*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Lord Hope withdraws amid accusations of unfairness

07 November 2014

PA

Witness: Lord Hope, pictured on his retirement as Archbishop of York in 2005

Witness: Lord Hope, pictured on his retirement as Archbishop of York in 2005

"SERIOUS concerns" were voiced this week about the inquiry into the handling of abuse allegations - an inquiry that led to the resignation of the Rt Revd Lord Hope of Thornes after 50 years of ministry.

Lord Hope, a former Archbishop of York, announced his resignation as an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales on Thursday, in the light of the Cahill report, which was highly critical of his response to allegations against a former Dean of Manchester, the late Robert Waddington (News, 24 October).

On Wednesday, the Chancellor of the diocese of Bristol, the Revd and Worshipful Justin Gau, said that he had developed "serious concerns" about the process of the inquiry after his advice was sought by Lord Hope in its early stages.

"These concerns included the fact that Lord Hope was encouraged not to instruct lawyers to represent him, and being cross-examined on documents that had not, contrary to assurances made to him, ever been disclosed before the hearing.

"This resulted in Lord Hope making complaints about the apparently unfair behaviour of the judge, the secretary to the panel, and counsel to the inquiry, during the inquiry."

Chancellor Gau represented Lord Hope for the remainder of the inquiry.

At this point, there were, the Chancellor said, "problems trying to ascertain the rules, if any, for the inquiry. Assurances given to Lord Hope about the voluntary nature of his attendance appeared to be withdrawn by the panel, in effect forcing his return to give evidence before them.

"Matters reached a head when unfounded allegations made by the secretary to the inquiry of both my and Lord Hope's dishonesty lead to me, upon advice from the Bar Standards Board, withdrawing from the case very shortly before Lord Hope returned to give further evidence to the panel."

A spokeswoman for Dr Sentamu said on Tuesday: "It is not for the Archbishop of York to comment on the process of the independent inquiry." His priority was the consideration of the inquiry's recommendations, she said.

The inquiry was led by Sally Cahill QC. It concluded that Lord Hope was guilty of "cumulative" failings that arose from his failure to follow the Church's safeguarding policies.

This meant that "opportunities were missed for an investigation which may have led to a prosecu- tion during Robert Waddington's lifetime". He had failed to establish whether, at the time of the allegations, children were still at risk.

On publication of the inquiry report, Lord Hope argued that the allegations reported to him had been "unspecific", from "unnamed sources who had indicated their unwillingness at that stage to go to the police" ( News, 31 October).

He "genuinely believed that any complaints were being adequately dealt with by the respective dioceses in which they were alleged to have happened". He expressed regret, however, that he and others had not been "more proactive" in helping one of the survivors.

Lord Hope announced on Thursday of last week that, "after much prayerful and considered thought", he had submitted his resignation.

Dr Sentamu said that he was "deeply saddened" by it. Lord Hope had "served the Church of England with joyfulness, commitment, honesty, and holiness. I personally thank him for his leadership as a priest, principal of a theological college, bishop, and Archbishop of the Province of York; and, above all, as a dear brother in Christ."

He concluded: "As the old saying goes, 'To err is human; to forgive is divine.'"

Reflecting on the inquiry process on Wednesday, Chancellor Gau said: "If this is the treatment that a member of the House of Lords and a former Primate is offered, then one shudders to think what would happen to an ordinary clerk in Holy Orders.

"Were I to be approached by any priest to advise on dealing with a similar inquiry in the future, I would have little hesitation in advising them not to co-operate."

It was, he suggested, a "profound irony" that an inquiry "set up to deal with perceived failings in the way the Church went about its processes" had been "carried out in such a manner as to undermine its own credibility in the eyes of an important witness".

Church Times: about us

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.)