Updated again Thursday and Friday (scroll down)
Channel 4 News broadcast a news item this evening (Wednesday): there is a link to the 5 minute video in this online article:
A woman who claims she was abused by a vicar has told Channel 4 News she was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – before she was allowed to read an official review accusing the Church of England of mismanaging her complaints…
…A 2012 inquiry ordered by the then Archbishop Rowan Williams into multiple failures in safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester concluded: “A confidentiality clause should never be included in any agreement reached with a survivor. It is essential that there is complete transparency about any abuse that has occurred.” mismanaging her complaints…
The Telegraph has also covered the story: Church of England embroiled in NDA controversy after allegedly hushing up findings of harassment probe.
The Church of England has been accused of using non-disclosure agreements to hush up a sexual harassment case involving one of its vicars…
…However the institution is likely to face fresh scrutiny over its alleged use of an NDA, after the Archbishop of Canterbury, its most senior cleric, questioned their legitimacy this year.
He told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in March: “A non-disclosure agreement seems to me to be dangerous because it creates suspicion, ‘Why are you doing an NDA? Surely you’re trying to cover something up’.”
The Diocese of Birmingham has published a document titled Lessons Learnt Review Statement.
A complaint has been made regarding the way in which the Church of England Birmingham handled and investigated a complaint made by an adult of alleged sexual abuse between 1989 and 1991.
Whilst we investigated the complaint with best intentions so as to honour the complainant’s feelings, and to sensitively communicate with all those involved, we accept that we fell short of achieving those aims.
We want to learn from the mistakes we have made, so as to make improvements to our policies and procedures.
With that objective in mind, the Bishops Safeguarding Management Group authorised an independent Lessons Learnt Review…
The Daily Mail has now also covered this story: Church of England ‘forced woman abused by a vicar to sign a non-disclosure agreement over her abuse claims’ then paid her £40,000 but denied liability
The Times also carried a short item in its News in Brief column.
The Church Times published Birmingham diocese defends gagging order for survivor.
The Birmingham Mail reported: Church cover-up claims over ‘sex pest Harborne vicar who walked around naked’.
The Diocese of Birmingham on Thursday afternoon issued this on its website:
Response to Channel 4 News story
In response to the news report and interview with Jo Kind on Channel 4’s news programme (Weds 5 Dec 7pm) we believe that it is important to clarify a number of elements of the story as reported in that instance.
Most importantly, we need to make clear that the Church of England – Birmingham has never restricted, or sought to restrict Jo from telling her story. This is not the purpose of the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). It was and will always be her story to tell. The decision with regards to the NDA was made to protect the many contributors to the report, some of whom wish to remain unidentifiable, along with the many others whom this situation affects. The suggestion of asking Jo to sign the NDA was also made by the independent reviewer once the report had been finalised. We encouraged Jo to seek legal advice, which she did, before signing the NDA, rather than ‘forcing it on her’ as reported.
It is important to understand that Jo was not asked to sign a ‘confidentiality clause’. Such a clause would have prevented her from disclosing information contained within the reports that she was already aware of, or where elements were already in the public domain. Jo was asked to sign an NDA with the intention to prevent from sharing information not belonging to her that she was not previously aware of (for example elements within the report that refer to information provided from or by other individuals, along with factors that could lead to the identity of the contributors and others who have been affected by this from being identified).
Simply put, Jo is and always has been free to tell her story, but we need to protect others who do not want their story to be told. We needed to put measures in place to safeguard the contributions and identities of these others. For us to publically share personal details regarding private individuals, some of whom have requested anonymity, would be irresponsible, unethical and contravening their understanding of what their contribution is being used for. It is not about protecting the Bishop, protecting the Church of England – Birmingham or the wider Church, it is about protecting the identities and rights of private individuals. We have not attempted to cover up our failings in dealing with this case and have publically acknowledged them here: www.cofebirmingham.com/hub/safeguarding/lessons-learnt/.
Statement from the Diocese of Birmingham
Here is the full statement we sent to Channel 4:
“The abuse described by Jo, and others who came forward, is harrowing and the Lessons Learnt Review, commissioned by the Diocese, acknowledges that there were significant failings in how this case was handled at the time. We are deeply sorry for the pain and distress that these failings have caused to all involved. We are committed to learning from this and have published the lessons learned from this review on our website, along with an action plan to address issues raised.
“The decision to not publish the full report was not taken lightly and only after a number of factors were considered. One of the main factors affecting the decision reached to not publish the full contents of the report related to concerns regarding the safeguarding of the many contributors – some of whom wish to remain anonymous – and many others whom this situation involves either directly or indirectly. Our comprehensive response has been to publish a detailed statement which outlines the identified failings along with the recommendations that have been made: www.cofebirmingham.com/hub/safeguarding/lessons-learnt/.
“Anyone wishing to see a redacted copy of the report can do so by request to our Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, as directed on the website.• We commend the courage of all those who came forward to offer evidence and do not believe that publishing the report will serve to protect either those involved from further distress, or others from potential future abuse. The safeguarding of all within our care is of paramount importance to the Church of England – Birmingham and the lessons learned from this review will further inform our commitment to ensuring a safer Church for all.
• We have since also made a redacted executive summary available on request. Copies of the full redacted report are not available for publication or distribution but a copy can be viewed, on prior agreement by our Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, at our offices. This is still redacted due to our responsibility to safeguard all contributors, as previously mentioned, and is not available for publication or distribution. Those who wish to view the redacted full report will be required to sign an agreement preventing the misuse of third party information.
TA note: Since publication on the Birmingham website earlier today, the first sentence of the final paragraph above has been amended, and the footnote paragraph added.