissa Sammut Scerri is a warranted counselling psychologist who is a full-time academic member of the Department of Family Studies at the University of Malta.

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