Thinking Anglicans

Fr Alan Griffin: independent review published

Diocese of London press release

Fr Alan Griffin: Diocese of London publishes independent report and response

The independent review regarding Fr Alan Griffin has today been published by the Diocese of London. External safeguarding practitioner, Chris Robson, was commissioned following the coroner’s inquest in 2021 into Fr Alan’s death, to conduct a lessons learned review. This has been released in full, alongside the Diocese’s response.

Fr Alan Griffin became the Rector of St James Garlickhythe and St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe in the City of London in 2001, in the Two Cities Area of the Diocese of London. He retired from the Church of England in 2011 and was ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 2012. On 8th November 2020, Fr Alan died by suicide.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said:

“I am profoundly sorry for all that Fr Alan Griffin endured and apologise unreservedly to his family and friends. Homophobia and bias, conscious or unconscious, have no place our Church – the culture has to change. It is heart-breaking to read of the failings that occurred in the lead-up to November 2020, dating back to the lack of understanding and proper pastoral care at the time of his HIV+ diagnosis and non-fatal suicide attempt in 2010.

“Chris Robson’s report clearly identifies our past mistakes, alongside the improvements which have since been made, and the areas where work is still required. I am grateful for his approach and honesty, and for the efforts of the Review Steering Group in informing our response. We owe it to Fr Alan Griffin to ensure what happened to him can never happen to anybody else.”

The Independent Reviewer, Chris Robson, said:

“I would ask that those who read the Review see it as a document that will help the Diocese of London and wider church to improve safeguarding practice. Those people I have spoken to at a senior level have recognised the issues raised in the review and I am encouraged by their response.

“Whilst it is very clear that improvements to practice are necessary, I acknowledge that significant progress has already been made. In particular, the Diocese has a strong leader in Bishop Sarah and I can see she is driving that positive change. It now requires collective effort across the entire diocese with new and improved practice being ‘lived and owned’ by the whole church community.

“I would like to thank those who spoke to me for their candidness, often during difficult and emotional interviews.  I have been privileged to speak with representatives of the family and friends of Father Alan during this process.  The dignity, honesty and patience they have shown has been remarkable given the circumstances and I thank them sincerely for the part they played in the review.

“Finally, when reading this Review, I would ask that you remember Father Alan Griffin, a much-loved man.  It is important that lessons are learned from his death and everything possible is done to ensure these or similar circumstances are never repeated.”

The Diocesan response to the independent report’s recommendations sets out progress made to date and identifies the ongoing priority areas. These include the following, which will be scrutinized by the independently-chaired Diocesan Safeguarding Steering Group:

  • Team capacity across the Diocesan Safeguarding Team (DST) has increased from 4.4 full-time equivalent staff in 2019, and 6.6 in 2021, to 9.2 in 2022, including the new post of Head of Safeguarding, to which an experienced safeguarding professional, Martin Goodwin, was appointed in August 2021. Resourcing will continue to be carefully monitored.
  • Any allegation referred to the DST is now always triaged by a safeguarding expert, and is risk-assessed, considering the safety, needs, and wellbeing of all parties involved. Case management processes have been implemented in line with national guidance.
  • An LGBT+ Advisory Group is being established to focus on the pastoral care and sense of belonging of LGBT+ people and the impact of Diocesan policies, processes and practices on their community. This group will make recommendations for change to the Bishop of London and the Senior Staff.
  • Mandatory unconscious bias training for all staff will be updated, including material on the effect of language and the terms we use to describe other people.
  • Formal recruitment processes are now in place for all roles, including those appointed by bishops, following National Church guidelines.
  • New information-sharing agreements will be implemented nationally, following the publication of Church of England guidance and an ongoing consultation with dioceses.
  • Awareness training on the coronial process, in consultation with HM Coroner’s Services Manager, is being implemented for the Diocesan Safeguarding Team in July 2022.

The Diocese’s Head of Safeguarding, Martin Goodwin, said:

“Over the last year, we have made significant practice improvements across the diocese as safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility.  We have improved the way we review safeguarding referrals and ensure support is provided to all those involved along every step of the way, recognising the profound effect such a safeguarding concern or allegation can have on an individual.

