Thinking Anglicans

Lord Carlile questions lawfulness of Percy safeguarding investigation

LORD CARLILE, a leading QC, has suggested that the safeguarding investigation into the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, is potentially unlawful…

The Church Times reports:  QC has doubts over Percy investigation.

Lord Carlile is quoted as follows:

Speaking on Monday, he said: “I do not believe that the Church has got to grips with the fundamental principles of adversary justice, one of which is that you must disclose the evidence that you have against someone, and give them an equal opportunity to be heard as those making the accusation.

“And you cannot give them an equal opportunity if there are conflicts of interest involved. Anyone with a conflict of interest must leave the deliberations and take no further part. This is what lawyers understand as the law of apparent bias. It’s not to say that such people are biased: that’s often misunderstood. It is the appearance of bias that matters.

“Having people on a core group with a conflict of interest is simply not sustainable and is, on the face of it, unlawful.

“And to fail to allow the person accused to represent themselves, or be represented, in the full knowledge of the accusation, is not sustainable, and is, on the face of it, unlawful.”

The report also includes this:

…In the mean time, senior figures at Christ Church are continuing, in the words of some observers, to “weaponise” the investigation. At a recent meeting, members of the Governing Body were reportedly told by senior figures in the dispute that, with “new students potentially arriving in the autumn, the Dean is a safeguarding risk”, and that they were “constantly monitoring the risks the Dean poses”.

As a consequence, the Dean asked the NST for an unequivocal statement that he was not a safeguarding risk. The NST has complied: a statement has been posted this week on the C of E website: “The safeguarding issues referred to the NST are being looked at by an independent investigator and we would like to stress there is no evidence at this time that the Dean presents a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult. The referral is about whether safeguarding responsibilities were fulfilled.”

That statement can be found here:

Statement on Christ Church, Oxford

23/07/2020
The lead bishop for safeguarding, Jonathan Gibbs, has previously written a letter stating that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean at Christ Church, Oxford and this remains the case.  The safeguarding issues referred to the NST are being looked at by an independent investigator and we would like to stress there is no evidence at this time that the Dean presents a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult. The referral is about whether safeguarding responsibilities were fulfilled.

Along with this statement, the letter to the Church Times, was also published on the Church of England website  – this is the only place where updates on the independent investigation will appear. There have been no other briefings.

As Bishop Jonathan said in his letter there is no agenda behind this and we would like to thank all parties for their cooperation and hope that this safeguarding matter can be concluded quickly.

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Father Ron Smith
3 months ago

For the sake of the reputation of Oxford University, Christ Church Cathedral, The House and the Dean, let’s all hope that this particularly vociferous and harmful calumny against Dean Percy will have been put to an end. There also needs to be some form of compensation for the the Dean and his family for the extended period of their needless suffering on this issue!

Father David
3 months ago

In spite of all Lord Carlile’s sterling efforts to exonerate the reputation of Bishop George Bell the infamous “significant cloud” still hangs above the great man’s head. Maybe the Noble Lord will be more successful in assisting in preventing further persecution of the Dean of Christ Church with the suggestion that further investigation into the Dean’s conduct is “potentially illegal”. Looking at recent photographs of Martyn Percy it seems obvious that this constant stress is having a deleterious effect on his health and outward appearance. I do hope that he is receiving pastoral care and the support he truly needs.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

Perhaps this is an appropriate time to be reminded of what Lord Carlile also said last year – February 1 2019:
 
“I hope that this event [‘Rebuilding Bridges’ – Ed] will add to the clamour for the Church to admit the awful mistakes it has made in dealing with unsubstantiated allegations against Bishop Bell. His name should never have been publicised before allegations were investigated. The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him”
 
 
 

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
3 months ago

All of which begs the simple question: why will the C of E not outsource its safeguarding to an independent, accountable, professional body that acts within the law, with total transparency, affording people a fair and objective process, which is not in anyone else’s pocket, and has absolutely no access to Luther Pendragon or any other ‘reputational management’ outfit?   Surely we’ve seen and heard enough, both pre-and-post-IICSA to demonstrate that the C of E is not remotely competent, professional or fair in the way it manages (and manipulates) its safeguarded procedures.   Are there any Synod members out there… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill Broadhead

