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Jersey cleric queries abuse allegations

26 April 2013

SHUTTERSTOCK

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The Dean of Jersey, the Very Revd Robert Key, had his commission withdrawn by the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, after publication of the Korris report (News, 15 March).

"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."

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