“The Diocesan Safeguarding Team has been strengthened with the appointment of a safeguarding advisor to each of the five episcopal areas, improving the support given to parishes. The implementation of new procedures and the additional recruitment of a case work supervisor ensure that referrals are concluded efficiently and to the highest standards in line with practice guidance.”

Bishop Sarah added:

“I have witnessed the distress, across the Two Cities Area in particular, in the wake of Fr Alan’s death.  There is much for us to do to ensure we all learn the lessons from this tragedy. In particular, I am concerned to focus on how we work with each other as disciples of Christ. A culture that evolved over many years will not be transformed overnight, but I am committed to ensuring that change comes. I hope and pray that we can all contribute to that process. We are stronger when united in Christ’s love.”

ENDS

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Jim Farley
Jim Farley
1 month ago

‘Not to apportion blame…’, ‘Lessons learned…’ in the context of the Coroner commenting ‘I then received submissions on behalf of the Church of England regarding any prevention of future deaths report. These submissions impressed upon me that referrals to child protection and safeguarding professionals must not be reduced and urged me not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations. It seems to me that a duty of care and competence in a situation such as this one is not in any way incompatible with the moral… Read more »

Charles Clapham
1 month ago

What a depressing read. A dysfunctional culture of misogyny and homophobia leading to a deeply sad tragedy.

Clare Amos
Clare Amos
1 month ago

Am I the only person to feel surprised that the Archdeacon of London (who is, I believe, the same person as the Archdeacon of London referred to in the Robson review) is still in post?

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Clare Amos
1 month ago

No, you are not the only one.

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Clare Amos
1 month ago

Perhaps the silence means he’s being sent to Coventry – I mean Oswestry ….

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  peter kettle
1 month ago

I very much hope not.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

I rather wonder whether the authors of the Diocese response were reading the same document. For example, the response to Recommendation 11  The London Diocese should commission a GDPR expert to consider the legality of retaining information passed by the HOps is quite incoherent: it suggested that there is no need for such consideration as the information is not being retained — except where it is. In fact, it is being retained, and the need for the legal consideration does exist. They go on to suggest that GDPR compliance is necessary only in the context of records on staff. But… Read more »

Michael Fuller
Michael Fuller
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

The sad thing is no one seems to have been disciplined over this, yet the identity of one the principal perpetrators of this evil is generally known and remains in office!!

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

As the reponse says “The Bishops operate within the guidelines on retention set out in the House of Bishops’ policy document Personal Files Relating to the Clergy. We have recently reviewed our GDPR compliance and consider that we operate a policy that is legal and one that complies with national policy. Training on document management in Bishops’ offices is being provided through monthly training sessions with Bishops’ PAs.” All copies of the one toxic document in question – the so-called Two Cities report – are being destroyed – save one – see our response to recommendation 5. I am happy… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
1 month ago

Destroying documents does not negate the retrospective breach of data protection legislation, and retaining one (even kept in a locked safe) continues to be subject to such legislation. The answer to Recommendation 11 seems to have totally missed that point.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

I have to accept that the Reviewer has recommended destruction of copies and retention of the original. But Unreliable Narrator was surely correct in asserting that Recommendation 11 was not being followed: essentially to be a further ‘lessons learned’ of those specific issues.

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

No breach occurred.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
1 month ago

If you and other senior bods in the Diocese of London keep telling yourselves that nothing went wrong no lessons will be learned.