It is likely that the establishment of an independent body to investigate safeguarding complaints and allegations will be recommended by IICSA when it issues its final report on the Anglican church, due in the coming months. At the conclusion of the two-weeks hearing on 12 July 2019 the chairman, Professor Alexis Jay, said: “Our hope is that we will be able to publish this report in the summer of 2020.” (Transcript, 12.7.2019 page 88/20-21). No firm date for publication has yet been given, but the expectation is that it will be published in time for the General Synod to consider… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
3 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

Thank you, David. That provides clarity and a fair dollop of hope that the current arrangements will be addressed decisively.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill Broadhead

Sounds like the Church of England is being ‘defrocked’ for its incompetent handling of safeguarding issues. 
An independent body is the only way out of this disgrace for which the Church hierarchs only have themselves to blame.
 
Resignations?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

“As Bishop Jonathan [Gibbs] said in his letter there is no agenda behind this…” [Church of England Statement on Christ Church Oxford].
 
Yeah right, and I’m on the shortlist as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Kate
Kate
3 months ago

Reading the Christ Church statutes: 4. The powers of the Governing Body (a) Except only as provided in clauses 5 and 6 of this Statute, the government of the House, and the disposal and management of its possessions and revenues (including property held in trust for purposes connected with the House) shall be vested in the Governing Body, and all powers and authorities in connection with the House shall be exercised by the Governing Body. And (with emphasis added) 5. The powers reserved to the Dean and Chapter (a) There shall be excepted out of the powers assigned to the… Read more »

Kate
Kate
3 months ago

Continued… Or reading further: XII. – THE DEAN 1. The Dean’s powers and responsibilities Subject to the provisions of these Statutes, the Dean shall be responsible for order and discipline and the general superintendence of the House. 2. The Censor Theologiae (a) The Dean shall appoint a Censor Theologiae from among the members of the Governing Body. (b) The Censor Theologiae shall act as the Dean’s deputy in all matters relating to order and discipline and the general superintendence of the House, in case of the Dean’s illness or absence from Oxford or any other cause by which the Dean… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate: I don’t think we can, or should, preempt what the Dean is saying, or what his lawyers are advising, about his status vis-a-vis the NST Core Group – just one of the three separate issues referred to below.   In this extraordinary saga three concurrent quasi-judicial processes are happening or are pending: (1) The Dean’s outstanding claim against the Governing Body in the Employment Tribunal; (2) The Inquiry into governance of Christ Church instigated by the Charity Commission; and (3) This latest NST Core Group investigation of alleged safeguarding failures by the Dean.   It’s worth your reading Martin… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

“It’s incredibly complex”. Complex in terms of legal technicalities maybe, but the motivations are simple enough to understand.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
3 months ago

I wasn’t referring to the conduct of the parties and wouldn’t wish my analysis to be interpreted in that way. The complexity is the whole set-up of Christ Church. In all but name it is a Royal peculiar, but there are complications and anomalies at every turn. It’s interesting that Martin Sewell states that it is outside the jurisdiction of both the diocesan bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In that it shares a similar status to Westminster Abbey.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
3 months ago

Apologies, Kate. The points made by Martin Sewell about jurisdiction are in his ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ article “Martyn Percy is challenging an entire cultural mindset of establishment privilege”, not the letter to the Church Times. Both are on the same TA page “Some updates on safeguarding matters” 21 July (the article being added on 22 July). 

Kate
Kate
3 months ago

I agree. It is down to the lawyers to thrash out jurisdiction but, let’s put it in simple terms.

It seems to me that the Statutes try very hard to separate academic (Governing Body) and the Church of England Cathedral (Dean and Chapter) but at the moment the Governing Body seems to believe it can straddle that frontier.

