Thinking Anglicans

Safeguarding in Chester diocese

Updated again 31 March and again 1 April

The Archbishop of York has published this announcement:

Statement on safeguarding arrangements in Chester Diocese

28/03/2019

The Archbishop of York has been informed, in the course of a conversation with the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, that all safeguarding arrangements in the diocese will until further notice be led by the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair.

An Instrument of Delegation has been signed by the Bishop of Chester to formalise this change of episcopal responsibilities within the Diocese.

The Diocese of Chester has published this more detailed statement:

Changes to safeguarding arrangements

A statement from Bishop Peter regarding safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese of Chester:

28 March 2019

A statement from Bishop Peter Forster: 

“I have asked the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair, to lead on all safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese of Chester and have formally delegated this responsibility to him with immediate effect.

“I have taken this decision in response to recent comment into my handling of the Gordon Dickenson case in 2009.

“An independent review will seek to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned and I look forward to contributing to the review and to giving a full account of my actions in relation to this matter.

“The Diocese of Chester takes seriously its safeguarding responsibilities at every level. Whilst an independent review into my actions takes place, I recognise that I should not continue to lead the safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese.

“I will continue in all other duties relating to my role of Bishop of Chester.

“I will not be making any further public comments in relation to this matter until the outcome of the independent review.”

Updates

According to a report in the Telegraph, Bishop accused of covering up child sex abuse scandal gives up safeguarding powers

…The Telegraph has also learnt that the Church of England has also commenced formal proceedings regarding Bishop Forster’s conduct. He has been reported to the Church’s disciplinary body by its most senior safeguarding watchdog. Sir Roger Singleton CBE, interim director of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team, has instigated the start of the Church Disciplinary Measure (CDM) process. This can result in a tribunal or hearing overseen by the watchdog, if evidence of malpractice is found..

Chester Standard   Chester: Bishop Peter Forster delegates safeguarding responsibility after cover-up reports

Cheshire Live Bishop of Chester hands over safeguarding responsibilities after retired priest convicted

Christian Today Bishop of Chester hands over safeguarding duties after jailing of retired priest

Church Times Disciplinary complaint lodged against Bishop of Chester

…A Church House spokeswoman confirmed on Monday that Sir Roger had lodged a complaint against Dr Forster under the Clergy Discipline Measure…

…Under the CDM process, a complaint against a bishop is made to the archbishop of the province — the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, in this case. The complaint is then referred to the registrar of the province for preliminary scrutiny, during which a decision is made whether there is enough substance to the complaint to justify proceeding with it.

Within 28 days of receiving the registrar’s report, the archbishop must decide how to proceed. Options include dismissing the complaint, taking no further action, imposing a conditional deferment (whereby the complaint is kept on file for up to five years), or imposing a penalty by consent. A penalty can range from a rebuke to prohibition for life. If the respondent does not consent to a proposed penalty, then a formal investigation must take place. In the case of a complaint against a bishop, this would be heard before a vicar general’s court.

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David Richards
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David Richards

Earlier this week, I wrote to the Archdeacon of Chester, and the Chester Dioceses’s Vulnerability and Safeguarding Officer, to ask why a complaint under the CDM had not been made against the Bishop of Chester for his failures in relation to the Gordon Dickenson case as soon as they were made public. I have so far received no reply. In the meantime, we hear that Peter Forster has had a chat with the Archbishop of York (whose record on the reporting of safeguarding concerns has been noted in at least one thread on this site), the result of which is… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

I don’t think it’s another cover-up. It’s a good decision – something that certain bishops should and could have done in the past. Those in the Diocese of Chichester over the years especially come to mind.

David Richards
Guest
David Richards

Before pointing the finger at Chichester, and in particular the current regime there, it might be instructive to watch this clip and see the glaring difference of approach taken by Martin Warner compared to Peter Forster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot4lBAI3Yak

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I’m not commenting about Chichester. The Chester scenario is different. The Bishop has voluntarily stood down pending the Independent Review and, very properly, is refraining from comment so as not to possibly prejudice the Review. Why are people taking such a disjointed and uncharitable stance about this, when largely, it seems to me, they don’t know all the facts.

