Thinking Anglicans

Is the Safeguarding Board really Independent?

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 Church􏰀s safeguarding activity, to hold the Church to account for our actions as part of the ISB􏰀s remit to learn lessons from safeguarding matters. Given its remit the ISB􏰀s 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 Church􏰀s 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 ISB􏰀s 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.

Yours sincerely

Martin Sewell
Rochester 390

In connection with the letter (also linked above) there is also a press release.

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Kate
Kate
1 month ago

I don’t feel qualified to comment on the substance of the letter, I do but want to record thanks to Dr Percy and his team for their transparency.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

A couple of questions about the Independent Safeguarding Board.

Firstly, what is its legal status? Is it a separate company or charity with directors or trustees? Or is it a department of some church body? Or is it merely an informal group of people meeting together under a fancy title? The answer to this would go some way towards answering the Tony Benn questions.

Secondly, what is the ICO “adverse adjudication” referred to?

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

Curiously, although the Archbishops’ Council is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, the Information Commissioner is. It is therefore possible for any member of the general public to ask the ICO whether they have made adjudications against the Archbishops’ Council (reference Z6034304). It seems that three data breach adjudications were made in the period 2018-2020, for example, as posted at the site whatdotheyknow dot com.

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

The ISB no longer respond to questions of composition, process, remit and accountability. Repeated attempts to clarify the position prompted the all-too-familiar letter from an ISB lawyer, Andrew Caplan at Plexus. He states that all such questions have to be directed elsewhere in the CofE, NST, LamPal, etc. They do not answer either. They just parrot that the ISB is “independent”. They have christened it so, therefore it is. The fact that it isn’t is simply denied. The Lead Bishop (Gibbs) stated at GS today that the ISB was independent, so he won’t deal with questions of transparency, accountability, scrutiny,… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Martyn Percy
1 month ago

I see, thanks. So it seems that the ISB is simply an activity — a committee in fact — of the Archbishops’ Council with a fancy name. That means that its activities are subject to the trustees of the Archbishops’ Council, on which they should report in the annual report of the trustees. If there is reason to believe that the activities and the expenditure of the ISB are not being properly controlled by the trustees, then a complaint could be made, firstly to the trustees themselves, and then to the Charity Commission. The Commission are, I believe, quite concerned… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Unreliable Narrator
Peter
Peter
Reply to  Martyn Percy
1 month ago

I think you should send the ISB a copy of The Trial. Then again it seems unlikely their education extended to reading Kafka

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

I have no idea what legal status ISB may have, but it is interesting to see that the draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, currently being considered by General Synod, introduces, by section 8: Judges Training, powers to make regulations for the training of Ecclesiastical judges (of all levels including Diocesan Chancellors), but those regulations “(a) must be laid before the General Synod, and (b) may not come into force unless they have been approved by the Synod.”  

As the roles are not totally dissimilar, is there a valid reason why ISB should not be subject to the same scrutiny?

Last edited 1 month ago by Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Having looked a little more deeply, the proposed ‘training’ of Ecclesiastical Judges isn’t as altruistic as it might first appear. This article explains: https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/06/29/racial-justice-first-report-consistory-courts-i/ As ecclesiastical judges have a minimum qualification equivalent to a Circuit Judge, they clearly don’t need legal training. The article explains the real agenda, as to which I guess TA readers may take different sides. One hopes that, if the proposal is passed, General Synod will look very carefully before approving any regulation limiting the independence of the judiciary. I only mention it here as I see a parallel to the Church’s approach in the present… Read more »

Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Keith Arrowsmith’s letter does indeed seem forensic and detailed, whereas the remit of the ISB in this case appears loose, and – in terms of the chosen periods they will consider (chosen by whom?) – arguably arbitrary, and contrary to a fair consideration of safeguarding issues and conduct outwith the chosen time period. In terms of potential safeguarding issues, where Dr Percy may have been the ‘victim’, this arbitrary limitation might fail to provide sufficient context for understanding motives and methods of people over the longer period of at least 4 years. One minor criticism I have with the letter… Read more »