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

Far from being in denial, we are (as the detailed response shows) actively taking steps to address the findings, criticisms and recommendations. I was merely addressing the allegation that there was a data breach under GDPR. There was none. The document was internal and only went to the Coroner at her request. It will now be destroyed.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
1 month ago

But a copy will be retained. Therefore GDPR rules still apply. But there’s a wider question here. Why was it thought appropriate for a retiring officer to dump his brain in such a chaotic way? Surely, senior staff should have instructed the retiring officer to ensure that appropriate records were made and kept appropriately before he retired. By agreeing to a ‘brain dump’ the diocese has enabled the creation of a record that is neither a personnel file, nor a safeguarding file, nor any other kind of formal record, and clearly the diocese has no idea what to do with… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
1 month ago

It seems that you do not quite understand my original comment. I did not use the phrase “data breach”, and that phrase, meaning unauthorised access to or publication of personal data, is only one possible way in which a data owner can be in breach of the DPA or GDPR. But these responses betray a fundamental failure to understand how personal data protection works. The data owner should start by articulating the purposes for which they wish to hold or process personal data. They should then decide whether those intended purposes are permissible under the provisions of the DPA. If… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

As a supplement to this, I note that some of the information recorded about Alan Griffin was taken to mean — completely falsely, as the Coroner made clear — that he might have been guilty of criminal offences against young people. In this case, of course, Article 10 applies, and there is a prohibition against sharing information outside the organisation. So that’s a further probable breach of GDPR. I think it impossible to maintain that the Diocese handled Alan Griffin’s personal data in a legal manner (and the blanket statement “No breach occurred” is therefore simply wrong). It is therefore… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Unreliable Narrator
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
1 month ago

That clearly is not the Reviewer’s view, Recommendation 11 was to specifically address, and learn lessons from, failures.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

That is indeed the point. The Recommendation was that The London Diocese should commission a GDPR expert to consider the legality of retaining information passed by the HOps. The Diocese has decided it does not need to do that, because we have no further data about which we need now to consult a GDPR expert.  This is of course quite wrong. It currently holds the “Two Cities Report” and will process it further. The Diocese of course continues to handle a wide variety of personal data and will do so into the foreseeable future. The comments made here by a… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
1 month ago

Are you still in post as a member of the Bishop of London’s senior staff, Pete?

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
Reply to  Bill Broadhead
1 month ago

No. I’m employed by the Diocese for a year as a Bishop’s Adviser. I retired early as Bishop of Willesden in order to facilitate there being greater diversity on the episcopal team.

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
1 month ago

That’s helpful to know. Thank you.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago

“Senior members of the Church of England were aware of Father Alan’s sexual orientation and his HIV status in 2010. This review has seen no evidence that he was offered any support, pastoral care or advice at this time beyond that allegedly supplied by the HOps. In fact, the behaviour described indicates a fear of dealing with these issues with people choosing to ignore what they think is a ‘difficult subject’. ” What a frightening indictment. Pastoral care has ceased to be a concern. What we find is gossip, gossip and unprofessional conduct by senior managers in the church. Surely there… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

More than once the report refers to “increased accountability” which has been introduced by the current Bishop of London. I see no evidence that anyone has actually been held accountable for this lamentable course of events.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

The chilling thing is that if the Coroner had not been tenacious the Church would have brushed all this under the carpet. It would have been just another suicide in the CofE’s clergy. That the diocese were so inept in their initial dealings with HM Coroner speaks to its hubris.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Indeed. Thank God for the independence of HM’s Coroners.

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
1 month ago

Independent eyes on our Church is a painful but unquestionably a good thing. As IICSA and the Gibb Report on Peter Ball (2017) did, this report’s author, Chris Robson, makes the direct connection between the Church’s attitudes and policies (both cultural and official) towards homosexuality and safeguarding failures of the most tragic and serious kind.    ‘This illustrates a divisive issue that has been at the centre of this review – the Church of England’s stance on homosexuality. Again, this issue is so complex that it could not possibly be dealt with in significant detail by this review. At the same… Read more »

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Judith Maltby
1 month ago

This Review throws a thin piercing light on a far bigger issue: governance and proper accountability. Bishops and their decision-making lacks transparency, scrutiny, regulation, accountability, oversight and structures for appeal. Either Bishops need levelling down so they become subject to proper external regulation, scrutiny and oversight, or churches, clergy and congregations need levelling up so that power differentials which enabled and allowed the abuse of Fr. Griffin to take place are removed. At present, CDMs, safeguarding, licensing, expenditure, HR, bullying, harassment, structures, resources, sexuality, gender, mission, mergers and more besides are all subject to the exercise of unaccountable and arbitrary… Read more »

