Questions continue to be asked about whether the Independent Safeguarding Board is indeed independent in any meaningful sense. The most recent example was Question 5 which was answered last night by the Bishop of Rochester as shown below.
Mr Martin Sewell (Rochester) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q5 When interviewed by the BBC Sunday programme about the refusal of victim Matt Ineson to co-operate with the Review into his own case, Public Inquiry Specialist and regulatory expert Kate Blackwell QC identified the necessary features of best practice for such a review as follows:
1. It must be search for the truth to shed light on what has gone wrong;
2. Scrutiny of complex issues should be done through a panel of independent experts each bringing levels of excellence from various perspectives;
3. It goes without saying that the panel must have complete independence from any party; and
4. It must engender complete faith in the survivors.
She publicly opined that the Devamannikam Review did not meet those standards and the victim has refused to participate.
Did the Archbishops Council specifically consider each of these principles before determining that the Independent Safeguarding Board was the optimal forum in which to address the various complaints of Dr Martyn Percy that for four years, he has been the victim of institutional bullying within the Christ Church Foundation in which several Oxford clergy and Diocesan advisors are alleged to have participated?
A The ISB exists to provide independent scrutiny and oversight of the Churchs safeguarding activity, to hold the Church to account for our actions as part of the ISBs remit to learn lessons from safeguarding matters. Given its remit the ISBs view was that there were likely to be lessons to be learned, the Archbishops Council and the Diocese of Oxford referred to the ISB the Churchs safeguarding activities in the last two years with respect to Dr Martyn Percy and Christ Church Oxford. They considered that it would be within the ISBs remit and the expertise of its members. They did not specifically consider the contents of the interview by Dr Blackwell. This is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all the issues around Christ Church. That would go well beyond the remit of the ISB. It is not, nor intended to be, a public inquiry.
Overnight, Martin Sewell has written to his GS colleagues:
Dear GS friends,
At Q&As yesterday I raised the issue that the ISB had transitioned from being a body scoping out its plans for future activity in February, to becoming, a few weeks later, a fully functioning Independent regulator, self confident ( despite no prior experience in the role) to invent its own Terms of Reference , its own process and implementing that in connection with the most complex case to arrive in the CofE for decades.
Evidently it thinks it needs neither the support of a supportive steering group which the Reviewer in the Fr Alan Griffin recorded he found so valuable, neither is there a quality assurance process in place. Already it has fallen foul of the Information Commissioner for mishandling data. There has been an adverse adjudication.
I asked Bp Jonathan how we could hold the ISB accountable and was told that that ship had sailed; it is asserted that it is now fully independent and beyond our reach.
I and others are by no means clear that this has actually constitutionally happened yet and if so, how? How did it make that leap without any decision recorded by Archbishops’ Council, or indeed General Synod ? There is no Measure handing away authority, so we all remain in the dark. What happened to the scrutiny stage? Where was the approval of this process? How did all this happen without any accountability?
As you know, some of us recently asked such questions in two letters to Archbishops’ Council and have yet to receive any meaningful response. The matter is not resting there.
I enclose a detailed letter sent to the Archbishops and ISB late yesterday evening by lawyers instructed by Dr. Percy; the letter is drawn by people who actually possess significant skills and experience in the field of devising and conducting proper fair functional reviews – and it shows.
I invite you to read it before the Safeguarding debate and ask the five questions devised by the late Tony Benn to ask of those in power.
What power have you got ?
Where did you get it from ?
In whose interests do you use it ?
To whom are you accountable?
How do we get rid of you?
Put bluntly by asking detailed informed questions, Dr Percy’s lawyers are undertaking the due diligence work that ought properly have been done by the members General Synod, but we have been sidelined. That is unacceptable and it will not end well
The ISB cannot hold the confidence of anyone subjected to its process until all these questions have been resolved. Members of the House of Clergy representing those most at risk ought properly to take this especially seriously.
Do read the letter , it is thorough forensic and powerful. We need answers.