Bill Broadhead
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Bill Broadhead

I may be being completely unfair, or have misunderstood the reasons for his many posts on this thread, but Rowland Wateridge seems to me to protest too much on behalf of someone with power in a situation where a vulnerable person was abused. Whether it happened 45 years ago, or 45 minutes ago makes little difference. This clip (go to 2′ 15″) shows the Bishop of Chichester being unequivocal about what should trigger the disciplinary process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLtn8fUCsVg Obviously, until Sir Roger Singleton got involved, this did not apply in Chester. I thought the C of E had national standards for… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Mr Broadhead, the Bishop of Chester is being ACCUSED of being incompetent. That’s NOT the same as being PROVED incompetent. Isn’t that what the CDM is about? To investigate if the ACCUSATION of incompetence has validity? You say: “If he is incompetent in one key area; is he competent in others? In my profession, this would have made him the subject of competency proceedings, requiring him to step back from all duties until the matter is resolved” Well, your first eight words are pre-judging the issue, so you are – in your own words – “being completely unfair”. If I… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Guest
Bill Broadhead

I hate to seem pedantic, but I had assumed that the Bishop of Chester’s statement apologising for not reporting this in 2009 was tantamount to an admission of failure in following procedures that were in place at that time. Is this, or is this not, incompetence? The question of accusation doesn’t seem to me to come into the frame. This thread alone shows that I’m not the only one to suggest this is the case. It is only by an investigation that the question of whether he has been incompetent in other areas will come to light and be resolved… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

It’s an unfortunate feature of TA that comments don’t appear chronologically, and also painfully apparent to myself, who has tried to inject some calm and rational contributions to the discussion, that some people simply ‘shoot from the hip’ without even having read all of the core material or the careful comments intended to help others in understanding some of the legal complexities of the CDM. Many of the posts on this thread are completely wide of the mark on that count. The views of the Bishop of Chichester are not relevant to the facts of the Chester matter. The chronology… Read more »

Dean Henley
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Dean Henley

Just a point or two about the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) as a former union rep. Whilst an adulterous relationship with a parishioner would come within the ambit of the CDM (though possibly only if the aggrieved spouse made a formal complaint); parking on double yellow lines does not amount to misconduct. A four letter word that ‘popped out’ inadvisedly or without malice, similarly would not reach the bar set by the CDM; whereas a stream of foul language directed at an individual would. Swearing in church might be viewed more dimly than say at a rugby match.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Thank you for adding some perspective to this. It’s painful to read some of the vindictive posts on the earlier thread – people jumping to conclusions on the basis of shoddy media reporting. That anyone could suggest that CDM would be appropriate on such inadequate material is astonishing, and very sad.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

I don’t know enough about this particular situation to comment on it – I am conscious of how fast expectations are changing and also of the pace at which real people embrace change. But I do know two things: first, the world will never believe that the culture of the Church of England has changed unless the resignation of bishops is on the table as an option; second, the CofE also needs to see safeguarding failings not as technical or procedural errors but as significant failings in leadership. Here the idea that the review will look at “failures in procedures”… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

The abuse occurred 45 years ago. In circumstances which are not yet clear it came to the knowledge of the then Bishop of Chester. We do not know what action he took other than to extract a promise from the abuser ‘not to do it again’. Were the police informed? – probably unlikely, but not to be assumed. In 2009 the abuser wrote to the Diocese essentially admitting these facts. By then Bishop Forster was the Bishop of Chester. We know absolutely nothing about what took place in 2009 (what were the reporting requirements then?). The facts re-surfaced when the… Read more »

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

Thank you for the background – the detail is for the enquiry. I would prefer the question to be “what were the appropriate demands on our leaders in 2009?” rather than “what were the reporting requirements then?” ie focussing on leadership rather than technicality. Those who know me will know that I have some personal reasons and context to take an interest in these matters. I perhaps know more about the wider context than you would assume – I know I will never know enough detail about the current case to comment specifically on it. The two key points I… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Please, everyone, don’t make any more assumptions or judgements about what the Bishop may have done, or may not have done. We simply do not know. The initial media reporting was careless and misleading, even if unintentionally so. We need to be sure about facts, and that means waiting for the outcome of the Independent Review.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Bishop Peter’s interests have been protected. The Diocese’s interests have been protected.

