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Chichester diocesan visitation – interim report published

From Lambeth Palace: Archbishop’s Chichester Visitation – interim report published

The interim report for the enquiry into the operation of the diocesan child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester has today been published.

The report was written by Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC who were appointed as the Archbishop’s commissaries to carry out the enquiry…

And the Archbishop of Canterbury notes:

“…I have decided that the visitation should continue and that both safeguarding and appointments matters should be conducted under the supervision of this office until uniformly better practice can be assured.

The problems relating to safeguarding in Chichester have been specific to that diocese rather than a reflection of failures in the legal processes or national policies of the Church of England. Nevertheless in the course of their work those who have conducted the visitation have identified some areas where they believe that lessons learned from Chichester could usefully point to some further development of national policy or processes. These will now be considered, along with the rest of this Report, by our national Safeguarding group as soon as possible.”

Scroll down the press release for the full set of recommendations made for the Diocese of Chichester.

The full report is available as a PDF: Interim Report Of The Commissaries Appointed By The Archbishop Of Canterbury In Relation To A Visitation Upon The Diocese Of Chichester (624k)

For the background to this, see this Press Advisory from Lambeth Palace from December 2011.

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has issued a detailed statement which begins:

“I am deeply grateful to the Commissaries for their work in producing such a detailed, honest and wide-ranging analysis of the current situation concerning Safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester. I have not yet officially begun my work as diocesan bishop and so, in many respects, their Report comes at an apposite time as the diocese also looks forward to a new phase in its ministry and mission.

This Interim Report reinforces for all who read it how the damage caused to each survivor is unique and intensely personal. Let us never forget that. Nor can we ever imagine that words of apology, deep and sincere though they might be, take away the damage and wicked shamefulness that survivors of abuse carry as a destructive burden.

I am particularly grateful to the Commissaries for their suggestion that I meet with all known survivors of abuse and will seek to do this as soon as my public ministry begins…

The Chair of the Joint Safeguarding Liaison Group, Bishop Paul Butler, has issued this statement.

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Laurence Price
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Laurence Price

Leaving aside the wider issues, the report makes a serious legal mistake at page 25, note 38, when it states that “the more serious the allegation (for example, rape) the less likely it is that the crime has been committed.” This is completely wrong, and a total misunderstanding. In fact, Lady Hale specifically addressed this point in her opinion in the well-known case of In re B (Children) [2008] UKHL 35: “Neither the seriousness of the allegation nor the seriousness of the consequences should make any difference to the standard of proof to be applied in determining the facts. The… Read more »

Jean Mayland
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Jean Mayland

Better late than never. I wish they had taken seriously years ago the report by CTBI entitled ‘Time for Action’

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

Laurence – it is well known that it has been, in practice, harder to obtain a conviction from a jury the more serious an allegation is. That is a matter different from a legal or philosophical or ideal position – it is what happens. I did a double take on the same phrase in the report – and I think the point the authors are trying to make is that acquittal on a very serious charge in a court of law should not bring the processes the church operates to an end – they say that there may be grounds… Read more »

Laurence Price
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Laurence Price

Mark- That’s a charitable interpretation of what on earth they were getting at with that phrase- one which hadn’t occurred to me! Yes, in context that makes slightly more sense.
But I’m astounded that a QC let his name go out on a statement which is at best deeply misleading, and at worst the sort of mistake that a first-year law student shouldn’t make.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

A quick glance at the report raises one or two questions for me. While it is important that the C of E is now taking firm action on this matter, and many of the recommendations seem advisable, I wonder whether certain measures taken to minimise the risk of abuse could leave young people and disabled adults more marginalised and thus at increased risk and/or undermine any leadership role they may have, as well as interfering with pastoral care. The term ‘child’ ‘covers children and young persons up to the age of 18’ (p33), and it is proposed on p35 that… Read more »

David Shepherd
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On 10th November, 2011, a statement was issued by the Diocese of Chichester saying: “The Diocese of Chichester is aware that the diocesan independent Safeguarding Advisory Group has made a complaint to the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning Bishop Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes.” It was widely reported that his conduct would be investigated under the Clegrgy Discipline Measure 2003. In the report (page 3) released on the eve of Wallace Benn’s retirement, the commissaries carefully clarify areas outside of their remit: ‘In particular, it is not part of our remit to enquire into, or pass judgment upon, any matters that… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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No David, the CofE has not made anything disappear. The proceedings under the CDM are still in progress and will be dealt with quite separately from this visitation. That is what the paragraph you quote seeks to make clear.

