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Survivors reiterate call for mandatory reporting of abuse in the Church of England

04 December 2017


Criticised: Archbishop Welby, pictured giving a speech in in the City of London, last month

Criticised: Archbishop Welby, pictured giving a speech in in the City of London, last month

A SURVIVOR of clerical child-abuse, Gilo, has criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for failing to offer “clear leadership” in response to calls for the Church of England to support the mandatory reporting of abuse.

Gilo was sexually assaulted by the Revd Garth Moore, a former diocesan chancellor (News, 4 December 2015), who died in 1990. After his long struggle to tell senior church figures about his ordeal, the C of E settled his claim for £35,000, and initiated the Elliott review, which later called for significant reforms to safeguarding procedures (News, 18 March 2016).

The Archbishop issued a public apology to Gilo in October for the failure of his office to respond to his 17 letters. Gilo is among a group of survivors who have further called for a reappraisal of compensation awards and the mandatory reporting of all allegations of sexual abuse (News, 10 November).

In a reply to Gilo’s most recent letter, seen by the Church Times this week, Archbishop Welby writes that the “complex issue” of reopening past settlements from the C of E’s insurer, Ecclesiastical, will be taken up by the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton.

The question of mandatory reporting is a complicated one, the Archbishop writes. Clerics are expected to report a safeguarding issue or disclosure, and are liable to disciplinary proceedings should they fail to do so. “As you know, we are now in the middle of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse and I am keen to hear its views and wisdom on the subject of mandatory reporting — which is not as straightforward an issue as is sometimes suggested.”

Gilo said on Monday, however, that the reply was “evasive” and inadequate. “Stating in vaguest of terms the complexity of an issue does not address complexities,” he said. “There doesn’t seem any ownership of the crisis, nor recognition that questions such as these need facing at ‘archbishop level’, and the clear call of leadership required to shift the Church into structural and cultural change and towards authentic justice.”

He has gathered a series of responses to the Archbishop’s letter from theologians, survivors, and campaigners, which he made public on Monday.

Among them is Baroness Walmsley, who in 2014 tabled (as an amendment to the Serious Crimes Act 2015) the ongoing government consultation, Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse. She says that mandatory reporting is a “very simple matter”, not a complex one. “If you know or suspect that a child is being abused, or has been abused, you must report the matter to the correct authorities. To fail to do so is to collude with the perpetrator.”

Others suggest that the Archbishop should offer to meet survivors to hear “first-hand the devastating impact” of abuse. The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy, says that churches in general have become “better at listening attentively” to survivors. “When abuse is reported, churches need to be clear that their primary reflex for response should be prompt and pastoral, putting the needs of the person before the reputation of the institution.”

The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, says that the Archbishop’s letter was “a sign of progress” as well as an indication of “how far we have to go to make the Church a safe place for vulnerable people, and to avoid the effects of disclosure being compounded by the Church’s institutional response”.

Dr Julie Macfarlane, a law professor in Canada and an abuse survivor (Comment, 11 December 2015), advocates “specialist training in consensual dispute resolution, and in the trauma that follows sex abuse, for both litigators and clergy involved in such processes. Otherwise we see horse-trading take over with disregard for survivor needs, again and again.

“On mandatory reporting, there is no excuse for the Anglican Church to refuse to adopt this standard before IICSA almost certainly requires.”

A spokeswoman for the National Safeguarding Team said: “Archbishop Justin wrote a personal letter to Gilo as part of a mediation process about his case which was also the subject of an independent review in 2016. The Archbishop, who believes the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be the highest priority of all parts of the Church, apologised for the ways in which Gilo had been treated by the Church, and by Lambeth Palace in particular, in the past.

“A joint statement from all those involved in the mediation agreed it was not an easy process, but that it was a helpful and productive one for all concerned.”

The spokeswoman referred to a mediation statement issued in October (News, 20 October) which mentioned, among other matters, setting up a “a constructive dialogue” with Ecclesiastical (which has been agreed) and the creation of an “action plan for change”.

On Monday, another survivor, the Revd Matthew Ineson, added his name to the calls for mandatory reporting, saying that the C of E also needed to hand over all safeguarding investigations to an independent body.

Mr Ineson, who has previously campaigned using the pseudonym Michael, says that he was repeatedly raped as a teenager by another cleric, the late Trevor Devamannikkam (News, 16 June), and that his repeated complaints to the Archbishop of Canterbury that senior bishops had failed to disclose his abuse had gone unanswered.

On Tuesday, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, also wrote in favour of independent structures for safeguarding and discipline. In an article on the ViaMedia blog, he wrote:

“This should cover the compromised ministry of bishops, who have to administer both pastoral care and discipline; the close relationship between the Church’s main insurer and the Church itself; and the difficulty of trusting bishops and clergy to discipline themselves, set as they are within a network of personal and professional relationships and a complex and difficult legal framework. . .

“It should also help bishops and clergy themselves to be secure in their work and ministry, and so reduce the stress on clergy which leads to greater vulnerability to pastoral and personal breakdown – and so the cycle continues.”

The Christian safeguarding charity, CCPAS (Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service), disagrees. Removing responsibility for safeguarding complaints from the C of E to an independent body “would be contrary to good practice and regulatory expectation” it says.

Its executive director (safeguarding), Justin Humphreys, said on Tuesday: “Every organisation should have its own robust internal structures, policies and procedures in place to create safer places for all. They should have the right checks to ensure these structures are maintained and operated consistently and at an expected level, and that they are supported by an appropriate level of expertise and professional advice.”

And while CCPAS supports mandatory reporting, he said, “more clarity is needed” on who would undertake the reporting and in what circumstances, such as known or suspected cases of abuse.

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