THE suggestion by a senior
member of the clergy in Jersey that the woman at the heart of an
investigation into safeguarding on the island should be described
as "the centre of the storm . . . rather than the victim" has
prompted the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul
Butler, who co-chairs the Church's National Safeguarding Panel, to
issue a reminder of the Church's past failure to take allegations
of abuse seriously.
The Vicar of St Martin de
Gouray, Jersey, Canon Gavin Ashenden, told BBC Radio
Jersey on Sunday that the Korris report, the independent
review of the safeguarding complaint made by the woman (referred to
as "HG") - "talks about this poor woman; we'll call her the centre
of the storm for the moment rather than the victim. She's somebody
who has mental-health issues, with a long history of doing what
happened on Jersey."
Canon Ashenden said that HG
had made allegations in the past: "What happened on Jersey happened
. . . twice before in Winchester."
The Korris report states
that HG had made a previous claim of "inappropriate behaviour by a
church member" on the mainland. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the
diocese said that this episode came to light after the Korris
review was under way. The Korris review notes that in HG's past
there were "incidents where the good nature of church members was
abused when things did not go her way".
The Dean of Jersey, the Very
Revd Robert Key, had his commission withdrawn by the Bishop of
Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, after publication of the Korris
report (News, 15
"With mental-health issues,"
Canon Ashenden said, "it's often hard to work out what's really
going on. We live in a health-and-safety culture now which requires
people to play for safety rather than use their initiative."
On Tuesday, a spokesman for
the diocese of Winchester defended the Korris report: "It clearly
found that in this case there is a victim, that serious concerns
were raised about the handling of that complaint, and it identified
issues for further investigation."
Bishop Butler said: "When an
allegation of abuse is made, the Church must take it very
seriously. Our failure to do so sometimes in the past must remind
us not to make the same errors today."
The Archbishop of
Canterbury, on Thursday of last week, told a conference of diocesan
lay chairs that, in safeguarding, "we've let people down more
terribly in this area than probably anything else the Church of
England has done in the post-war period."
He was "in dead trouble with the government in Jersey at the
moment", he said, because of his support for Bishop Dakin's
withdrawal of Dean Key's commission. "And I'm getting letter after
letter saying 'he's a really good guy'. . . There's a difference
between responsibility and blame. And as senior people in the
Church . . . responsibility is yours."