Decision by the President of Tribunals
The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy
A decision has been made regarding the complaint against the Very Reverend Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. The President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin DBE, has decided that it would not be proportionate to refer the matter to a CDM tribunal, noting that there is another means of redress that is a more proportionate means of addressing the allegation.
The role of the President of Tribunals is to determine whether there is a case to answer on which a disciplinary tribunal should adjudicate. She writes: “When arriving at this conclusion, I also take into account that Christ Church itself has instigated its own inquiry into the incident. It seems to me therefore that there is another means of redress which is a more proportionate means of addressing alleged incidents.”
Dame Sarah’s decision concludes this Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) process. The matter should be confidential between those involved in it. The Dean remains suspended by Christ Church, pending the outcome of the college’s separate and independently-chaired tribunal.
The Diocese of Oxford is fully committed to justice and fair process. We have offered significant support for those involved. This includes work to ensure proper procedures and offers of pastoral support and counselling for all parties. Where possible, Bishop Steven is also in regular personal contact with everyone involved.
Nevertheless, matters have been and remain extremely difficult and painful for all concerned. We are profoundly disappointed that these difficulties have been compounded by leaks, commentary and speculation by a small group of people online, apparently with little concern for the original complainant’s right to anonymity, or indeed a fair process for the Dean.
Breaches of confidentiality and regularly posting inaccurate information are to the detriment of everyone. The diocese has sought advice on these matters following the leak of Dame Sarah’s written decision. We draw to the attention of all the Clergy Discipline Commission guidance on Confidentiality and Privacy in Clergy Discipline Proceedings, dated February 2021, which is part of its Statutory Guidance:
Please join with us in praying for the complainant, for Martyn, for the cathedral chapter and congregation, and for the wider Christ Church community.
Archbishop Cranmer has this morning published Diocese of Oxford misrepresents the President of Tribunals, leaving Martyn Percy ‘under a cloud’.
This guest post by Martin Sewell and David Lamming is long and detailed. Reading it in full is strongly recommended.77 Comments
789 days after he was first asked to “step aside” from his role as Canon Chancellor, Church of England processes have cleared him completely. He had been acquitted of any criminal charge by a Cardiff jury in December 2020.
The Church Times reports Safeguarding process drove us close to suicide, says Lincoln canon
On Saturday, it was announced that a church investigation had concluded that there was “no case to answer” after a protracted investigation by the police and the church authorities.
In a personal statement that was read out on Sunday, Canon Overend writes: “The diocese and the Church of England will now need to take stock of their safeguarding and CDM processes, which have harmed a great number of people and brought my wife and me close to suicide.”
He said on Monday that, at one point, his wife had been admitted to the Maytree Respite Centre in London for residential suicide-prevention care…
Statement from the Diocese of Lincoln
Statement from Lincoln Cathedral
The Church Times carries a further detailed news report, Five-minute meeting that led to a traumatic two-year ordeal and there is a reference to this matter in Leader comment: Is this institutional corruption?
The cover picture on this issue of the Church Times is a painting created by Sue Overend, more details here (scroll down).17 Comments
Updated yet again Saturday (scroll down)
The President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin has issued her decision, dated 28 May, concerning the CDM complaint made last November by Graham Ward in respect of the alleged conduct of Martyn Percy on 4 October. This follows an investigation by the Designated Officer, whose report she received on 25 May.
We first reported on this matter on 19 November, and then again on 9 January, 8 February, 19 February, 11 March, 17 March. This decision reported today relates only to the CDM action, not to the other complaints made elsewhere.
A redacted version of her decision (3 pages) can be found here. I recommend reading it in full. It concludes thus:
9. When determining whether there is a case to answer upon which a disciplinary tribunal should adjudicate, I must also bear in mind that the CDM is designed to deal with serious misconduct and that section 8(1)(d) of the CDM should be read in that light. Proportionality must also be borne in mind. Would it be proportionate to refer this matter to a tribunal for adjudication?
10. In my judgment, having considered all the evidence including the interviews conducted by the Designated Officer, the answer is “no”. Although I do not intend to trivialise Ms X’s allegations in any way, it seems to me that it would not be proportionate to refer this matter to a tribunal. The incident itself was extremely short, the alleged hair stroking was even shorter and the language and the conduct as a whole was not overtly sexual. If this is put together with: the fact that Ms X accepts that she was not upset in any way; stated originally that she was not perturbed (albeit she told the police that she was concerned what would happen next); the incident took place in a room which was or could be accessed by others; and Miss X stated that she would have accepted an apology if the Dean had admitted what she says took place, it seems to me that it is entirely disproportionate that this matter should be referred to a tribunal. When arriving at this conclusion I also take into account that Christ Church itself has instigated its own inquiry into the incident. It seems to me therefore, that there is another means of redress which is a more proportionate means of addressing alleged incidents. Accordingly, whilst in no way condoning the alleged behaviour, if it is proved to have taken place, I consider that this matter is not suitable to be referred to a tribunal.
