London: A former archbishop apologised on Wednesday after a report found "systemic failures" in the handling of sexual abuse complaints by the Church of England.
The report criticised the treatment of complaints of abuse made against a former cathedral dean, saying that "decision-making was in the hands of those not qualified or sufficiently experienced in child protection".
"Irrespective of policies in force, there was a systemic failure," it said.
At least two men came forward in 1999 and in 2003-2004 to allege that they had been abused as children by Robert Waddington, the former dean of Manchester, who died in 2007.
The report found that failures by the former Archbishop of York David Hope meant the chance of prosecuting Waddington during his lifetime was missed.
Hope has denied suggestions he covered up allegations, and said at the time there was no recommendation that such cases be reported to the police.
"If either of the two persons concerned feel in the light of this report they have been denied the justice they deserve, then, on behalf of the Church, I offer my personal and profound apology," Hope said.
"I genuinely believed that any complaints were being adequately dealt with by the respective dioceses in which they were alleged to have happened."
The case echoes scandals that rocked the Catholic Church in recent decades and comes as sexual abuse emerges as a key political issue in Britain.
Several inquiries are underway following the revelations of abuse by prominent figures, including the late television personality Jimmy Savile.