Children at risk in ‘dysfunctional’ diocese, Archbishop’s commissaries warn
"DYSFUNCTIONALITY" within Chichester diocese is preventing
adequate child safeguarding and must be "urgently addressed", the interim report of the Archbishop of
Canterbury's commissaries says.
The archiepiscopal visitation, the first for more than 100
years, is being carried out by the former Bishop of Chelmsford, the
Rt Revd John Gladwin, and Canon Rupert Bursell QC (
News, 30 December).
The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement today that
there remained "several areas of concern" in the diocese, and he
had therefore decided that the visitation "should continue and that
both safeguarding and appointments matters should be conducted
under the supervision of this office until uniformly better
practice can be assured".
The interim report will not make for easy reading for senior
officials in Chichester diocese. It says that "dysfunctionality . .
. continues to impinge upon the adequacy of safeguarding within the
diocese". Such dysfunctionality - which includes clerics,
officiating without permission - demonstrates "a failure to
appreciate the connection between safeguarding and the proper
structures of the Church".
The report goes on to say that "this dysfunctionality is
underlined by the facts that a decision was made (rightly or
wrongly) by some or all of the diocesan safeguarding advisory group
to commence the procedure to lay a complaint under the Clergy
Discipline Measure 2003 against the Bishop of Lewes [the Rt Revd
Wallace Benn) (
News, 18 November 2011) and that the latter has felt not only
that he has been consistently kept out of the loop but that he has
been made the scapegoat for systemic problems within the
The report stops short of "pointing the finger at any particular
person or persons", but calls for "a radical change of culture in
the diocese - one in which the sanctity, dignity and well-being of
children and vulnerable adults is openly and transparently at its
Since the Historic Cases Review was carried out in the diocese,
in 2008-09, "a mutual lack of trust and confidence occurred between
the safeguarding advisory group" and the "senior team" of the
Bishop at that time, Dr John Hind, the report says. This "brought
about weaknesses within diocesan safeguarding".
The report also suggests that the episcopal area scheme in
Chichester diocese has undermined the authority of the diocesan
bishop, with whom "final responsibility for safeguarding rests". It
is "essential for the well-being of safeguarding throughout the
diocese" that the area scheme "should now be reconsidered".
Concern is also expressed "about the level of resources
provided" in Chichester for safeguarding. Clerics who do not take
part in training on child safeguarding, and who fail to ensure that
they have up to date CRB checks - on 14 June, there were 138 clergy
in the diocese without current CRB checks - should face
Speaking on Thursday, Bishop Gladwin said that the diocese had
"made a start" on implementing the recommendations of a review by
Baroness Butler-Sloss (News,
27 May), and that children and vulnerable people were "a dear
sight safer [in Chichester diocese] than they were two years ago,
because the diocese has moved forward. "But there is a lot more to
Bishop Gladwin said that the appointment of a new diocesan
Bishop, Dr Martin Warner (
News, 11 May), was "a crucial change" for the diocese; Bishop
Gladwin and Canon Bursell would "do everything in our power" to
help him. They wanted to publish "something substantial" before Dr
Warner was enthroned, later this year, he said.
Bishop Gladwin said that the visitation would continue "for as
long as" Dr Williams wanted it to; he would be "very surprised" if
the work was complete before the end of the year.
In a statement accompanying the publication of the
report, Dr Williams said that "the abiding hurt and damage" done to
"survivors of abuse" in Chichester diocese "is something that none
of us in the Church can ignore, and I am deeply sorry that they
should have been let down by those they ought to have been able to
trust. . .
"The interim report confirms that there have been many and
longstanding failures in implementing a robust and credible
safeguarding policy in the diocese of Chichester. The guidelines
laid down by the national Church and the agreed standards of best
practice have not been consistently followed and the flaws in
safeguarding practice have put children and others at risk."
Dr Williams said that his commissaries had "identified some
areas where they believe that lessons learned from Chichester could
usefully point to some further development of national policy or
processes. These will now be considered, along with the rest of
this report, by our national safeguarding group as soon as
A statement from Dr Warner said in part: "I am
deeply grateful to the commissaries for their work in producing
such a detailed, honest and wide-ranging analysis of the current
situation concerning safeguarding in the diocese of Chichester. I
have not yet officially begun my work as diocesan bishop and so, in
many respects, their report comes at an apposite time as the
diocese also looks forward to a new phase in its ministry and