The Church Times reports, with some additional detail: Dean Percy allegation does not warrant a CDM tribunal, judge rules.
Among the extra information, the appointment of Rachel Crasnow QC as chair of the new tribunal convened by Christ Church, is reported.
The reference in the decision to a letter from WSLaw is amplified:
Dame Sarah says in her Decision that she has “taken no account” of an email by Alison Talbot of Winckworth Sherwood, the law firm that has been representing Christ Church in its actions against Dean Percy. In the email, Ms Talbot is concerned that the CDM process might give weight to a legal opinion commissioned by friends of the Dean from the human-rights barristers Edward Fitzgerald QC and Paul Harris in March, that the alleged incident “even if true, could not justify the decision to appoint the second tribunal” at Christ Church.
Ms Talbot writes: “In case any weight is being placed on that opinion by either the NST or those conducting the CDM process we would like to make it clear that we consider that opinion to have been based on only part of the facts and ChCh has had several opinions from highly qualified legal experts expressing the contrary view.”
Christ Church has issued the following statement today:
Christ Church statement in response to media interest
1 June 2021
When a current member of Christ Church staff made an allegation of sexual harassment against a senior member in October 2020, we followed our formal internal processes. It is important that every member of our community has the right to come forward and make such a complaint, and Christ Church unequivocally condemns sexual harassment in any form.
Christ Church, as an employer, a charity, and an educational and religious institution, will always treat such an allegation with the utmost seriousness. In March 2021, Christ Church published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, to provide external, transparent scrutiny of the disciplinary processes it is following, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes. In his report, Sir Wyn Williams concluded, “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.” The tribunal process is continuing and there will be no further updates at this time, nor will Christ Church comment on any separate, external processes.
Each of these blog articles contains a detailed analysis of how this CDM decision may affect the other, parallel, pending investigations. And there are now also two mainstream media reports:
Two more articles:
Another announcement from Christ Church: Christ Church confirms internal disciplinary tribunal
4 June 2021
Christ Church has confirmed that a disciplinary tribunal is proceeding, in order to consider an allegation of sexual harassment made by a junior member of staff against a senior member in October 2020. In March 2021, Christ Church published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, to provide external scrutiny of the actions it has taken, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes. In his report, Sir Wyn Williams concluded, “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.”
The same allegation of sexual harassment was considered by the Church of England under the Clergy Discipline Measure. The decision taken by Dame Sarah Asplin, President of Tribunals, was not to refer the case to a church tribunal in addition to Christ Church’s own inquiry. Dame Sarah stated, “When arriving at this conclusion I also take into account that Christ Church itself has instigated its own inquiry into the incident. It seems to me therefore, that there is another means of redress which is a more proportionate means of addressing alleged incidents.”
A spokesperson for Christ Church said:
“Christ Church unequivocally condemns sexual harassment in any form. It has been clearly stated by both Sir Wyn Williams and Dame Sarah Asplin that a Christ Church disciplinary tribunal is the right place for this allegation to be considered thoroughly. We continue to be appalled at attempts in the media and online to discredit the complainant, question her motives, and to prejudge the proper process. For the sake of all concerned, including the complainant, the respondent, and everyone within our community, the tribunal should now be allowed to take place and reach a conclusion without further external pressure.”
Updated Wednesday 26 May
News 25th May 2021:
Major research paper published
and Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM
A devastating systematic analysis of data from the Sheldon/Aston research survey. This paper explores the deeply troubling territory around the edges of the CDM. The painful testimonies are a hard read but these are voices that need your ears. Anyone in ministry can get caught up in this, often through no fault of their own.
We hope it will impassion you to become part of an unstoppable movement for constructive change.
That movement for change will no longer involve Sheldon’s leadership.
We are stepping back now. We have given it heart and soul for several years and much has been achieved. Now we are in danger of over-stretching ‘real world’ Sheldon. Sheldon has generously funded this project in direct cash (£35,000), but in many ways the time and emotional energy has been much more costly. We don’t put a monetary value on our time, but time spent on ProjectCDM is time not spent with people in need or on other necessary projects. We have attended many meetings, written papers, collaborated with researchers, contributed to consultations by others and built networks. There has probably been some vicarious trauma in the mix. Bringing to light such deep-rooted pain has generated significant additional correspondence and pastoral need from those directly harmed by the CDM.
The church can look away but can no longer say it didn’t know. A complaint against a caring professional in a public role should be treated as a pastoral emergency. Clergy urgently need a system for handling complaints and allegations of misconduct against them that is swift, proportionate, easy to understand, presumes innocence unless or until found guilty, and is applied without fear or favour. It needs to be rooted in gathering of robust factual evidence and prioritise restoring relationships wherever possible. The administration of the process must itself be properly accountable. Reputations of institutions matter, but those of individuals are far more vulnerable in this context. A year after the bishops agreed that CDM should be replaced we have no evidence that the NCIs have a handle on any of this. This press release was published on 17th May but we have no idea whether the proposals considered relate to the heavily criticised Lambeth proposals of December 2020 or have already pivoted towards the ELS model. The lack of transparency is itself deeply problematic.
