Thinking Anglicans

Ian Elliott criticises Church of England safeguarding

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme this morning carried an interview with Ian Elliott concerning the Church of England’s response to the review he carried out into the case of Gilo, about which we have reported previously, here and also here and earlier here.

The radio programme can be found here. The interview starts just before 29 minutes in.

The full text of the statement prepared by Ian Elliott is published below the fold. Further comments by Ian are in the following press statement.

Press Statement from Gilo

  • International safeguarding expert puts the record straight on Church of England protecting its insurer repeatedly and publicly discrediting his Review.
  • Stealthy presence of Ecclesiastical Insurance settlement lawyers at ‘pastoral’ case conferences is massive power imbalance.
  • The scandal of the church and its insurer deepens.
  • Survivor asks lead bishop to investigate Church House unethical methods, and discrediting and negative culture of the NST.

Ian Elliott is an internationally recognised safeguarding expert and reviewer, who led the Elliott Review for the Church of England nearly two years ago. He has worked at national church and government level around the world and is highly regarded for his work in Ireland and Australia and elsewhere.

Ian Elliott’s comments following interview with Ed Stourton for BBCRadio4. Ian has given permission for these comments to be quoted in addition to anything from his statement.

“Archbishop Welby’s letter in response to the thoughtful and in my view, helpful open letter, is misplaced. Kind words are not adequate. What is needed is action. Survivors need to see the church letting them know what changes will be made, when changes will be made, and how the church can be held to account in terms of those changes. The survivors I have spoken to want to feel that what’s happened to them is of enough concern to the church that it is keeping the hierarchy awake at night. They don’t see enough real concern or impetus for action. Survivors just don’t see that at present. So many of the problems the Church of England face are of their own making because of the inertia and resistance to any change.”

Regarding the core groups with EIG presence, Ian wishes to add, as this was not covered in the interview:

“I attended two Core Group meetings when undertaking the Review. A lawyer representing EIG was present at both of these meetings which struck me as being unusual. I would have thought that the survivor could have been invited as well, and contributed usefully to the meeting but this does not appear to be usual practice. In my experience, affording the subject of the meeting, the survivor, the opportunity to contribute to it, makes for much better outcomes. The Core Group meeting should have a pastoral focus but this was not my assessment of the ones that I attended. It is rooted in attitudes towards survivors which are totally misguided, misplaced, and unacceptable.”

Phil Johnson, chair of MACSAS says: “These core groups demonstrate the extent to which the church is more interested in financial considerations than the well-being and care for victims. Survivors haven’t known or been invited with their own legal representative and this is a huge imbalance of power. It gives the insurer massive informational and strategic advantage and potential opportunity to cover its tracks”

Gilo says: “I’ve been raising questions to the Church about its relationship to Ecclesiastical Insurance for 2 years now, but saw the questions discredited and ignored by their National Safeguarding and National Advisor. Yet all this time they’ve kept quiet about these core groups. I’m not the first to raise questions about the church and insurer working in close tandem. Survivors have been raising the skewered relationship in person to Archbishop Welby for the past five years.

So it is disturbing that the church has been sitting on this embarrassing information in this way – hoping it will not see the light of day. My impression is the operation is heavily controlled by William Nye (Secretary General of Synod) who the National Advisor directly reports to. I tried to get answers from William Nye as to why my questions were discredited two years ago – but got nowhere. And despite the growing media interest in this scandal, they still do not provide answers.

So I have asked Bishop Peter Hancock and Bishop Sarah Mullally to instigate a review to establish how many pastoral core groups have had this presence under quiet stealth of the insurer. It’s the stuff of Spotlight! (the movie) I have also asked them to examine the NST’s culture of gaslighting and discrediting. These core groups are a major piece of the jigsaw in the church’s moral illegitimacy of response to all survivors, and probably a long term pattern. It is time the Church of England came clean on this. And it’s astonishing the extent to which they’ve shielded and protected Ecclesiastical’s deception across the past two years.

I was shocked to discover recently they did have input into Mr Elliott’s review, despite so many public statements to the contrary. EIG have been allowed by the church to be consistently dishonest, which has caused distress, confusion and deep mistrust. I’m glad that Mr Elliott has finally been able to put the record straight. I am aware that the Elliott Review has been openly trashed by caseworkers of the NST and also in Lambeth Palace at very high level. I feel they should put up or shut up – and get on with real action, real change and real justice instead of seeking to discredit survivors, and discredit independent reviews. In my view the church has been acting in ways bordering on corrupt. Time to stop discrediting and pretending the questions away. Church House in Westminster needs to be brought into daylight. And I hope this is what the lead bishop will now do.”

Statement by Ian Elliott regarding the Evidence included in the Review of Survivor B

Because of the repeated misleading comments that have been issued by Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) regarding the evidence that I had access to when undertaking the Review of the case of survivor B for the Church of England, I have decided to take the highly unusual step of confirming publicly what occurred. I have asked repeatedly for this to be done by those who commissioned the Report but to date, they have refused to do so. They are aware of what the records state just as I am. They gave me access to the case file, and facilitated my interviews, whilst undertaking the Review.

It has been said that there are “factual inaccuracies” contained in the Report that I authored. I know of none. It has also been said that no advice was provided by EIG to suspend contact with the survivor following his decision to issue legal proceedings against the Church for compensation. I read the case file created for survivor B by the diocese. It was stated in the case record, that this advice was confirmed by EIG on 15th January 2015 over the telephone.

