Friday, 16 December 2016

Trouble at York Minster - today's developments

Updated Saturday evening and Sunday evening

We reported in October that York Minster’s team of bell-ringers had been disbanded.

The last few days have seen reports that the Minster has been having difficulties recruiting temporary bell-ringers to ring over Christmas, eg The Guardian and The Telegraph.

The Minster has today issued a statement giving more details of their decision to disband the bell-ringers, as reported here by Minster FM: Minster claims there’s been “intimidation” over Bellringer row.

York Minster says bellringers who’ve offered to step in to help the cathedral have suffered intimidation on social media and in the local media.

In a statement from The Chapter of York they also claim at least one member has been threatened with legal action.

They say despite this, they’re still exploring options for the ringing at Christmas and hope those wanting to volunteer will be able to approach them without the fear of intimidation.

The Minster statement in full also goes over the details of why this situation happened which were reported in the media back in September [sic] …

The article goes on to quote the Minster statement in full.

John Bingham also reports on this story for The Telegraph: York Minster bell-ringers sacked over stance on ‘ongoing’ abuse risk to children.

York Minster’s team of bell-ringers were disbanded because they refused to accept that a leading member of their group had been assessed as presenting an “ongoing risk” of child abuse, the minster’s governing body has said…

In what amounts to the most detailed explanation of the saga to date, they made clear that the apparently sudden decision to disband the 30-strong ringing team in October was just the “culmination” of weeks of discussion about the issue…

Updates (Saturday evening)
The York ringers have issued a statement in response to that of the Dean and Chapter, denying any suggestion of intimidation. They continue to put their side of the story and again ask the Dean and Chapter to discuss the matter with them so that it can be resolved. Their statement can be read here.

(Sunday evening)
Archbishop Cranmer Peace on earth and good will to all men – except the sacked bell-ringers of York Minster

Because of the nature of this story we ask all commenters to be especially careful in what they write. Comments containing ad hominem remarks will not be published.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 16 December 2016 at 9:24pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Archbishop Cranmer's take on this makes me nervous, in that it could easily be construed as not attaching sufficient weight to the importance of keeping children safe. And I write as a bellringer myself, who thinks that the nature, scope, and poor communication of the Dean and Chapter's actions seem on the face of it rather hard to justify.

Nonetheless, we should not confuse different thresholds of proof. An individual is not convicted of an offence; that means the evidence did not reach "certain", or "beyond reasonable doubt" in older terminology. No court action was brought against an individual; that means there was assessed insufficient chance of the evidence reaching that threshold. Both of those are appropriately high thresholds, the former for potentially taking away someone's liberty, the latter for the still significant impact of putting them on trial. But neither of those is (nor sets out to be) the appropriate threshold for the question: "is there sufficient evidence against an individual to take action to protect children?" The threshold for that question should surely be set much lower.

So, whilst none of us know the facts in sufficient detail to make that judgement ourselves, it is entirely possible that there was in fact sufficient evidence for it to be reasonable, indeed compulsory, for the Dean and Chapter to take some action. The proportionality of the action taken, and the process followed, seems to be the issue here. But to imply that no action was warranted because the individual was not convicted runs quite a severe risk of suggesting a lack of understanding of the very real risks to children from abusers and the high priority that should be attached to protecting children.

Posted by: John Swanson on Monday, 19 December 2016 at 10:30am GMT

John Swanson has articulated much better than I ever could why child protection is an area where erring on the side of caution can be entirely justified.

Posted by: Pam on Monday, 19 December 2016 at 8:45pm GMT

John Swanson, just as we should not confuse different thresholds of proof, so too we should not confuse different actions. And in evaluating different actions, we should make use of the facts that we do know.

You are speaking of an individual, not convicted, whom the Minster banned from its grounds in April 2015. I don't know enough to judge the wisdom or folly of that decision.

But the issue now is, why did the Minster sack 30 more ringers in October 2016? I can see no justification for for this action.

In particular, on safeguarding, here is what the 30 ringers sacked in October have told the press:

"YMSCR have always complied with the Minster’s safeguarding policies. Indeed, in February 2016, our Ringing Master received an email from the retiring Minster Safeguarding Officer in which she concluded by thanking him “for co-operating so willingly with me over the past few years as we all strove to give child protection the important profile it demands”. Chapter decided to temporarily exclude an individual from ringing activities in April 2015, and we have complied with that decision at all times. Chapter informed us on 4th August 2016 that their decision to exclude the individual on a temporary basis had been changed to a permanent exclusion.

"The remaining members of YMSCR. It is important to be clear that there is no possible ground for questioning the standing of the remaining members in terms of safeguarding. Twenty members of the band were DBS holders, and several had safeguarding training as part of their employment. These members of the band are as committed to safeguarding as any other volunteer at the Minster. That they have been summarily dismissed from the Minster after, in some cases, decades of loyal service, is deeply distressing for them. For there to be an implied questioning of their suitability to safeguard young ringers has caused untold hurt to them and their families."

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 19 December 2016 at 9:02pm GMT

Only now, amid the election news and the Scottish Episcopal Church decision, do we learn that the Minster has selected a member of the former band as its new head of tower!

This entire episode appears to have been an own goal of Theresa May proportions by the D&C. But at least they have begun the climb-down before Synod meets in York.

https://yorkminster.org/about-us/working-with-us/news/new-head-of-bell-tower-for-york-minster.html

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 9 June 2017 at 11:11am BST
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