Do read the whole text of the Sheldon announcement here.
The Church Times has two items:
Updated to incude survivors’ statement
The Archbishop of Canterbury issued the statement below this morning.
A group of survivors has issued a statement in reponse and this is copied below the Archbishop’s statement.
Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury
Following a recent meeting with survivors of the abuse carried out by John Smyth QC, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has made the following the statement today:
I am pleased to have met recently with a group of victims of the horrendous abuse perpetrated by John Smyth QC. I apologised to them that the meeting had taken so long to arrange and acknowledged that this has caused much frustration and anger.
In February 2017, I issued a general apology on behalf of the Church of England, as the story was breaking, and before we understood the full horror and scope of the abuse. Having met some victims now, I want to offer a full, personal apology. I am sorry that this was done in the name of Jesus Christ by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism. It is clear that the impact of this has been widespread. I want to offer this apology, in addition, to those Smyth victims that I have not met. I continue to hear new details of the abuse and my sorrow, shock and horror grows.
The victims I met have made clear that they are angry that John Smyth was not stopped in 2013, when disclosure to the Diocese of Ely was first made and I was duly informed. By this time Mr Smyth had been out of the UK for nearly thirty years. We, the Church, were unclear as to his activities abroad or indeed to the utterly horrendous scope and extent of his actions here and overseas. I recognise the anger of the survivors and victims but having checked that the Diocese of Cape Town was informed and that the police were properly informed and involved our jurisdiction did not extend further. I believe that by 2013 Mr Smyth was no longer attending an Anglican Church.
These victims are rightly concerned that no one appears to have faced any sanction yet, when it is clear a number of Christians, clergy and lay, were made aware of the abuse in the 1980s and many learned in subsequent years. I have not yet received a list of names. I am told by Survivors that some facilitated Smyth’s move to Africa. I have made it clear that the National Safeguarding Team will investigate every clergy person or others within their scope of whom they have been informed who knew and failed to disclose the abuse.
The victims asked me specifically to consider John Smyth’s victims in Zimbabwe and South Africa, known and unknown. Guide Nyachuru died at a Smyth camp in 1992 and I will be writing to his family. I apologise on behalf of the Church of England to all those in Africa who were abused after John Smyth had been uncovered in the UK in 1982, although the Church did not know, owing to the cover up, of the abuse until 2013.
I am aware of what a long wait it has been for John Smyth’s victims. The abuse was almost forty years ago, and it was first disclosed in 2012. I applaud the bravery of those who came forward and all those who have testified since. I know this has come at great personal cost and continues to cause suffering. I told the victims I met that I am absolutely determined that the Makin Review will be as comprehensive and strong as it can be. I have given an undertaking that it will be published in full. I pray that this can give some sense of closure for these victims.
The Church has a duty to look after those who have been harmed. We have not always done that well.
I know that words are inadequate and will have a different meaning and impact on individuals, but I hope that my words today can convey on behalf of the Church of England and myself our deepest sorrow.
A review of the Church’s handling of allegations of abuse carried out by the late John Smyth is being carried out by the Church and was announced in August 2019. The independent reviewer is Keith Makin, who will be assisted by Sarah Lawrence who is also independent. Further details are available on the Church of England website.
In response, a group of victims of abuse by John Smyth QC wish to make the following statement:
As victims of John Smyth’s horrific abuses, we are pleased that the Archbishop of Canterbury is taking responsibility and acting as a good example for the other culpable parties involved in our story. We welcome his comments and also his commitment to publishing the Church of England’s independent review of Smyth in its entirety. We call upon the other organisations – the Scripture Union, Titus Trust, and Winchester College – to follow this lead and to reveal everything they know about the abuses and their coverup. It is clear a large number of individuals, clergy and lay, have known about these abuses for over thirty years and we call on them to cooperate fully with the Makin Review and the National Safeguarding Team. For victims like us, full closure is impossible without full disclosure.
This statement is issued by Andrew Graystone on behalf of a group of Smyth survivors.
For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Three items have appeared today which suggest the road ahead for LLF is not straightforward.
First, the Bishop of London has responded to the item in the Queen’s Speech about banning conversion therapy. Here’s the full press release which includes the following:
Following the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that the Government will ban conversion therapy, the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith Next Steps Group, said”The Church of England believes that all people are made in the image of God and must be cherished for who they are.
“The General Synod has voted overwhelmingly to reject coercive Conversion Therapies so we welcome the Government’s commitment to explore these matters further with a view to enshrining that position in law.
