Thursday, 24 February 2005

Clergy Discipline Measure - consultation on Rules and Code of Practice

The Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 received Royal Assent in July 2003. It is likely to come into effect towards the end of this year. There is a very good summary of both the current and new arrangements here on the Oxford diocesan website. Note however that the new measure does not apply to “matters involving doctrine, ritual or ceremonial”. These will continue to be governed by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.

Before the new arrangements can come into effect, Rules (to carry into effect the provisions of the Measure) and a Code of Practice (providing guidance, explanation and best practice) need to be finalised by the Rule Committee and the Clergy Discipline Commission respectively, approved by Synod and, in the case of the Rules, laid before Parliament in the form of a Statutory Instrument under the ‘negative resolution’ procedure.

The Rule Committee and the Commission have drafted the Rules and the Code of Practice and they are now seeking comments. Full details of the consultation and how to make comments are here.

The measure and the drafts are online here:

Clergy Discipline Measure 2003
draft Rules
draft Code of Practice

The drafts are each about 3.5 MB and contain a total of 139 pages.

The intention is that the Rules and Code of Practice will be brought to General Synod for approval in July 2005. As a result the closing date for the consultation is midday on Tuesday 5 April 2005 and this deadline will be strictly observed.

The members of the Clergy Discipline Commission are listed here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 11:13am GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

It's wonderful that we are asked to make our comments on these documents by the Tuesday after Easter Week. In effect it means that busy and conscientious parish priests can spend Easter week pondering on these serious matters. Two things strike me immediately, both from the Code of Practice. (1) The bishop's role. It says "It is the duty of the diocesan bishop to administer discipline over clergy. It is also the duty of the bishop to provide pastoral support for clergy within his cure. The performance of these duties may be delegated, but the diocesan bishop retains overall responsibility. **However, at all stages it is crucial that the bishop must personally avoid all pastoral involvement whether with the complainant, respondent or anyone else, in matters that are, or could become, subject to disciplinary proceedings**." [Emphasis in the original]. So here we have legal justification for the increasing remoteness of the bishop from the pastoral care of his priests.

(2) In para 36 it says "The complaint must specify the name and address of the complainant. No anonymous complaints will be considered under the Measure. In exceptional circumstances, the identity of the complainant may be withheld from the respondent if it is in the interests of justice to do so." My wife, human rights and employment lawyer, says that this is taking a model of criminal proceedings (preventing the suborning of witnesses) and applying it to an employment law procedure. How do you feel about the prospect of having, in effect, anonymous complaints investigated against you becuase the diocesan registrar is concerned that : "there may be a risk of interfering with witnesses, intimidating the complainant or destroying evidence" (para 74)?

Posted by: Justin Lewis-Anthony on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 8:40am GMT
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