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Thanks to Unreliable Narrator, Rowland and Susannah for such perceptive insights. The Archbishops were keen to foist the ISB on to me to handle my complaints in relation to the deliberate “weaponisation of safeguarding” perpetrated by Winckworth Sherwood, Luther Pendragon, senior clergy and officers in Oxford Diocese, and gross incompetence and also active collusion by the NST and LamPal staff in the “project-managed-persecution” being perpetrated against me. However, first draft Terms of Reference read as if they’d been drafted by Winckworth Sherwood. The final draft – Ms. Atkinson claiming sole authorship – were just as bad and biased. All my… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Martyn Percy
1 month ago

Dr Percy,

I can offer no perceptive insights into your situation. But on a day when the parable of the Good Samaritan is the set text in the lectionary, it may be appropriate to thank you for your refusal to pass by on the other side, and for your determined attempt to make the church a safer space for us all.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Martyn Percy
1 month ago

Dear Martyn, It is a clear as could be that you have suffered at the hands of a tyrannical bureaucracy. It surely has a surreal quality to it. I think the difficulty with trying to make sense of it, which must a strong impulse for you, is that there is no sense to it. You have been treated with cruelty and injustice. Any reasonable person can see that.( I am a conservative evangelical so I am not animated by sentimentality in seeking to affirm you). For what it is worth I think the witness of others that you have been… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

The Bishop of Rochester’s reply is also ungrammatical. And I agree that accuracy in these things matters – at least, it matters if you want to get at the truth.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

If one is paying for professional help by the hour, it is perfectly reasonable for the client/adviser to decide that an additional hour or two to correct typos and grammar is not a productive use of limited budget. From experience to get all errors usually requires multiple reviewers.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Kate
30 days ago

Given its remit the ISB’s 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 Church’s safeguarding activities in the last two years with respect to Dr Martyn Percy and Christ Church Oxford.’

This sentence from the Bishop’s reply doesn’t actually make sense. A competent secretary or comms staff member should have been able to rephrase it in a minute or two – provided s/he actually knew what the intended meaning was. But maybe the intention wasn’t to make the meaning clear?

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Janet Fife
30 days ago

It’s certainly a jumble and a reader is left to guess what it means!

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Janet Fife
30 days ago

The ‘propaganda merchants’ within the Church hierarchy are making obfuscation – deliberate confusion – into an art form.

Ecclesiastical echoes of Orwellian wisdom perhaps….

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
30 days ago

I can confirm that the obfuscation and opacity are wilful and deliberate. All attempts to seek clarification and suggest any sensible corrections to the draft Terms of Reference were either ignored or dismissed. When the shear stupidity of some of the clauses was pointed out, I was accused of unduly trying to interfere in their process. Orwell, Kafka, McCarthy…this is all smoke and mirrors. The NST is incompetent, partial, poor, and dangerous. It can be and has been used for malicious and corrupt purposes. It denies this, and plays along. Comms runs the entire operation, in my opinion. The lack… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
1 month ago

Writing from the Synod back benches it seems that the ISB is carrying out a limited review of the kind that you get when you appeal against an Ofsted judgment in school, which amounts to “were all the right boxes ticked?” So they will be asking things like “was advice taken when necessary, and was it followed?” but not “was the advice good enough?” – because they are not engaging with any primary sources or evaluating/re-evaluating evidence. It is what it is, and it is a review, and it may even be independent. But the scope is such that it… Read more »

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

The right questions were asked. Repeatedly. We were promised an independent review that would look at all the issues, concerns and serious questions. We were then served with a process that goes nowhere near the key issues. They will say “an independent review was conducted, process followed, lessons learned…”. The Bishop of Oxford did exactly the same in November 2021, deputising the “independent” Bishop of Reading to ignore all evidence of corruption, malpractice, incompetence, etc. Result? Diocesan Synod is told everything is fine, because the Bishop of Reading looked at all the evidence. She did. And ignored nearly all of… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Martyn Percy
30 days ago

Martyn, my point is that I think the ISB made clear in Synod that they were not investigating most of the issues you have raised, It is clearly not within their remit to do so.

