THE draft Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure, with draft
Amending Canon No. 34, is designed to improve the C of E's ability
to prevent and respond to allegations of the abuse of children and
The chairman of the steering committee, Geoffrey
Tattersall QC (Manchester), began the debate on report and
revision by explaining that the committee had considered a number
of amendments proposed by the group Minister and Clergy Sexual
Abuse Survivors (MACSAS).
He summarised a number of their proposals together with the
committee's response. MACSAS wanted to remove the discretion
available to bishops in the way that they responded to allegations,
and had called for the legislation to prescribe what should happen
in such cases.
"The revision committee believed that the most appropriate way
of achieving consistency in the exercise by bishops of
discretionary powers was for detailed guidance to be provided by
the House of Bishops, and for bishops and others to be required on
the face of the draft Measure to have regard to such guidance," Mr
He said that case law provided that a person required by statute
to have regard to such guidance was only allowed to depart from it
"where there was a cogent reason for doing so - a condition which
was not easily satisfied".
The committee had also agreed with MACSAS's concern about the
conditions to be met before a bishop could direct that a priest
underwent a risk assessment. The original draft required evidence
that a priest would harm a child or vulnerable adult. This had been
amended from "will harm a child" to "may harm a child".
But the committee disagreed with MACSAS's objection to a
priest's right to request that the President of Tribunals conduct a
review of the requirement that he should undergo a risk assessment.
"We were advised by the legal office that such a direction engaged
a cleric's right to respect for private and family life, and that
interference with such a right was permissible only if
He said that providing a right to review would "uphold the
balance" between the parties and "remove the risk of challenge by
judicial review to a bishop's direction that there should be a risk
Changes had also been introduced to the draft Measure extending
the power of bishops to suspend PCC members to include secretaries
and treasurers who were not members of the PCC.
Currently, the Clergy Discipline Measure had a limitation period
of one year - and any complaints of behaviour that took place more
than a year ago could proceed only if the President of Tribunals
gave his consent. The committee had rejected a suggestion that the
limitation period should be removed in all cases of sexual
misconduct; but had agreed that it should not apply in sexual
misconduct cases involving children and vulnerable adults.
After summarising the work of the committee, Mr Tattersall moved
the report of the steering committee for debate.
Dr James Harrison (Durham) said that
safeguarding was "everyone's business". Chairing a PCC, he made
sure that safeguarding was on every agenda as a standing item. The
legislation was timely and necessary, and MACSAS had "brought to us
a reality check. That was moving and difficult, but welcomed. They
reminded us that laity matter in this, not just clergy."
Clive Scowen (London) expressed concern about
the drafting of several identical provisions concerning the
suspension of churchwardens, PCC members, and lay workers.
Suspension could be made for up to three months, and could be
renewed at least once. This made "very good sense". But he was
concerned about whether the language achieved the desired
The Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford) was
concerned that "the Church should be a safe place where one is safe
from sexual harassment, from bullying, from spiritual abuse. And
that anybody in a dog collar should be a safe person to talk to;
and, sadly, we know that has not been the case, and, when people
have pointed that out, it has got worse, not better."
The legislation was an improvement; but he was concerned that,
in future, guidance should be published alongside the draft
legislation, for the Synod to study. He also expressed concern that
the fact that after criminal proceedings there could still be an
investigation under the Clergy Discipline Measure meant that
justice would be delayed.
Martin Sewell (Rochester) is a retired
child-protection lawyer. He wanted to tell the Synod that, while
the legislation addressed the complex matter of dealing with
something that had gone wrong, child protection itself was "very
"Nobody is above suspicion. If there is a charismatic person you
can't do without, keep an eye on them. If someone notes a problem,
record what is said accurately. Make no promises of confidentiality
with the very young. You have to be able to respond by listening
and taking what is said seriously, however outrageous it may sound.
. . Do these simple things right, and that will deal with so much
of the risk."
The Synod took note of the revision committee's report, and
voted that Clauses 1-6 stand part of the Measure.
The Revd Mark Steadman (Southwark) said that
his amendment was designed to remove an "extra hoop" that a
complainant had to jump through, and speed up the process of the
subject of complaints. Currently, if the President of Tribunals
ruled that a complaint could be made out of time, the complainant
would have to make a fresh complaint. He sought to remove this
requirement, so that the existing complaint could continue.
Bishop Butlerwelcomed the amendment, and it was carried without
debate. It was agreed that Clauses 8-12 and the Long Title stand
part of the Measure.
The Synod then moved on to the Draft Amending Canon No 34.
Paragraphs 1-3 were approved en bloc without a debate.
For Paragraphs 4 and 5, Adrian Vincent
(Guildford) moved amendments requiring the bishop to consult the
diocesan registrar before using a power to revoke the licences of
Readers or lay ministers. He said that this was a narrower version
of amendments that he had failed to introduce earlier through the
revision committee, where he had sought to require a bishop to
consult the registrar before suspending a licence.
The amendment would, he said, provide a "minimum level of
reassurance without introducing bureaucratic procedures". He said
that, although Readers and lay ministers could appeal against the
decision to revoke their licence, "by then the damage has been
On behalf of the steering committee, the Bishop of
Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said that "on further
reflection on this simpler proposal . . . we have considered that
this is a wise protection not only for Readers and lay ministers,
but also for bishops, so that they would not be subject to judicial
review." The committee, he said, welcomed both amendments.
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that
previous problems had occurred not because bishops had not
consulted their registrars, but because they had not consulted
their safeguarding officers.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David
Walker, said that there were occasions when the registrar was
conflicted; and he asked for assurances that he would, in those
circumstances, be allowed to take advice from a registrar from a
Paul Hancock (Liverpool) supported the
amendments. "Our Readers and lay ministers are vulnerable" on the
issue. "I don't want the suspension taken away: I want people
suspended if there are any problems in this area. But I don't want
licences to be revoked unless a case is proven."
The Ven. Christine Hardman (Southwark) said
there was no clarity for Readers, as they did not have a proper
code of conduct.
The Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Rt Revd
Robert Paterson, assured the Synod that work was being done by the
Central Readers' Council to "nuance Reader discipline".
Mr Vincent's amendments were clearly carried, and, as amended,
it was agreed that the remaining paragraphs stand part of the