Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church safeguarding review

Updated Friday 27 May

Church of England press release
The Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, has today published its Terms of Reference (see below) to review the handling of safeguarding issues regarding the former Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Dr Martyn Percy.

The review follows a referral by the Archbishops’ Council and Oxford Diocese to the ISB.  As previously stated, the review will not be considering the wider issues between the College and the former Dean.

Statement from Maggie Atkinson, Chair of the ISB: 
“Given substantial previous work has been undertaken but solid conclusions now need to be reached, under the scrutiny remit of the ISB we will undertake a review considering all that has previously been done on this case.

“Our aim will be to advise both those directly affected, and the whole of the C of E, where what has previously been done was appropriate and of good quality, and where there have been errors or shortcomings.

“It is particularly important that those who have been caused pain by what has happened, including the former Dean, have their concerns heard and reviewed by an independent body. The ISB was formed to do such work, and to tell both those affected by complex cases such as this, and the wider church, where change is needed.”

See also two items published earlier

Updates

There is a very helpful link in the comments below to an interview with Kate Blackwell QC from 2019. Thinking Anglicans reported on this at the time, see QC criticises Church of England safeguarding reviews (contains links explaining who she is).

“It is well worth a listen to understand misgivings about the way the ISB is approaching this case which in many ways is more complex than the Makin review. That has not been well managed and is already 2 years overdue. Do listen here from 33 minutes: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0007b3r PS if you only want to listen to Kate Blackwell QC on what an independent inquiry comprises it starts at 37:45.”

There are already many critical comments below about the Terms of Reference.
There’s a huge lot more criticisms over here.

“These have been reviewed by Victims, Supporters and Legal Specialists who have expressed deep concern about their contents. We have set out the annotated contents underneath for your information.”

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James Watson
James Watson
1 month ago

Unless it is a fully independent, wide-ranging, judge-led enquiry, without an undertaking to redact names before it begins (Luther Pendragon and Winkworth Sherwood spring to mind for starters, followed by two of the holders of two University chairs), it won’t be worth the paper it is written on. The underlying control in the terms of reference is staggering. The Diocese of Oxford, Christ Church and the Archbishops have simply revealed themselves to be absolutely desperate.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  James Watson
1 month ago

“The ISB’s remit requires that its work is objective. It is not part of the C of E’s complaints systems, but an independent body. The funding that supports it comes from the Archbishops’ Council (AC) acting as a commissioner of this specific piece of work.” (para. 3.1). Eh? I had to read this several times to make sure my mind had not wandered. It had not. I’m probably being unfair, but ‘follow the money’: the ISB is about as credible as an independent agency, as IPSO and its failed precursors, the Press Council and the Press Complaints Commission – so-called… Read more »

Susannah Clark
1 month ago

The After: Why is the period of consideration limited to March2020 to March2022 when it might be alleged that malfeasance occurred after that date, including partisanship by parties that should have remained impartial, and when an adult who was vulnerable during that limited period may have continued to suffer victimisation? Obviously what I consider the shockingly partisan press releases of the past month are in my mind. Was this continuation of a process of victimisation and reputation damage that might also have been allowed to happen before? Might not such later incidents provide suggestion that the protection of Martyn Percy,… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Susannah Clark
Father Ron Smith
1 month ago

I note, from the above report that:
“(T)he review will not be considering the wider issues between the College and the former Dean.”

One wonders whether they will even be taken into consideration? Were they not the actual root cause of all the problems suffered by Dean Percy? They’re surely relevant.

Last edited 1 month ago by Father Ron Smith
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
1 month ago

Exactly, Father Ron.

Helen King
Helen King
1 month ago

Two more questions: On 2.12, who are the ‘independent legal advisors’? On 4.4, who is the ‘reader/analyst’?

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
1 month ago

The Percy case is a watershed in the life of Church and indeed, University. It puts me in mind of the Dreyfus case in early 20th century France which revealed so much more about the state of the nation than the discrete issue. Both Dreyfus and Percy were subject to an attempt to crush them yet the resistance to injustices proved beneficial to many. There are many clergy broken by bad process, malevolence, and silenced by NDAs. We have here in the Percy case, the perfect opportunity to examine these issues comprehensively on behalf of many who suffer in similar… Read more »

Matthew Ineson
Matthew Ineson
Reply to  Martin Sewell
1 month ago

These ‘reviews’ the CofE keep announcing are not worth the paper they are written on. In my case the church is being investigated for how it handled my disclosures of sexual abuse and rape…and yet it is the church (those being investigated) who have appointed the ‘reviewer ‘, wrote the terms of reference, state they will control the flow of information to the reviewer, redact what they like and decide whether it will be published at all! The suggestions that a reviewer be chosen agreeable to all parties, terms of reference agreed on by all parties, the appointment of a… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Martin Sewell
1 month ago

“At the last Synod some of us argued that the ISB needed direct executive power to right wrongs. Maggie Atkinson resisted (as she was entitled to do) assuring us that it was premature to do so.” If it is the case that the ISB has no power to impose sanctions on malefactors, and if it is the case that its head claimed that it would be ‘premature’ for it to have any such powers (the use of the word ‘premature’ being a pretty obvious and typical bureaucratic synonym for ‘never’), what other proof is needed that the ISB is anything… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Thank you, Froghole. Your proposal is entirely congruent with my experience in academic politics where long and expensive committee deliberations were only ever expected to recommend no change. Naive fool that I am, when I published my review of the curriculum with definite proposals for change, it was said of me “the trouble with him is that he’ll actually do what he says he’ll do”. I urge you to make of your comment a novel, a modest proposal along the lines of that by Swift of Dublin, or a true story modelled on that of Lucian of Samosata in which… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago

Many thanks, Prof. Monkhouse! Ms Atkinson’s ‘premature’ response also reminds me of F. M. Cornford’s ‘Microcosmographia Academica’ (1908): “Another argument is that ‘the Time is not Ripe’. The Principle of Unripe Time is that people should not do at the present moment what they think right at that moment, because the moment at which they think it right has not yet arrived. But the unripeness of the time will, in some cases, be found to lie in the Bugbear, ‘What Dr —- will say.’ Time, by the way, is like the medlar; it has a trick of going rotten before… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Thank you Froghole. This post, with its wonderful imagery of ripe and unripe time, has provided a rare spark of joy in a very sad story. I will treasure it.

