Two items relating to Church of England safeguarding in today’s Church Times.
First a letter from Martin Sewell, which can be accessed here (scroll down to fourth item). Do read the whole letter, what follows is only an extract:
Safeguarding case is not as complex as claimed
Sir Roger Singleton (Letters, 9 August) describes the case of the Revd Matt Ineson as “very complex”. I disagree; it is undoubtedly a serious matter, not least to the parties concerned, but anyone with experience of child-protection trials will know that this dispute presents few difficulties out of the ordinary compared with other cases that principally turn on disputed testimony…
…Mr Ineson undoubtedly disclosed his abuse to the police, his lawyers, and various bishops. All that needs to be resolved is to whom, when, in what terms, what was done with the information, and whether the bishops’ actions met the requisite standards of their office. They are entitled to a presumption of innocence, and proof must be on the balance of probabilities. It really is not that hard.
The prompt resolution of disputes depends on well-developed good practice. Essential requirements are: an agreed comprehensive chronology; an agreed summary of facts not in dispute; an agreed summary of facts in dispute; an agreed summary of issues to be determined; case summaries from either side, identifying any relevant law and guidelines; and a decent index. The skill is all in the preparation of these documents. Once they are in place, most of the judgment writes itself.
I have long argued that the Church needs to employ one or two specialist lawyers to sort these things out. We seem to pay a lot of money to expensive lawyers who advise that these matters are complex. We should invest a little in those who do the majority of this kind of work and for whom it is utterly routine.
Securing a clean and competent review is relatively easy, but the survivors I talk to doubt the Church’s commitment to running a simple and fair fact-finding process. Talk of a learned-lessons review sounds reasonable, but actually represents a deliberately narrow defining of the process, one that excludes the more embarrassing aspects of the case.
If past reviews are anything to go by, any such process will not even result in a free debate of any report at the General Synod and will be quietly consigned into the same oubliette into which past reviews have disappeared without trace or noticeable change.
Speaking to the BBC Sunday programme, Kate Blackwell QC, an expert in such inquiries, described the review as “compromised before it’s even started”. Sir Roger and his team need to go back to the drawing board urgently. The Church still doesn’t get it.
General Synod member for Rochester diocese
Second, there is a book review by Robin Gill: Three books on abuse and safeguarding in the Church.
The three books are:
To Heal and Not to Hurt: A fresh approach to safeguarding in Church
Rosie Harper and Alan Wilson
Church Times Bookshop £11.70
Letters to a Broken Church
Janet Fife and Gilo, editors
Church Times Bookshop £11.69
Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse: Creating healthy Christian cultures
Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys
Church Times Bookshop £9.90