*** DEBUG END ***

Risk assessment for clergy tightened up

24 January 2014


BISHOPS will have the power to demand that a priest undergoes a safeguarding risk-assessment under legislative changes proposed by the Archbishops' Council last week. Priests who fail to comply "without good cause" will be guilty of misconduct under the Clergy Discipline Measure.

The proposal is one of 12, published on Monday of last week, which will be debated by the General Synod next month. They have been produced in response to the report of the Archbishop's Chichester Visitation, which called for an "urgent" review of the Church's safeguarding legislation.

The report that lists the proposals states that commissioning risk-assessments would be "the exception, rather than the norm", and that bishops would need to give reasons to justify the direction. Priests would have the right to seek a review by the President of Tribunals of the diocesan bishop's direction.

Another proposal is that the Clergy Discipline Measure be amended so that complaints about sexual misconduct against children or vulnerable adults can be made at any time. Currently, a 12- month limitation period is in place, although the President of Tribunals can grant permission to make a complaint outside this period.

The final report of the Chichester Commissaries warned that the law of the Church of England was "presently not in line with the rest of the civil law of employment" (News, 10 May).

The new proposals follow up a key recommendation by the Commissaries that "urgent consideration should be made to amending the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 to permit the compulsory suspension of any cleric immediately a complaint of abuse which is not obviously malicious is received".

Currently, a bishop may suspend a priest once the diocesan registar has produced a preliminary report on a complaint. This can be within 24 hours. In cases where the alleged misconduct took place more than 12 months ago, however, suspension may not be possible for up to three months, because the President of Tribunals first has to grant permission for a complaint to be made.

The new proposals would give bishops the power to suspend a priest as soon as a written application seeking permission to make a complaint out of time is submitted by a complainant to the President of Tribunals.

The report can be found at 


A BARRISTER representing survivors of child abuse has criticised those formulating new safeguarding legislation for failing to consult survivors.

Anne Lawrence, of the Stop Church Child Abuse alliance (SCCA), said on Tuesday: "We haven't seen these proposed safeguarding procedures. No one at SCCA has been asked to look at this."

On Wednesday, a Church of England spokeswoman said that consultation had taken place. Proposed legislative changes had been published in July, and sent out for consultation (News, 21 June). She said: "The report was sent to the SCCA prior to [the July] Synod, and they received further copies at Synod itself. The consultation was referred to during a meeting with SCCA in August, and they were encouraged to respond to it by the closing date on 30 September. A copy of the consultation was available on the C of E website through this time." Ms Lawrence disputes this account.

On the substance of the proposed legislation, Ms Lawrence was critical of the decision to make amendments to the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) rather than "sit down with a blank piece of paper. . . The CDMs are not fit for purpose in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. There needs to be a set of procedures beyond these which are specifically designed to deal with abuse cases," she said. It had "nothing to do with clerical standards, and leaving such matters for determination under these procedures diminishes . . . the nature of the offending of the perpetrators."

Leader comment

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)