“We recognise the difficulties in defining Conversion Therapies and look forward to working closely with the Government to develop a viable definition and subsequent legislation.
“We want to prevent abuses of power, and ensure that issues of consent are made absolutely central to any future legislation.”
The motion agreed by General Synod in July 2017 was:
That this Synod: (a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence; and 3 (b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity; (c) and call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy.
Note that the word “coercive” does not appear in the motion passed by General Synod.
Second, the Next Steps Group has been explicitly criticised for its handling of a complaint relating to the inclusion of video featuring a particular person in LLF resource materials. This is explained carefully in an article on the Unadulterated Love site by Tina Beardsley titled LLF Next Steps Group refuses to act on trans people’s concerns. This article is not amenable to precis, and needs to be read in full to understand the complexities of the matter.
Third, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has issued a press release, and written to the Bishop of London about the case involving The Rev’d Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead, and the person featured in Rachel’s Story – I Don’t Want to Be Part of An Institution that Allows Abuse to which we linked in an earlier TA article. The press release in full:
WHISTLEBLOWING PRIEST IN THE DIOCESE OF LONDON BEING FALSELY INVESTIGATED OVER TRUMPED UP ONLINE BULLYING CLAIMS
The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has written to the Bishop of London condemning the Clergy Discipline Measure case brought against a whistleblowing priest.
The Campaign has learned that The Rev’d Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead, is currently being investigated by Church authorities for whistleblowing on the basis that he engaged in online bullying, harassment, intimidation and abuse of another cleric accused of traumatising a lesbian Christian.
In 2020, Fr. Robert was approached by a young woman who had been, in her words, ‘repeatedly traumatised’ by the actions of the vicar of a Holy Trinity Brompton plant in London because of her sexuality. You can read her story in her own words here. Fr Robert has been acting as her support, advocate and guide as she has sought for recognition of the harm done to her. In this process there has been an official investigation by the Diocese of London into the abuse of this young woman, which has made recommendations that have yet to be fully implemented by the parish concerned.
Nigel Pietroni, Chairman, Campaign for Equal Marriage etc, said:
“We have reviewed Fr Robert’s online comments, tweets and retweets in relation to the case of this young woman and can find no evidence of bullying and intimidation, and in fact no reference to the other priest concerned at all.
“Fr Robert’s focus has been on supporting the young woman in her struggle for redress and support, and the need for substantial changes in the approach by the Diocese of London, illustrated by the young woman’s experience, into safeguarding LGBTQIA+ people in its churches. The case demonstrates the deep harm that can be done by a lack of transparency and honesty about the position of LGBTQIA+ people in Church of England parishes. There are genuine questions raised by this case about spiritual abuse and the misuse of power.”
Publication of detailed response to IICSA report
The Church of England has today published its detailed responses to the recommendations of the IICSA report from October. As the report stated, the Church of England failed to protect some children and young people from sexual predators within their midst. While the Church will continue to apologise, the main focus is now recognising the distress caused particularly to victims and survivors and acting to improve its safeguarding structures and to change its culture.
The recommendations made by the Inquiry have been accepted in full. Our response document focuses on response to victims and survivors including redress, structure and independence, information sharing, revision of the Clergy Discipline Measure and external audits.
To successfully deliver these recommendations an IICSA safeguarding programme has been set up, with a governance structure to ensure the work is closely monitored. The Archbishops’ Council, who led the response to IICSA on behalf of the institutional church, will be responsible for ensuring the work is completed (with updates to the House of Bishops and General Synod).11 Comments
The Scripture Union has published the Executive Summary of its review into the case of John Smyth. There is also an FAQ to explain it.
Note that this is one of three separate reviews being conducted in parallel. The others are organised by Winchester College and the Church of England. The FAQ document explains why the SU report is separate. It may be helpful to read the FAQ first.37 Comments
Updated again Wednesday morning
The full report is available here (146 pages).
Here is the response of Emmanuel Church.
Another response from the external members of the Independent Advisory Group is here.
The Diocese of Southwark has issued this statement:
“The Diocese of Southwark is committed to learning lessons from independent safeguarding reviews and in the light of this report will continue to work with Emmanuel Church Wimbledon and the National Safeguarding Team. The abuse of power and control by those in positions of trust is unacceptable and we commend those who contributed to this review for their resilience and courage in coming forward to disclose painful experiences. It is of the utmost importance that support is offered to those in need who have been affected by the abusive behaviours detailed in the review. The Diocese has contributed to the review and will study the report findings and recommendations in detail. We will seek to ensure that the learning from the review will be implemented.
For clarification, whilst recognised as a church within the Diocese, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is an independent ‘Proprietary Chapel’, and as such does not have parish status. Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is fully self-supporting and appoints its own clergy under the guidance of an appointed group of patrons. It is a private limited company registered with the Charity Commission. Anglican clergy at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon officiate with licences issued by the Diocesan Bishop.”