Andrew Holtan
Andrew Holtan
3 months ago

Having seen how disgustingly Martyn Percy bullied Philip North over his appointment to Sheffield, I am delighted to see Percy getting shafted by the CC dons!

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Holtan

Mr Holtan, may I suggest you do not apply for a position on the proposed independent body which is being set up as part of the solution, not as part of the problem.
 

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
3 months ago

Richard: What is this independent body? David Lamming has written on Stephen Parsons’ Surviving Church blog that the instructions to the independent investigator ought to be set aside as the Core group responsible for the instruction had not been lawfully constituted and the instruction was accordingly not made lawfully.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

“What is this independent body?”
 
RW, I am assuming it will be an independent complaints body – similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission?

David Lamming
David Lamming
3 months ago

Richard—
There is, as yet, no ‘proposed independent body’ that ‘is‘ being set up, though it seems likely that IICSA will recommend one: see my comment above in response to Bill Broadhead. Moreover, its constitution, functions (including its powers) and membership would all be matters to be determined and, almost certainly, require new legislation in the form of a Measure. However, we have to wait, first, to see what IICSA recommends. The archbishops appear to be committed to implementation but if a Measure is required the decisions will be those of the General Synod.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Holtan

Doesn’t ‘Thinking Anglicans’ equally imply thinking Christians?

Stanley Monkhouse
3 months ago

It would be easy and fun to answer your question in the negative, Rowland, but there is a crucial point there. I deplore the way in which various brands of Christianity have appropriated words like Christian, catholic, evangelical (to give but three) and use them in ways that imply sole possession with those included and those excluded. If I were to seek an authentic version of Christianity, and I am close to giving up on what the C of E has become, I’d be inclined to look at one of the eastern Mediterranean Orthodox churches. Unbroken traditions and little need… Read more »

Anne Farthing
Anne Farthing
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Holtan

While I have a tiny degree of sympathy for what Andrew Holtan says about Martyn’s ill-advised involvement in the campaign against Philip North (the campaign as a whole was bullying by anyone’s standards), two wrongs do not make a right.   What Martyn Percy is having to endure, and the web of secrecy and dissembling underscoring it, is as intolerable as it is unconscionable. While I disagreed with Martyn’s role in Bishop Philip withdrawing from Sheffield (our gain here in Lancashire is Sheffield’s loss, believe me), at least he was open and transparent about it, showing his ‘working’ so to… Read more »

Father David
3 months ago
Reply to  Anne Farthing

It shames the Church of England that the talented Philip North has not yet been given a diocese.

Ian
Ian
3 months ago
Reply to  Father David

Father David I think the word yet is a bit hopeful. It seems to me that it is obvious that a traditional catholic like Bishop North will never get a diocese again. Dean Percy played his past in that, but still he should not be bullied out of his cathedral.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
3 months ago
Reply to  Father David

Since he is a leading light in the opposition to female priests, how could he be the diocesan in a diocese where women are ministering? That would put both him and them in a very difficult position.

Michael Mulhern
Michael Mulhern
3 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

‘A leading light in the opposition to female priests’ is somewhat hyperbolic – and misleading – Janet. I think Philip North is on record as saying he is not opposed to the ordination of women and affirms it is perfectly possible for a woman to be a priest. He simply believes that the time is not yet right in the absence of Catholic consent across the whole oecumene.
 
Surely we should expect a bit more theological – and linguistic – rigour on a blog called *Thinking* Anglicans?

Mother Hubbard
Mother Hubbard
3 months ago
Reply to  Father David

He *was* given a diocese, but faced with some protest he gave it up. Many women have faced severe personal attacks in CofE, but persevered. If it was truly God’s calling surely he would have battled on?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago
Reply to  Mother Hubbard
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

October 22 2015 – Church of England Statement by the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner on the Rt Revd George Bell (1883-1958):   “In this case, the scrutiny of the allegation has been thorough, objective, and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties…The settlement followed a thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations into the claim took place including the commissioning of expert independent reports. None of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim”   Ponder this if you will, then decide what action to take.   In Chichester, action has already… Read more »

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