Thinking Anglicans

“Church of England gags abuse victim with NDA”

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:

Exclusive: Church of England gags abuse victim with NDA

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…

Updates

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.

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Rev Peter MilliganMark BennetRichard W. SymondsInterested ObserverJanet Fife Recent comment authors
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Kate
Guest
Kate

So if a survivor signs a non-disclosure agreement how are they supposed to access support without disclosing what happened to them?

And what of those survivors who haven’t come forward because they don’t think they will be believed? So many survivors only come forward when they realise they are not the only victim.

Wicked.

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

This NDA is clearly designed to protect the institurion, and piles the pressure on the victim. Not naming Tom Walker also means that there is no way of knowing if Joanne Kind was his only victim. The veracity of her claim is only disputed by Tom Walker’s poor family, who can’t really face the thought of him wandering around aroused and naked, but I don’t hear the Diocese disputing it. So was this really a one-off? Maybe, but unless you ask you’ll never know. Potential other victims are the last thing on the mind of the Bishop and the Diocese.… Read more »

Andrew Graystone
Guest
Andrew Graystone

We are already aware of three further victims in this case in addition to Jo Kind.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Diocese forces survivor to sign NDA before being allowed to see the report into the bishop’s mishandling of her own complaint – abuse on abuse on abuse. And at every stage this is about Church functionaries keeping their power, and taking power away from the victim. When will the Church learn?

Andrew Graystone
Guest
Andrew Graystone

The Diocese of Birmingham said in a statement to Channel 4 that “Anyone wishing to see a redacted copy of the report can do so by request to our Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.” This is disingenuous. Anyone asking to see the report will be given a redacted copy of the Executive Summary only. Why, on the morning after your duplicity and incompetence has been publicly exposed, would you continue to try to hide from your responsibility by telling half-truths? If this is meant to be an exercise in damage limitation by the diocese, they need to ask who has been damaged… Read more »

Andrew Graystone
Guest
Andrew Graystone

The Diocese has updated its statement to indicate that only the redacted form of an Executive Summary is to be made available.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

According to the Church Times, the diocese will allow people to read the redacted report at the diocesan offices, with the permission of the Safeguarding Officer. Sounds more and more as if they have something big to hide.

Kate
Guest
Kate

In the same week that Parliament was rightly rebuked for trying to release only a summary of the Brexit legal advice, the diocese seems not to see a problem in sharing only a redacted version of the executive summary. Hole. Dig. Deeper.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

The Church Establishment is digging an even deeper hole for itself because such holes enable them to hide and ensure protection. It’s been going on for centuries.

In the light of this NDA case – outlined below in the Church Times today -I can’t see the Briden Report on Bishop Bell ever coming to light:

Dec 7 2018 – “Birmingham diocese defends gagging order for survivor” – Church Times

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/7-december/news/uk/birmingham-diocese-defends-gagging-order-for-survivor

Paul Waddington
Guest
Paul Waddington

If I understand the story correctly, the vicar committed this behaviour in 1989 to 1991. The next we hear is that he was “rebuked”, some 25 years later. The question that needs asking is: Did his bishop, or anyone else in the Diocese know nothing of this behaviour during all this time? It is almost beyond belief that such a secret could be kept for so long.

If something was known or suspected, was any action taken?

Finally, a “rebuke” seems to be an inadequate way of dealing with such a serious matter.

John Wallace
Guest
John Wallace

Not only that. According to Crockfords, he became Rural Dean and Honorary Canon and then in 1991, Archdeacon of Nottingham until he retired in 1996. He then had PtO in the Hereford Diocese from 1997 until 2008. I agree with Paul that it is beyond belief that no-one had an inkling of his bizarre behaviour.

Simon Sarmiento
Admin

Stephen Parsons has written a blog article about the use of NDAs.
`Church Non-Disclosure Agreements – tools of re-abuse
http://survivingchurch.org/2018/12/06/church-non-disclosure-agreements-tools-of-re-abuse/

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Whilst I agree with Stephen Parsons that Non-Disclosure Agreements by the Church can be a “tool of re-abuse” for genuine victims, I do not agree with him “that anyone who is ever required to sign one in a church context should shrink with total horror even when they are mentioned…[and]…the use of NDAs by the Church is an offence to decency and morality”. For example, regarding ‘Carol’ [in the Bishop Bell debacle], it would have been wholly appropriate to impose an NDA on her. If NDA’s were a ‘default’ position for the Church, why didn’t they impose that on ‘Carol’… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“For example, regarding ‘Carol’ [in the Bishop Bell debacle], it would have been wholly appropriate to impose an NDA on her.” Why? It would be completely unenforceable. She signs an NDA, and then goes to a newspaper and tells her story, including every single matter named in the NDA. What happens next? I’ll give you a clue: “nothing”. There is no monetary damage. There is no matter capable of being used to get an injunction. The NDA is just fancy wallpaper. NDAs are bluff, and it is bullying behaviour to use the weight of your organisation to bluff an individual.… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