The National Safeguarding Team has issued this statement:
A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team, NST, said: The Church is committed to learning lessons from all safeguarding situations and will continue to work together with Southwark Diocese on this case. The coercive and controlling behaviours described in the report are appalling and the priority must be to ensure support for those who have been brave enough to come forward. The NST has contributed to this review and does note the findings and recommendations which it will study in detail. The Team has developed over recent years and has seen a significant restructure including the commitment to move to independent oversight along with the development of the national casework management system. We fully welcome the learning and changes that will result from this report.”
Updated 23 March and again 24 March
Two separate news reports have been published today:
Much of this article reports an online AGM meeting last Saturday of the Christ Church Association which represents 9,000 past and present members of the college, and which spent 50 minutes scrutinising Christ Church’s treatment of its head, Dean Martyn Percy, which was strongly defended by Canon Sarah Foot, who referred to the recently published report by Sir Wyn Williams.
It also reports on a legal opinion commissioned by friends of the Dean, Edward Fitzgerald QC, a specialist in human rights law and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers in London, and his colleague Paul Harris. They conclude that it would be “unlawful and improper to convene a second tribunal”. They go on to say that if the complaints were proven, “… it seems very doubtful whether those facts could be regarded by any reasonable tribunal as sufficient to merit the severe sanction of dismissal…The sustained, repeated and entirely groundless campaign to drive the dean from his job would seem to fall within the definition of harassment in Sections 2 and 7 of the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997.”
This news report describes the safeguarding risk assessment measures taken by the College and Chapter, that were approved by Richard Woodley,the Oxford Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, who said:
“…because this was an “interim assessment of risk” rather than a formal risk assessment, it did not need to comply with the Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016, which stipulate, among other things, that the person being assessed be consulted and given 14 days to query it, and, when it involved “certain facts which are in dispute . . . must set out the matter and the nature and the extent of the dispute”.
Also, it was an error for the name of the consultant who conducted an investigation into the alleged incident, to have appeared on the risk assessment document. Kate Wood said:
“I have never undertaken a risk assessment in this matter or been party to the assessment of risk in any regard. I have never even seen the risk assessments conducted by the college and cathedral. My role was to conduct an initial investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment. This is a very different role to conducting a risk assessment. . .
“…I asked the college several times to publicly explain the error and to confirm that I had not conducted a risk assessment. I also asked the college to engage with those people who had been most vocal in criticising me on this false narrative. This public correction does not appear to have happened, though I am told that the error has now been corrected on the document.”
A spokesperson for Christ Church confirmed that Ms Wood’s name had been incorrectly included in an early “risk assessment draft”.
The Church Times also reports on the progress of the CDM action against the Dean: the Bishop of Birmingham, to whom the responsibility has been delegated by the Bishop of Oxford, has decided to proceed to the tribunal stage, despite the Dean being unable to respond to the complaint due to illness.
Updates (items published on 21 March)
Surviving Church Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late
Oxford Diocese has published this (24 March): The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy which links to a letter from the Sub Dean. The same material is on the Christ Church website: Response from Christ Church Cathedral to public speculation.67 Comments
Christ Church Publishes Independent Review
Link to independent report (pdf)
Christ Church has published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, reviewing the handling of a sexual harassment complaint made by a junior member of staff against a senior member. Last month, Governing Body commissioned the review to provide external, transparent scrutiny of the disciplinary processes it has followed, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes.
In his report, Sir Wyn states the complainant “described events which, objectively, could amount to sexual harassment,” that “there was nothing which can be categorised as unfair or unjust in the way that information was provided to members of Governing Body prior to the making of the complaint,” and then that “a decision to the effect that the evidence was not sufficient would have been unreasonable.” He confirms “the processes followed were entirely consistent with the Statute and By-Laws” and concludes “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.”
Sir Wyn Williams was asked in his terms of reference to examine whether Governing Body members saw sufficient information about the allegation of sexual harassment to make properly informed decisions. He ruled that “I am satisfied the body of information provided was wholly sufficient to reach an informed decision.” Sir Wyn also looked for evidence of conflicts of interest in the decision-making process, and found that trustees acted “reasonably and objectively.”
The full report has been provided to the Charity Commission. Sir Wyn concludes his report stating that “there is no basis upon which the Charity Commission should be concerned about either (a) the decision to appoint a tribunal to hear and determine the complaint made against the Dean or (b) the process by which that decision was reached.”
Christ Church has previously expressed its condemnation of attempts by some through the media, social media, and a number of blogs, to undermine its disciplinary processes and in particular to intimidate the complainant. It is now hoped that these individuals will accept the outcome of Sir Wyn’s independent review, and allow the tribunal process to continue and reach a conclusion without further public comment, for the sakes of both the complainant and the respondent.
See previous report from 15 December.
