Comments: Trouble at York Minster - today's developments

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 at 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 at 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 at 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.

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