I am a big boy, with reasonably deep pockets, a knowledge of the law, an academic’s ability to marshal and sift information, and easy access to legal advice. My attitude to unenforcible terms is “see you in court”. I tell my children that most contracts purporting to restrict the behaviour of individuals are bluff, and the consequences of treating them as such are usually somewhere between benign and irritating. For example, notice periods: if you walk out of a job and don’t come back, there are a very limited range of plausible, practical things an employer can do. For example,… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

It would be interesting to know how many Briden Report Core Group members (investigating the Bishop Bell case) have already signed, or will be required to sign, an NDA.

My guess is that those who know the most about the case – such as Bishop Bell’s biographer – will be effectively ‘muzzled’.

Fortunately, there are enough of us outside the clutches of Church lawyers who can ‘fill in the gaps’ of any redacted Report.

Yet another reason the Briden Report will not see the light of day?

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

Possibly there is a case for arguing the report should not have been shown. Possibly there is a case that it should have been shown and the victim respectfully asked to exercise discretion in what she revealed. But the use of an NDA does not at all protect anybody since it does not prevent disclosure happening – it merely threatens horrible retaliation and revenge if it does. It therefore cannot be justified on the grounds of confidentiality. Underlying this is the contempt of the people shown by the Church which still seems somehow to imagine it can be trusted to… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Interested Observer’ – “I am not the survivor of a sexually abusive vicar, confronted by the Church of England in all its majesty (ie, for many people, the state)…”

‘T. Potts’ – “Underlying this is the contempt of the people shown by the Church which still seems somehow to imagine it can be trusted to decide what is in the national interest”

“The state”? “In the public interest”?

Is there something else ‘they’ are not telling us here?!

Maybe we’ll be hearing next the Briden Report will not released “for reasons of national security”?!

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

I do hope Bishop George Bell – and others like him – are prayerfully looking down at their earthly colleagues with a forgiving chuckle.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Sorry, I thought my meaning was clear from context. Confronted by the CofE brandishing an NDA my reaction would be laughter: I would sign it, think no more of it, and ignore it with impunity. But for many people, the CofE is contiguous with, if not part of, the state: it’s entirely obvious in the case of, say, the Balls that they were able to operate in large part because the CofE is embedded in our society. The CofE is established, and in the minds of many that makes it part of the state because, in many ways, it is.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“Confronted by the CofE brandishing an NDA my reaction would be laughter: I would sign it, think no more of it, and ignore it with impunity” My guess is, ‘Interested Observer’, you are not a vicar of a village church who has been falsely accused of sexual abuse; had the police round your family home early one morning; been on the front pages of your local newspaper; had the social services round to check on the children; threatened with eviction from your family home; no longer allowed to officiate or participate in church services or activities; unable to cope with… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Such a case as you describe would indeed be no laughing matter, but why would the accused be issued with an NDA? Unless, like Jo, there was a subsequent review into his case?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

I’m sorry, Richard: why would an NDA be issued in such a circumstance? Do you have cases where people who have been the victims of such cases are also being silenced with an NDA? What would be the point of such a document? But even in the rather unlikely scenario you outline – as Janet says, the NDA would presumably only relate to a subsequent review – my precise point was made in a previous posting: that NDAs have no force, but are thrust at people in vulnerable positions, who are not as able to resist them as I am.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

IO, I think you underestimate the malevolence of certain ‘rogue elements’ within the Church of England

Rev Peter Milligan
Guest
Rev Peter Milligan

Deary, deary me! All those quotes marks. Cess pit or Curate’s egg?

Kate
Guest
Kate

So in response to the fuss about the NDA, the diocese has now said a redacted version of the report can be viewed but only if someone signs another NDA preventing them from talking about the report. It’s an almost Alice in Wonderland response. If any member of the public can, on application, read the redacted report it clearly isn’t being kept private to protect third parties. What is at play is that public discussion is prevented by use of still more NDAs. The diocese claims there is no cover up. So why can people view the report but only… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

There is delicate ground here. Perhaps IICSA will make recommendations about something like “appropriate use agreements” which are very different from NDAs and exist to serve the competing public interests of protecting the vulnerable and disclosing the truth. The important part is that the terms should not be dictated or decided by the organisation within which the abuse occurred, but in the interest of those most affected (first) and the public second.