David Shepherd
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Thanks for the correction, Simon. It just seems that discipline, if it was announced post-retirement, has little impact apart from the resulting opprobrium.

Rather like Congress impeaching the President after he’s left office.

David Lamming
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David Lamming

May I add a comment on the exchange between Laurence Price and Mark Bennet. I do not think that the footnote referred to by Laurence is “deeply misleading.” The extract from Baroness Hale’s opinion in Re B, quoted by Laurence, must be read in context. What Lady Hale was referring to in para 70 ([2008] UKHL 35; [2008] 3 WLR 1 at p.22F-G) was the standard of proof “in finding facts necessary to establish the threshold under section 31(2) or the welfare considerations in section 1 of the [Children Act 1989].” It is true that she adds (para 72), “As… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

I continue to wrestle with the question of how we in the C of E, collectively, allowed this situation to develop and continue in Chichester, and wonder whether it is possible that such dysfunctionality exists in any other diocese or area (I very much hope not).

confused sussex
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confused sussex

The legalistic arguments discussed above are interesting but surely the key point from the report is that because of the dysfunctional leadership in the diocese over a number of years, support for safeguarding was at best not taken seriously with catastrophic consequences. May be now “the land that time forgot” which is how the Chichester Diocese was once described to me, will be taken in hand and we will get a ministry for the twenty first century rather than one for the middle ages.

Anne Le Bas
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Anne Le Bas

I second Savi Hensman’s concerns about about the outworking of the recommendation that clergy shouldn’t see vulnerable adults without a chaperone within earshot. It is usually fairly straightforward to make arrangements for pastoral conversations with children ( I do a lot of children’s work, but one to one private pastoral conversations are fairly rare, and one knows one is dealing with a child from the outset, so the appropriate arrangments can be made in advance.) Pastoral conversations with adults, however, are another matter. They are the bread and butter, day in day out, of normal parish work – funeral prep,… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

Anne Le Bas is absolutely spot on. Will she be heard ? The bishops as a body have arrogantly ignored the experience and practical wisdom and skills of the pastoral care and counselling movement for years. They have no idea. One bishop of Southwark even closed the large and vibrant pastoral care and counselling work in the diocese, which Derek Blows had begun, in Mervyn Stockwood’s time. That very bishop later came unstuck in the glare of the media himself, presumable for lack of pastoral care and counselling himself. Further to Anne Le Bas excellent post, the sacrament of penance… Read more »

sjh
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sjh

I think Anne is correct in the implications for ministry she draws from the report. Clergy will have to become more professional in that sense as every other profession has had to do. But it will mean a huge shift in expectations from the laity, which they might not welcome. I don’t think it will be any bad thing for the clergy to be more professional in that sense, maybe it will help the clergy focus on what they are there for, rather than being all things to all people all the time, and this could make for more effective… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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“Rather like Congress impeaching the President after he’s left office.” – David Shepherd –

Do I detect the faint whiff of sulphur here. would you like Bishop Benn to be put into the stocks while you’re about it. The Gospel has two sides to it, and one of them is mercy. Yes, Justice, but also, mercy!

Jon Hale
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Jon Hale

I agree with Anne le Bas and her concern about the professional vulnerability of clergy. I don’t understand why there is no professional association specifically for CofE clergy that will provide professional indemnity insurance. I have been advised by my Archdeacon that clergy will not be sued because ‘nobody sues a man of straw’ ie. ‘of straw financially’. But there is a vast weight of legal and quasi-legal duty on clergy now that wasn’t there 20 years ago and Diocesan structure doesn’t want to acknowledge this. Presumably it’s because the incumbent must carry the risk. I think there’s something wrong… Read more »

David Shepherd
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Ron: ‘The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching…Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.’ (1 Tim. 5:19, 20) In relation to church affairs, a firm, impartial and timely imposition of discipline is not the unrelenting final retribution of brimstone. However, discipline is a bulwark against the presumption of earthly impunity with which some conduct themselves. Impunity encouraged the likes… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

sjh, I think it depends on what one thinks clergy are there for and indeed what ‘professional’ conduct is. Professional social workers, for instance, do visit frail elderly people living on their own and listen to them, district nurses may go to assist those who are terminally ill. There are also questions about the ‘them’ and ‘us’ model of ministry, especially since the laity is rather more than a set of clients.