Mark Elliott smith
Mark Elliott smith
Reply to  Martyn Percy
1 month ago

To be fair, I believe the decision to publish had been taken at Sarah Mullaly’s insistence, unaware that Boris’s defenestration would be imminent. However, I do agree that accountability, but even more reminiscent of BJ, judgement, are crucial here. The lack of competence shown by senior leaders is truly jaw dropping, the pastoral care calamitous. But it staggers me that the former Bishop gave such power and influence to an individual in his personal capacity: no personnel file, no obvious line management, no scrutiny as far as I can see. The former Bishop of London was a good man I… Read more »

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Judith Maltby
1 month ago
Mark Elliott smith
Mark Elliott smith
1 month ago

The thing that is disturbing is that the outgoing Head of Ops was not employed by the Diocese, nor paid by the Diocese. Who paid? Where from? Did the Head of Ops have a DBS? He was unaccountable, and it seems that only when the new Bishop arrived did he resign. And yet he had huge influence. Frankly GDPR pales into insignificance compared with the ineptitude with which the information was dealt with. The report is very disturbing indeed!

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Mark Elliott smith
1 month ago

Indeed. All this raises questions about the judgement of the last Bishop of London.

Mark Elliott smith
Mark Elliott smith
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

It’s all very well talking about lessons learned. But are the people most directly involved the ones to learn them? “There is evidence of a lack of leadership in many aspects of this case…it is apparent that leaders either took wrong decisions or simply hid from plain view when asked to lead.” This is from the report, and I am far from convinced that people who hide “from plain view” when asked to lead should be leading in the first place.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
26 days ago

I see that Lord Chartres, in today’s Church Times, denies that Martin Sargeant was employed as H/Ops by the Bishop directly out of his own funds, as is stated in the Independent Review. His Lordship does not, however, choose to tell us who did employ and pay Mr Sargeant. This seems odd. Perhaps some who has already commented and has knowledge of the situation can explain.

Last edited 26 days ago by Unreliable Narrator
Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

There are those who like to criticise the data protection legislation, but this tragic case provides a textbook example of the need for a data protection regime. The report ought to have had input from a data protection specialist. The ‘brain dump’ resulted in the processing of the personal data of data subjects. In this instance (and in its dealings with the archdiocese of Westminster) the diocese of London was both the data controller and data processor. It is not evident to me that Dr Griffin’s data or that of other data subjects was processed ‘lawfully, fairly or transparently’ under… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

the diocese of London was both the data controller and data processor“. I should add that, strictly speaking, it was the data controller, although it was undertaking its own processing.

Michael Mulhern
Michael Mulhern
1 month ago

I’ve come to this at the same time as a certain political psychodrama is working itself out in Westminster/Downing Street. It leaves me asking one question. Why is the Archdeacon repeatedly cited in this review, along with (what seems to me) his repeated failure to act with due diligence, still in office? Surely, the findings of this review mean that any propsect of future preferment is decisively off the cards? Would it not be better to go with dignity and seek another more appropriate sphere of ministry, where his lack of pastoral and strategic acumen is not causing him –… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Michael Mulhern
1 month ago

Given that the review refers to the “increased accountability” introduced by the current Bishop of London, it is inexplicable that no-one has been held to account for this catalogue of failings. Any parish priest who fouled up this badly would have had the full weight of the CDM process thrown at them. But in the simpler, humbler, bolder C of E bishops and archdeacons are clearly not expected to be accountable.

Marcus
Marcus
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

I agree. Where is accountability demonstrated for gross, damaging incompetence by removal from office or CDM? That the ‘Two Cities’ document about 40-odd ‘problem’ clergy could be considered apt by the Arch of London et al is astonishingly inept. Have they heard of defamation and libel? For the reviewer here states that it contained little more than gossip/hearsay/malice (?). I would be appalled to be included in such a rag. I hope there is legal action by those defamed. Litigation and job loss is the only way these incompetents will change.

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