Have the Lord’s interests been protected? Has the reputation of his Church been enhanced and cleansed? Why doesn’t the Church think in those terms?

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Kate, we must wait and see! You are making assumptions which might be right – or could be wrong. We don’t know.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

I agree with Mr Wateridge. Due legal process must be strictly followed, or there will be a rush to judgement based on insufficient evidence, resulting in a miscarriage of justice. The Presumption of Innocence legal principle must always apply. If guilt cannot be proved, then the person – whoever they may be – is innocent. Presumption of Guilt leads to a kangaroo court of public opinion, and the rule of the lynch mob.

John swanson
Guest
John swanson

I rather suspect “presumption of innocence must always apply” is not compatible with “protecting children must come first”. Does not insisting that one of those must always be paramount imply a williingness to compromise the other?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“Does not insisting that one of those must always be paramount imply a williingness to compromise the other?”

That depends on whether or not the law is applied wisely – but such wisdom is not evident.

Kate
Guest
Kate

No. I am making no assumptions. I don’t believe that an internal review does anything to alleviate the impression that bishops, not just in CofE, have covered up abuse or avoided seeing difficult things. Did that happen here? I agree we don’t know but it doesn’t matter. The priority is to restore confidence in the Church.

I disagree that justice is the priority. The priority, I suggest, should be restoring confidence in the church, whatever personal sacrifices that requires those in authority to make.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Kate, you do not restore confidence in the Church acting unjustly or by perpetuating an injustice. To be credible, and to ‘do what the Lord requires’ the Church must ‘act justly’ (Micah 6.8). The continuing arguments over the Bishop Bell case show what can follow from a failure to act justly. What is also important, though, is that any review must be both independent and transparent.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

Church hierarchies may not be exact parallels of management structures, but will be seen as such. If the head of a department is required to step down from certain responsibilities, due to his suspected unsuitability, it would not be left to him to delegate the responsibilities to his deputy, while the head continues in post as the deputy’s manager generally. Bishop Forster claims to have delegated responsibility but one cannot delegate responsibility in the sense of ceding all responsibility, one can only delegate authority while retaining responsibility. IF the Bishop of Chester may be unsuitable to perform aspects of his… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

A final thought: One very pertinent matter must be why did Mr Dickenson write the letter at all in 2009? Why, seemingly, invite one’s own prosecution? I suspect that he thought that the slate was already clean having (apparently) kept his promise to the former Bishop ‘to sin no more’. This was 35 years after the abuse occurred. By then he was 79 and retired, but still an occasional preacher. In 2017 the letter was found and handed to the police and at the age of 89 Mr Dickenson is, indeed, in prison. It isn’t an esoteric issue of ‘leadership’,… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I hadn’t seen Simon Sarmiento’s or Richard Symonds’ posts immediately above mine when I expressed my views of the inapplicability of CDM. I believe that any application must be ‘out of time’ but, yet again, we have to wait and see.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“I am shocked by current developments” ~ Lord Carlile QC

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Is there a link to this? So far ‘Google’ doesn’t help. I’m very interested to see that Lord Carlile has commented.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Richard, What is the source (and context) of this comment by Lord Carlile?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Please forgive me for stating the obvious, but if the Bishop of Chester Peter Forster is facing a CDM for his alleged inaction in the Dickenson case, then surely the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby must face a CDM for his inaction in the John Smyth case.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

The CDM has to overcome the one year time limitation. It will surely require great ingenuity to do so.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Richard, while the situation with regard to ‘the John Smyth case’ is not satisfactory, there is a crucial distinction. Gordon Dickinson was a C of E priest in Chester diocese. Smyth worked for an independent organisation, i.e. the Iwerne Trust. Bishop Peter Hancock’s answer to a question (Q.97) at the recent General Synod meeting indicated that the C of E is anxious for there to be a ‘lessons learned’ review, but that this needs to be conducted on a collaborative basis with “all those organisations linked with this case.” His written answer stated that since October 2018 (when Hampshire Police… Read more »