This was again confirmed in interview by the person who made the telephone call. She described her distress at receiving such guidance. The receipt of this advice was also confirmed in two other interviews that I undertook, firstly with a senior bishop of the Church of England who was involved in the case. He expressed his upset and his regret at having followed that advice. He regarded this as being a major error of judgement on his part. I also spoke to a senior member of the national safeguarding team in the Church who also confirmed that this was their understanding of what had happened.
According to the case record, the advice that was provided to suspend contact with survivor B came, in the first instance, from an unnamed Church lawyer and was then confirmed over the telephone by an unnamed person from EIG. This is recorded in the case file. Along with the confirmation of the information through the three interviews, I took this as being adequate evidence to confirm that advice had been given and accepted.

In my view, the advice was not only insensitive and uncaring, it was highly reckless. The survivor was in a fragile state and suffered from mental health difficulties. He was under immense pressure and to contemplate giving, let alone, accepting advice of this nature represented a massive error of judgement that needed to be addressed in the recommendations flowing from the Review. Therefore, I included a specific recommendation to address this issue.

I was also told in interview that the advice was later withdrawn after a period of some days, but this does not alter the fact that it was recorded as being given in the first place, and confirmed in interviews to me by three credible and reliable informants. It was given, and it was also accepted, and then withdrawn.

It was also asserted by EIG that they had no contact with me during the Review. I attended two Core Group meetings convened to discuss the situation of survivor B, at which I met and spoke to the lawyer representing EIG and who had also led the settlement process with survivor B. I asked them if there were any written policies or guidance documents that they followed in their work with survivors of clerical abuse. I was told that there were none available at present but they were seeking to produce some guidance in the future.

My Report was redacted throughout. EIG were never named. The focus that I had throughout the Review, was to maximise learning from the exercise, rather than highlight the bad practice of any one person or organisation. I would regard the recommendations that I made as being equally applicable to whomever contributes to the management of these situations, involving survivors of clerical abuse. What needs to take precedent always, are the pastoral needs of the survivor, rather than any financial considerations for the parties involved.

Survivor B was unusual in that he stated that he disclosed to many people, many of whom had a clear memory of the conversation that he had with them. Some had made it clear that they had no recollection of the disclosure that survivor B said he had made to them. Given the lack of any recall of the disclosure for some whom survivor B said he spoke to, I chose not to engage with these people as there seemed to be little point in doing so. How could I usefully discuss a conversation with them which they had said that they had no memory of!

It is highly unusual for me to openly comment on work undertaken in any cases of this nature. I am fully aware of the sensitivity of the evidence that I had access to. I have made this statement on this occasion, as I believe that a false and misleading perception of what work was undertaken, was being created, and that my recommendations were being discredited as a result. The soundness of the evidence upon which those recommendations are based, is known to those who received my Report. However, to date, they have refused to publicly challenge the comments made by EIG that the Report contained “factual inaccuracies.” I have been deeply disappointed in this reluctance to see the truth told and have, therefore, sought to address the issue through this statement.

In my view, survivor B, and others who have an interest in knowing the truth, deserve to be informed that this case was reviewed in a fair and objective way, and that the highest professional standards were applied to the assessment contained in the Review Report. There are no factual inaccuracies within it, and those that state otherwise are making false and misleading statements that should be withdrawn.

Signed:

Ian Elliott

Independent Safeguarding Consultant

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TJ McMahonDr R RowlesJanet FifeJames ByronRod Gillis Recent comment authors
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Roger Antell
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Roger Antell

Just when one might have thought that it couldn’t get any worse …

And see also Peter Hitchens in his column today on Bishop George Bell: http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/ . Whether or not you like the Mail or PH it is excoriating writing.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re Roger Antell, thanks for the link to the Peter Hitchens article. ‘Excoriating’ indeed. The only thing missing is Hitchens shouting out “GET OFF MY LAWN’

Notwithstanding I take his point re the Carlile Report and the ABC’s spin on the same.

Speaking of shouts, good for Hitchens for the shout for the film, The Man Who Invented Christmas, I expect Christopher Plummer will shine as always. Charles Dickens is one of the greats in the English Canon.

James Byron
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James Byron

Alongside discrediting Bell after running a cold case investigation so bungled that to call it “amateur hour” would be undue praise, the CoE fails the very survivors it claims to care so passionately about. This should be no surprise: incompetence reigns, and those who consider one man expendable are the last people to genuinely care about victims. Injustice begets injustice.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

So the Archbishop and his team have not only been inept and uncaring, they have also deliberately misled survivors and the general public, and sought to discredit Elliott. As Carey lost his PTO after the Gibb report, I expect Welby to lose his after Elliott’s review and statement, and Warner to lose as a consequence of the Carlile review.

Dr R Rowles
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Dr R Rowles

Whatever the merits of the Peter Ball case, PH’s choice of writing for the Mail substantially undermines his case. The Mail’s history, over many decades, of pillorying anyone who is not either posh or right wing, preferably both, makes anything published in the newspaper automatically suspect. If you really want to redeem Peter Ball, PH, get your work published in a publication we might believe (ie, not the Times, Sun or Telegraph either, for the same reasons).

TJ McMahon
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TJ McMahon

Dr. Rowles,
Are you perhaps confusing +George Bell with Peter Ball in your comment?