CofE press release today:
The Archbishops’ Council has approved the next steps in independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team (NST), with the first phase to be implemented by the summer. The paper by Revd Dr Malcolm Brown on the proposed interim arrangements is to be presented to General Synod members on Saturday. The proposals for this new structure were presented to an informal meeting of the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council this week, with Council members then approving the paper. During the meeting members noted the importance of being able to review the structure after a set period and further detail needed on Phase 2 once the Board was in place. Dr Brown noted his thanks to MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) and members of the Survivors’ Reference Group who acted as consultants. Together, they formed a Focus Group and considered an early draft of the proposals and their report offered numerous comments and suggestions, with as many as possible incorporated into this paper.
The Archbishops’ Council originally voted on independent oversight in December.
The paper containing the proposals as issued to General Synod is a page longer than the version linked above.
Here is a link to the copy that includes the cover page (total page count 20).
The following text has been added to the John Smyth Review page of the Church of England website.
To ensure the review is as comprehensive as possible and that the large volume of information submitted can be fully studied, it is now likely that the completion of the report will be mid-summer 2021 at the earliest. Following that, there will be a need to ensure that the report is legally sound and that people who may be directly referenced will have had the opportunity to comment on those references.
Updated Saturday morning
Christ Church to Commission Independent Review
17 February 2021
Christ Church’s Governing Body has voted to carry out an independent review regarding the handling of a serious sexual harassment complaint, in order to confirm the disciplinary process it has put in place. The complaint was made last October by a junior member of staff against a senior member.
Last month, Governing Body addressed the complaint through its internal disciplinary procedures, but these have been questioned repeatedly by some in the media, while the motives of the complainant have been publicly challenged. While it is fully confident of the decisions it has made on this matter, Governing Body agreed that it wanted to respond to the queries that have been raised in a transparent manner. It felt that an external review would be the best way of ensuring that the complaint can be properly and swiftly dealt with for the sake of all those involved.
Governing Body’s decision follows a letter written by Christ Church student representatives to the Charity Commission, which stresses the importance of urgently addressing any allegation of sexual harassment. Christ Church’s internal HR processes are dictated by its statutes, and in this case require a tribunal to be set up to consider any appropriate disciplinary action.
A spokesperson for Christ Church commented:
“We entirely share our students’ concerns that a complaint of sexual harassment by this young member of staff must be treated with the utmost seriousness. That is exactly why last month we put our formal internal HR processes into action, and we are entirely confident these are the correct and necessary steps. However, we believe that an external, independent review will provide further reassurance about the decisions that were taken, and a way forward for all involved.”
Christ Church has begun the immediate process of identifying and appointing a Chair for the independent review and agreeing its terms of reference. It is expected that the Chair will be a senior figure from the judiciary.
Separately, Christ Church has reiterated its condemnation of attempts, through the press, social media and on a number of blogs, to gaslight and intimidate the complainant, their supporters, and the independent investigator who carried out a preliminary investigation into the allegation. Given the repeated leaking of confidential, personal information, Christ Church has reported a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Update Saturday morning
Gabriella Swerling at the Telegraph has this: Dean of Christ Church can’t pray in his own cathedral without permission.
In addition to reporting the additional independent review, this article describes a number of restrictions placed by the College on the Dean, some of which are denied in a further statement by the College to the Telegraph.12 Comments
Following the Charity Commission intervention made public on 28 January, there have been further developments:
Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church made comments on that letter and the Christ Church response: The Charity Commissioners intervene in the Christ Church bullying of the Dean.
Gabriella Swerling at the Telegraph disclosed on 29 January further details about the Christ Church response: Christ Church trustees express anger after watchdog questions efforts to oust embattled Dean. This contains numerous details from an email sent to the trustees commenting on the Charity Commission’s action and suggesting ways that individual trustees might respond to enquiries.
A week later on 5 February, the Church Times published a letter to the editor from the complainant, which can be read in full here (scroll down to Complaint against Dean of Christ Church, Oxford) and carried a lengthy news story about this letter and the background to it, see Complainant in Percy case says she acted alone.
This morning, 8 February, Archbishop Cranmer has published an article by Martin Sewell, titled Christ Church Oxford Trustees could be personally liable for £85K each. This article (which includes a link to a Daily Mail report of 22 November) contains a large number of criticisms of the Trustees.2 Comments
The Church of England has issued this: Statement on resolution of disciplinary process regarding Bishop of Lincoln
…The Bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, has accepted a penalty for misconduct in relation to the management of one safeguarding issue. At their meeting the Archbishop apologised to the Bishop for the long process that he has endured. The Archbishop expressed his full support for the Bishop as he now begins the process of returning to ministry as the Bishop of Lincoln.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I am very sorry that Bishop Christopher and his wife Susan have had to endure such an ordeal over the last 20 months. I have expressed my regret to Christopher and am very grateful to him for the gracious way he has responded. I want to make it clear that I am fully supportive of Christopher returning to ministry as the Bishop of Lincoln. We have both agreed that there are many lessons we and the Church need to learn from this very difficult season, as we also continue to learn lessons from the scrutiny of IICSA which highlighted our poor response to survivors…
And the Diocese of Lincoln has issued this: Letter to the people of the Diocese of Lincoln
We write as episcopal colleagues to the people of the Diocese to share news of the Bishop of Lincoln’s return to ministry and our shared sense of encouragement for the future.