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
1 month ago

Ps if you only want to listen to Kate Blackwell QC on what an independent inquiry comprises it starts at 37:45

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

My view is that safeguarding as the C of E conceives it has morphed from its initial incarnation 20 years ago into a beast of burden on the verge of collapse, or perhaps better a scapegoat on which we lay all our failures of leadership, buck passing, lack of nerve, and pastoral indifference. We need help, but the risk with too much third party oversight and review is that it’s not just the C of E’s practices that will be criticised, but its doctrine.

White Rose
White Rose
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

The bureaucracy associated with it can be calamitous. Is it really necessary that everyone who might be on the lesson-reading rota is checked and does basic training? All that will happen is that the majority of them will say thanks but no thanks, and we’ll be left with a lot fewer readers. Yet I am being told by the diocesan adviser that this needs to happen.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

‘the risk with too much third party oversight and review…’

That’s hardly a serious risk. The C of E’s attitude to third-party reviews is like Dracula’s to a crucifix. What we need is a spate of third-party reviews – there are plenty of cases – which will reveal the nature and extent of the Church’s problem (we could call it sin) and bring it all out in the open. That’s the only way to save the Church and help the victims of our injustices.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

I was wondering if part of the resistance to third party reviews was the fear that scrutiny of process will lead to scrutiny of doctrine and teaching.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

They often seem to care more about their process than about doctrine and teaching, though of course there are exceptions. And didn’t Jesus say, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free’? Also, ‘the things you do in secret will be shouted from the housetops,’ and ‘there shall nothing be hidden’. God seems to be rather fond of truth.

Gilo
Gilo
1 month ago

This has all the hallmarks of a whitewash. The ISB have fallen into the trap of applying the brush that others have carefully loaded with a heavily restricted remit. The lawyers and laundries (WSLaw, Luther Pendragon, Pagefield) are nowhere to be found on this fast train to Peckham! !For that is how speedy the thing is intended to be. This review starts three years in, ignores most of a complex narrative and the many conflicts of interest, excludes the connectivity between agents working around a malevolent agenda, and will hurtle past the complicities involved. The intentions are clear. Oxford Diocese… Read more »

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

“As the internal questions at Christ Church are a matter for the College and the University, we will not comment on them.” – Jonathan Gibbs
 
What are the collective views on that statement given that the Church decided that the Deanship falls within the scope of the Clergy Discipline Measure? Personally I see a major contradiction.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
1 month ago

It is actually quite difficult to see what this review will accomplish – how can errors and shortcomings be described in useful detail without identifying the people involved by the roles they were holding at the time (and then it will be known who they were)? And if the role is not identified, how will those occupying the same role in the next case learn what they need from what happened in this one?

faith dean
faith dean
1 month ago

The ISB is an internal agency of the CofE. It is unregulated, unlicensed, and has no accountability to any professional Codes of Practice or any other body that could hold it accountable for standards, quality assurance,liability etc. It is paid for by the Archbishops’ Council, answering only to the Archbishops – who claim it is “independent”, even though it cannot possibly qualify for such a term. It is wholly dependent on its contract and funding from the Archbishops. As an internal agency of the Church of England the purpose of the ISB is to provide commentary on the Church’s safeguarding work… Read more »

Susannah Clark
1 month ago

It is of course pertinent to recognise that the ISB is not a judicial body, and its remit here is not to ‘try’ Martyn Percy over the ‘vestry’ allegations. Rather, the remit is to advise the Church, in a ‘lessons learned’ methodology, on how it can do things better in the future. In this sense, at a non-judicial level, it is the Church’s safeguarding performance that should primarily be on trial. This remit is made clear in the Terms of Reference: “The purpose of an ISB review is to ensure that alleged or proven abusive behaviours or failures in safeguarding… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
1 month ago

I can’t find it, but could anyone tell me, has the ISB set up its own website, as instructed 15 months ago in Section 5 (h) of this document here, where it details: “To ensure maximum transparency, the ISB should establish a website, serviced by the administrative officer, on which all its reports, formal minutes etc. are posted. There should be a clear link to the ISB website from the Church of England’s own website.” Another key issue from that document (in Section 2): “A problem with all forms of culture change is that, if the drivers of change are… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

The ‘Outline of Business’ for the group of sessions of General Synod in York (8-12 July 2022)—published on this blog on 16 May—includes this as the first item of business on Saturday afternoon, 9 July: “Safeguarding and Independence“. It will be interesting to see when the agenda is published (2/3 weeks before 8 July) how much time has been allocated for this item, whether it is another presentation or an item for debate (even if only a ‘take note’ motion) and the terms of the supporting briefing paper. If it is only a presentation, at least a precedent has been… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

I think the question might be “traction for what?” A closer body has more traction in working with the prevailing culture, a more distant body is less prone to capture by the prevailing culture. So is the ISB supposed to be an effective agent of culture change?

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Thanks guys – and the ISB website?

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