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
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
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
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
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
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."