That being clear, the question is now who will investigate those issues – which we need dealt with not only for your sake, but also because the Church of England needs that investigation for its sake and future better health too. If the issues are ducked that will be bad for everyone. It is clearly not the ISB that will take them on.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Mark Bennet
30 days ago

The evil of it – and I don’t use that word lightly – is that the Archbishops’ Council [or whoever controls it] appears to be creating the ISB as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ to further silence the sheep – and to convince the sheep they have always been safe and always will be.

Last edited 30 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
30 days ago

Richard calls it correctly. The apparent saviour turns out to be another abuser, seeking to finish off devouring the hapless victim. Oh, and this one is “independent” too – officially christened as such.

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Mark Bennet
30 days ago

Mark, the Archbishops categorically assured me that the ISB would investigate my complaints – all of them. As recently as last month they were pressing me to collaborate with the ISB. However, the ISB terms of reference shy away from any mention of my concerns. So there is no point. Synod is being duped here. One story is told to one group, but then a different one to others. The lack of truth and integrity is shocking. Bishop Croft told his Synod the ISB would investigate my complaints. The ISB says it won’t. Nobody will answer a straightforward question. The… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

A very measured post, Mark. I suspect you are right, that the function of the ISB in this case, and more generally into the future, is not to forensically investigate individual cases to ‘judge’ who was right or wrong, but to look at whether protocols were followed, whether those protocols worked well enough, and to offer the Church their findings, so that ‘lessons can be learned’ in the future, or policy/protocols changed. As such, and from Keith Arrowsmith’s letter on behalf of Dr Percy, it seems clear that they lack legal powers, or ability to access key documents, to do… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

To quote a comment I made at another site: Allow me to predict the result of this Review. The review will only look at the paper trail, and decide whether or not procedures have been correctly followed and documented. It will not look at the contents of those papers, and decide whether or not those contents are true or fair: and it will not look at the truth or fairness of the decisions made beyond asking whether they were taken in accordance with process. It will not address questions such as whether the “wily” Censors of Christ Church, as complainant… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Mark Bennet
28 days ago

There are 2700 solicitors on the Solicitors Children Panel representing the 50k taken into care every year. They also represent a similar number who avoid public care, plus the parents and assorted partners. These lawyers are the experts on assessing risk of children who have suffered or are a risk of suffering g significant harm.

the CofE and it’s lawyers have never employed ONE of them. Can you imagine them taking a similar response to matters of Pension Law?

The basic problem is that the Church does not know what it doesn’t know.

Father Ron Smith
1 month ago

From the perspective of an observer from ACANZP, one has to wonder who, on the Archbishops’ Council, might be most interested in a ‘cover-up’ of the facts of this case?

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.”

I asked this here, back in May.

For ‘maximum transparency’ all its reports were to be published on it.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
1 month ago

Thanks Simon.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
1 month ago

This will be welcome, because the website will be required to publish such data as charity name and registration number, address, ICO registration and privacy policy.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

It appears to me the Church hierarchy – especially in the form of this Archbishops’ Council – is operating a feudal system of power with no accountability.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

“Bluntly, this is corrupt. There is gross incompetence too, and appalling conflicts of interest being concealed….. If you don’t call it out, then we can’t trust Synod anymore, let alone the cabal running it. How can Synod members avoid being the passive-silent rubber stamp for this charade?”

Martyn Percy

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

It’s very difficult not to draw the conclusion that the CofE is institutionally corrupt- and such institutions can corrosively corrupt those at the highest (and lowest) levels.