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

So if one or more other organisations are unwilling to establish a joint review , even after six months of “active dialogue”, whatever that means, is that a reason to prevent the Church doing a review on its own, or with any of the other organisations who do wish to co-operate. How long can active dialogue last, before the Church accepts that there isn’t going to be a deal with these other relevant organisations, and either sets up an enquiry without them, or states plainly that it has no intention of ever having an enquiry at all? This is just… Read more »

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

According to a report in the Church Times on 1 March 2019 (Issue 8137, page 4) the Titus Trust (successor organisation to the Iwerne Trust) will consider a review only when civil claims against it by several survivors of Smyth’s abuse have been concluded. Whether or not this is a reasonable and proper stance for the Titus Trustees to take, a review without the Trust’s participation would be unsatisfactory. As I pointed out in my earlier post, the Iwerne Trust was independent, i.e. not a C of E organisation. Therefore, it is to the credit of the C of E,… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

In 2009 the Past Cases Review took place, in which each diocesan bishop was responsible for reviewing every known case in their files (known as a KCL or Known Cases List) and reporting the results for investigation and possible action. That seems to be the context in which Mr. Dickenson wrote, whether to the bishop or a diocesan official, regarding his case.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Yes, but that misses the point that in doing so he surely did not intend to offer himself for prosecution, conviction and a prison sentence. Was he ‘reporting’ himself? This simply doesn’t make sense. People don’t seem to have thought through the implications.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Correction: I understand that the PCR took place in 2008 but reported in 2009. No doubt the enquiry (or possibly the CDM) will reveal whether or not this was the context for Dickenson sending the letter.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

But why would he write a letter ‘reporting’ abuse which he had inflicted?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

We may learn that when the enquiry has reported, or when the CDM has been concluded.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Agreed, and I have suggested in response to posts by Bill Broadhead and the Revd Peter Milligan, that all of us should now wait and see.

I don’t propose to make any further comments.

Kate
Guest
Kate

And it is very disappointing that the Church isn’t commenting on the morality of jailing an 89 year old. Indeed, the Church ought to be much more vocal in general on penal reform. The Church should side with forgiveness, not punishment.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Which in practice means siding with the offender, not the victim(s). It also assumes that 89 year olds cannot be a danger to others. They can – in terms of manipulation, control and mind games, even if not physically.

Matthew Ineson
Guest
Matthew Ineson

The Archbishop of York shouldn’t be touching this. he is compromised. he ignored disclosures of abuse too and left a priest sex abuser years to potentially abuse again AND failed to take any action against other bishops in the province of York who did the same!

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Slater & Gordon’s Richard Scorer put this complete mess very succinctly in March last year at the IICSA: “…this is not simply an issue of attitude but of competence too. This is a point which has been made powerfully by Martin Sewell, who is both a lay member of the General Synod and a retired child protection lawyer. He points out that diocesan staff are typically trained in theology and Canon law, not in safeguarding or child protection law. As a result, he says, many of those making a decision about safeguarding in the Church of England have no credible… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I agree.

Gilo
Guest
Gilo

It’s unclear at present whether the letter was precipitated by the PCR (Past Case Review) in which former senior clergy were invited by each diocesan bishop to send in memories of reports or disclosures that might or might not have appeared in files. It might seem likely as the letter arrived during the same timeframe. The PCR lasted through 2008 and 2009. But I have reason to believe that the independent reviewer in Chester carried out the review before the end of 2008. And anyway I think the disclosure by Dickenson would not have been included in the PCR –… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Yes, but Mr Dickenson was not reporting someone else. He was admitting his own acts of abuse, and ten years later (at the age of 89) he received a prison sentence. No one seems to recognise the anomaly of that situation.

Rev Peter Milligan
Guest
Rev Peter Milligan

The Church of England is of course a legal institution, but it is also a church. Has it occurred to you that that an offender might have repented and admitted his guilt by way of penitence?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

That may well be the case Rev Milligan, but where does that leave the abused?