1. What has happened?
On 12th January 2021 the Bishop of Lincoln had a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They met together to pray and discuss next steps following the conclusion of the clergy disciplinary process instigated after the Bishop’s suspension in May 2019, and subsequent investigation. That process resulted in a judgment by the President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin, following which the Bishop agreed to accept a rebuke in relation to his handling of an allegation made against a priest in the diocese. Bishop Christopher has offered an unreserved apology for the way in which he handled this matter.
Archbishop Justin expressed his full support for Bishop Christopher as he now begins the process of returning to ministry as Bishop of Lincoln…
The Church Times carries this report: Bishop of Lincoln can return to duty after 20-month safeguarding investigation. That account reminds us how it began:
…The Church’s safeguarding procedures were triggered in May 2019, after police informed the church authorities about an allegation (News, 17 May 2019). Bishop Lowson was immediately suspended because, as Archbishop Justin Welby said at the time: “If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people.”
Bishop Lowson agreed to co-operate fully, while expressing his bewilderment at the charge, and hoped that the investigation would be completed “as quickly as possible”.
Part of the delay was down to the police, who did not conclude their investigation until January 2020, deciding that, on the evidence before them, there was no case to answer. The Church’s investigation, carried out for the National Safeguarding Team, began at that point, and it was later confirmed that Bishop Lowson was being investigated under the Clergy Discipline Measure…
Review into Bishop Whitsey
A Betrayal of Trust, the independent report into the Church’s handling of the allegations concerning the late Hubert Victor Whitsey, former Bishop of Chester, was originally published in October 2020 and concluded that Whitsey sexually abused a large number of children and young persons (both male and female) and vulnerable adults. The review has now been republished following the resolution of a legal issue – we apologise to those who were affected by this. The Church is committed to taking very seriously criticisms in the report about how and where it failed to respond.
The learning lessons review was carried out by His Hon David Pearl and independent safeguarding consultant Kate Wood.
The Church supported the police in an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by Whitsey dating from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. A public apology was issued in October 2017 following this investigation which included a commitment to a learning lessons review.7 Comments
The Charity Commission has written to each of the 65 members of the Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford, concerning the proposed second tribunal relating to the Dean, Martyn Percy.
The full text of the two page letter is available here: Christ Church – Charity Commission letter to trustees 27.1.2021 and the salient portions are copied below.
The College has issued this press statement:
Statement in response to media interest
Christ Church’s Governing Body and Cathedral Chapter earlier this month decided to take forward internal disciplinary proceedings, following a complaint of sexual harassment made by a junior member of staff. Christ Church is clear that, as an employer, a charity, and an educational institution, it will always treat such an allegation fairly. We should not and cannot ignore such serious allegations.
Christ Church has followed the formal requirements in our statutes to deal with such an allegation, as well as the Charity Commission’s guidance on “Safeguarding and protecting people for charities and trustees,” in the handling of this complaint. On 12 January 2021, we provided a further update to the Commission accordingly. We welcome the opportunity to share the process in a transparent way with the Charity Commission and we know they will take as seriously as we do all accusations of sexual harassment. We continue to keep the Commission fully informed and respond to any questions they may have.
Extract from Charity Commission letter:
…We are writing to all members of the Governing Body in their capacity as trustees of the above foundation which was registered as a charity in August 2011…
…Further to the earlier stages of our regulatory engagement with the charity, we have concerns about the prudent application of charitable funds and the proper process of decision making within the charity as the dispute involving the Dean continues. We understand from your legal adviser that members of the Governing Body have now agreed to establish a second Tribunal to examine the conduct of the Dean.
We have determined that it is appropriate in these circumstances to:
To begin with, we will be seeking further information and assurances from the members of the Governing Body about why establishing a Tribunal is:
We will also examine how, when reaching this decision, the members of the Governing Body:
This is not an exhaustive list. Full details of the information and assurances we require will be set out in a separate letter to the charity’s registered main contact.
We acknowledge that the Governing Body may have sought professional advice about these matters. That does not relieve them, as trustees, of their responsibilities – collectively and individually – for the management and administration of the charity, although that will be considered accordingly. For that reason, we may want to discuss these matters with individual trustees directly…
The Diocese of Oxford has issued this announcement:
The Bishop of Oxford has reinstated Permission to Officiate (PTO) for Lord Carey, who has issued the following statement.