On july 10 2019 at the IICSA, Rev. Matthew Ineson had this to say about a now-retired Archbishop

“He’s arrogant, he’s rude and he’s a bully”

The Church hierarchies are – for the most part – corrupt and corrupting.

This is no time for those with the power to speak to be silent – especially those elected representatives in the General Synod.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

One aspect of the problem is that Church bodies and leaders seem to believe that they are exempt from the law. It is certainly true that the Church of England works within its own unique legal framework, but the secular law applies to it too. In particular, the various church bodies that are registered charities are subject to the quite specific requirements of charity law. They are open to challenge, for example, to demonstrate that expenditure is properly made for charitable purposes; that decisions have been properly made by the trustees; and that trustees are not deriving personal benefit from… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
30 days ago

I know I can be very naive, but what do all these groups and boards actually DO? What are they FOR? Why not scrap the lot and simply report abuse allegations to the civil authorities?

Susannah Clark
30 days ago

It does seem a bit odd to be assessing the bureaucracy, rather than addressing the actual purpose of said bureaucracy: namely the specific injustices, in detail, and calling people to account. IF the ISB review is limited to assessing whether protocols were followed, and what ways they could be improved (and that seems to be the remit)… then neither Oxford Diocese nor the AC can claim a closure of the Martyn Percy case. In terms of actual justice, what action is the Church proposing to actually get the necessary evidence and witness statements extracted from unwilling parties with maybe things… Read more »

Susannah Clark
30 days ago

When all is said, if not yet done, I do believe that force of argument, though passionate and justifiable, is maybe best served cold and calm. For example, in the Victorian era, women’s voices were all too often marginalised as ‘hysteria’, which was an all too easy way of dismissing unwelcome opinion. Maybe that’s sometimes still true today. In the issue at hand, it’s quite possible some people may play that game as well. I have always been struck by a different expression of passion, in the concluding words of Yeats’ poem ‘The Fisherman’. Although I can see him still… Read more »

Dave
Dave
29 days ago

This is all so troubling, and makes me so so disappointed in the leadership of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England. Is this what the Church of God has come to? I salute Martin Percy’s tenacity and courage, he needs support and encouragement in making the Church of England a safer place, and bishops for more open and accountable. What is clearly needed now is for a totally and absolutely independent highly qualified review of all that has gone on, and those responsible to explain and be accountable for their actions – this includes especially the Bishop… Read more »

Peter
Peter
28 days ago

Despite their legions of errors (or worse), Christ Church has at least put a serious figure in the shape of a former attorney general in charge of its review. He may yet disappoint, but Dominic Grieve is going to deserve at least a hearing. I assume that is because the College is accountable to the University, present and future students (i.e recipients of an education) and present and future charitable donors, and indeed the Charity Commission. The insouciance of the Church of England, on the other hand, is absolutely breathtaking. They simply do not care what was done to the… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by Peter
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Peter
28 days ago

Yet we still allow them to rule over us.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
28 days ago

But what can we do to ‘not allow them to rule over us’?

Would it help if some ‘name’ set up a petiton online calling for a fully independent review of the Christ Church situation, or, calling for a fully independently appointed safeguarding agency for the Church of England.
I guess the wording would need to be sharp.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Dave
28 days ago

Petitions have their place, but not in this instance.

A walk across Lambeth Bridge by General Synod members – from Church House to Lambeth Palace – demanding a resignation or two?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
27 days ago

Bastille Day today, by the way.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Dave
26 days ago

As I stated elsewhere, senior Church leaders behave as if they were not subject to secular law — but they are. There are at least three regulators who might become involved: the Charity Commission, the Fundraising Regulator and the Information Commissioner. It would be proper for anyone with standing to complain to the Charity Commission if a charity — and almost all church bodies are charities — were to spend its charitable funds on purposes that were not within its charitable remit, and further to the Fundraising Regulator if the funds had been raised for specific other purposes. Again, while… Read more »

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