This is hypothetical, but what would YOU do if I came to you as a curate – in repentance and penitence – and admitted sexually abusing the 12-year-old daughter of your next-door-neighbour 5 years ago (and you know that daughter has attempted suicide twice in her teens)?

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

One of the myriad issues with this safeguarding challenge, particularly non-recent sexual abuse, of which there has been a prodigious amount, is that the Church of England is not a legal entity (see Aston Cantlow Parochial Church Council v Walbank [2004] 1 AC 546). Of course it is quasi-corporate body and bishops, though scarily independent in some ways, cannot ignore canon law. But unlike a fully corporate body, the National Church Institutions only have limited authority over bishops, including applying procedures under the Clergy Discipline Measure (as amended by the Clergy Discipline and Safeguarding Measure etc) when necessary (under which… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

That is precisely my point, but of course, I am not in a position to assume it. Have you read my earlier posts? I have gone to great pains to set out the chronology and to attempt to explain some of the law which clearly is not understood by some contributors to this thread. But your comment, which to some extent I agree with, doesn’t affect the legal reality that the Bishop faces a CDM. I have said, any number of times, that we don’t know the facts.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Yes, the legal reality is that the Lord Bishop of Chester is – somehow – facing a CDM against him.

In my darker moments, I get a very uneasy feeling certain Church powers are using CDM’s – like NDA’s – as a weapon of control.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

At present, I am of the view that all of us – both adults and children – need to be safeguarded from certain ‘elements’ within the Church of England hierarchy. I don’t come to this view frivolously or lightly.

Alan Davies
Guest
Alan Davies

Quite right, Rowland Wateridge, we don’t know the all facts. That’s why a CDM is necessary because it will investigate the facts. If the outcome of that investigation is that no offence has been committed, the Bishop of Chester will be completely in the clear with his reputation intact. If there was an offence (e.g. of knowingly concealing a safeguarding concern, and against the standards of the day) then due process must follow. Call me old fashioned, but I think bishops and others in powerful positions should be accountable, especially when so many voiceless and vulnerable people have had to… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Let’s hope and pray you are right Mr Davies; but the Church’s track record on scapegoating – especially its own – is not good.

Matthew Ineson
Guest
Matthew Ineson

You seem to have a high opinion of the clergy discipline measure and those who operate it. The bishops, including archbishops, constantly use various tactics to avoid finding bishops guilty even when their is overwhelmingly evidence. A very common one is not to dismiss the complaint but ‘take no further action’. Also Justin Welby is on record as saying that safeguarding failures are a disciplinary matter. So why does he not take action himself? And don’t be drawn in by the well versed quote that the church will investigate and hold an independent review. There is nothing independent about what… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

It is not a matter of having a high opinion of the CDM. It is the law of the land. It is simply silly not to accept that reality, and wrong to pass judgement from a position of ignorance of the facts. The Church has made a formal statement (see the ‘Church Times’ report above) which explains better than I what will now happen, and the proper course is for everyone to wait the month or so for the decision.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Matthew is thoroughly versed in the facts of CDMs, having taken out several himself. And there is widespread unease about the way CDMs function and are used; this has been reported in the Church Times. The system is currently under review.

Matthew Ineson
Guest
Matthew Ineson

Let me give you an example of how the system is manipulated by those at the ‘very top’. In my case I issued complaints against bishops who ignored my disclosures and left my priest abuser years to potentially abuse again plus against the same bishops who went on to lie about their actions etc. In the first case I was told I was ‘out of time’ despite having never heard of the one year rule and the police asking me to wait before issuing my CDMs so as not to impede their investigation into my abuser (who was eventually charged).… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I am keeping my promise not to comment further, but these are the exact words taken from section 23 of the CDM 2003 (as amended) setting out the provisions for a disciplinary hearing against a bishop. The ‘relevant province’ is, of course, York. 23 Vicar-General’s Court (1) The Vicar-General’s court, when exercising its jurisdiction in disciplinary proceedings under this Measure against a bishop, shall consist of five members as follows – (a) the chairman, who shall be the Vicar-General of the relevant province unless he declares himself to be personally acquainted with the complainant or the respondent or he is… Read more »