“Following helpful and friendly discussions with the Bishop of Oxford, I am pleased to say that my Permission to Officiate has been reinstated.
My PTO was withdrawn last year on June 17th, when the independent Learning Lessons Case Review into the late John Smyth QC referred information comprising two letters to the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England. The letters gave rise to concerns that, when I was Principal of Trinity College Bristol in 1983/4, I had received a report concerning John Smyth’s evil conduct in the early 1980s without disclosing these concerns to the appropriate authorities. At that time Smyth attended the college for a short period of part-time study.
An NST core group was set up and the conclusion to their investigation was that I had seen the report. They also concluded that as a result of this investigation and further training that I have recently undertaken, they believe I do not pose a safeguarding risk.
I welcome this latter conclusion. However, I respectfully disagree with their judgement. I have no memory at all of John Smyth at Trinity College Bristol.
Let me say firmly that I condemn utterly the crimes of Smyth, and the damage he did to the lives of young people. I am fully committed to placing those who have survived abuse at the centre of our safe practices, thoughts and prayers, and to acknowledge how dreadful such abuse is and how lifelong the impact of such abuse.
Over the past few years, I have spent an immense amount of time focusing intensively on safeguarding through working closely with two Inquiries into Peter Ball, including the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and through undertaking specialised safeguarding training.
This year I have made a report to the NST of a disclosure I received about non recent clerical sexual abuse. I am strongly of the view that training in safeguarding is a vital tool to overcoming failures to protect children and vulnerable adults.
I am very willing to meet with survivors of John Smyth if they wish to meet with me.”
The Rt Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Lord Carey of Clifton
If you are affected
If you or anyone you are in contact with are affected by the themes raised on this page and want to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056 or email email@example.com
Notes for editors:
A planned independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC is currently underway. In the course of that review, new information came to light in June 2020 regarding Lord Carey, which was passed by the reviewers to the National Safeguarding Team for their attention, as per the agreed Terms of Reference for the review.
A Core Group was formed, according to House of Bishops Guidance. The Core Group concluded that the concern, as outlined in Lord Carey’s statement above, is substantiated. This conclusion was also communicated to the Review team, which is expected to report in full during 2021.
However, the Core Group also concluded that if Lord Carey were made aware of a safeguarding concern, an allegation of abuse or a disclosure today, that he would report it to the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor and the police or statutory authorities.
Church Times Lord Carey’s PTO reinstated
Janet Fife on Surviving Church A Fag End in the Gutter: The Case against George Carey
This contain a good deal of additional detail about the evidence submitted to the NST, and is well worth reading in full.
We reported on 19 November 2020 A new complaint about the Dean of Christ Church.
Since then we have also linked to several comment articles published on Surviving Church and Archbishop Cranmer relating to this, in particular (and in reverse date order) on 9 January, 2 January, and 9 December. Some of the linked articles contain fragments of information about developments in this case.
Today and yesterday, two news articles have appeared in mainstream media, both unfortunately behind paywalls, but here are the links, with their headlines, anyway:
Telegraph Camilla Turner Dean of Christ Church faces fresh attempt to be ousted
Times Andrew Billen Oxford college accused of ‘toxic’ bid to paint dean Martyn Percy as a sex pest
Both Christ Church and the Oxford diocese have issued statements (full texts copied below)
The Christ Church statement contains no reference to this incident still being treated as a Safeguarding matter, contrary to earlier reports. The Diocesan statement confirms that a CDM action is still proceeding. TA understands that Oxford diocesan officials, including the bishop, have recused themselves from participation in that action.
The Telegraph reports:
The College’s governing body and the chapter of the cathedral are due to vote on Monday on whether Dr Percy should be taken to an internal tribunal that could see him removed from office. This… follows an alleged incident which took place in Christ Church cathedral in October, where it is claimed that he stroked a woman’s hair and complimented her on her appearance.
The Times article includes this:
Few in the Church of England have voiced their concerns about a complicated affair over which the church has little say. Many, including the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, appear satisfied that Christ Church has acted responsibly over the latest complaint.
But Rev [Angela] Tilby told The Times: “The difference this time is that the patient machinations of those on the cathedral chapter who have consistently plotted against the dean have now borne fruit with other cathedral clergy apparently actively working for his sacking on the grounds of him being a ‘sex pest’. The mixture of malevolence and naivety is toxic and extremely disturbing in an institution supposedly dedicated to education, learning and holiness.”
Christ Church confirmed yesterday that the governing body would review its investigator’s report alongside the advice of an independent QC.
Both news reports mention that Jonathan Aitken has written to the Cathedral Chapter about the latest developments. In his letter he explains that if the Chapter endorses the Governing Body’s action (expected on Monday) to proceed with a new tribunal, he will seek a Judicial Review in the High Court. and outlines the legal and financial risks involved, both for the Chapter and its individual members. He also makes three suggestions for alternative courses of action by the Chapter.38 Comments