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IICSA digs deeper into Anglican safeguarding record

27 June 2019

The timetable for the final hearing of the Anglican investigation has been published


The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, who is due to give evidence next week

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, who is due to give evidence next week

THE Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, and four Church of England bishops are among the witnesses due to give evidence at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) next week.

The timetable for the first of week of the final hearing of the Anglican investigation, concerning the C of E and the Church in Wales, was published on Thursday. The two-week hearing will cover a broad range of topics affecting safeguarding in the C of E, including the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), Permission to Officiate (PTO), the Seal of the Confessional, responses to adult survivors, redress, auditing, and record-keeping.

The Inquiry will also hear evidence concerning allegations of abuse and safeguarding responses in the Church in Wales. Archbishop Davies is due to give evidence on Friday, as is the Provincial Secretary, Simon Lloyd, the Provincial Safeguarding Officer, Faye Howe, and a “sampling witness” — the Revd Christopher Watkins.

The previous two Anglican hearings — in March and July last year — focused on the handling of allegations of abuse in the diocese of Chichester, as well as the case of the disgraced former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, Peter Ball, who died last week.

The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Revd Alan Wilson, is due to give evidence on Tuesday concerning responses to allegations and reparations. The Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, and the Suffragan Bishop of Berwick, the Rt Revd Mark Tanner, are due to give evidence on Wednesday regarding posthumous allegations, auditing, and recruitment.

The Area Bishop of Horsham, the Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, is due to give evidence on Thursday on the Seal of the Confessional, training and the management of safeguarding.

Other named witnesses next week include Ian Elliott, who conducted a review of how the Church handled the case of abuse carried out by a former diocesan chancellor, the Revd Garth Moore. Sir Roger Singleton, the interim director of the National Safeguarding Team of the C of E (NST) is also named, as is the director of Thirtyone:Eight (formally CCPAS) Justin Humphreys, and Canon Dr Rupert Bursell QC, a former diocesan chancellor who gave evidence at the Chichester hearing.

The timetable for the second week will be released next week.

At a press briefing on Thursday, a spokesman for the NST said that the Church should expect further disclosures of abuse.

“We should always expect that any public and media attention on non-recent or institutional abuse could result in more disclosures. That has been the pattern — not always significant numbers — but we should expect that and be ready to support.”

The independent Safe Spaces helpline, in partnership with the Roman Catholic Church, would be running by the end of year, after being evaluated from survivors, he said.

Also on Thursday, the NST released a response to the recommendations made in the latest IICSA report, published in May, concerning the Chichester and Ball case studies (News, 10 May). It includes the House of Bishops’ initial response to the report and its apology to survivors and goes on to detail how it accepts plans to carry out five key recommendations set out by IICSA.

First, to provide “greater consistency”, the Church it is to introduce safeguarding guidance for religious communities, which will be subject to legal designation for the first time assuming the amendment of Canon 40 receives final approval by the General Synod in York, next week (News, 1 March).

Proposals to amend Canon 30, regarding the CDM, and better distinguish between “compulsory” and “must-do” requirements in Bishops’ safeguarding guidance will be presented to the Synod in July 2020.

The NST also promises to write to the Government in support of the third IICSA recommendation to amend Section 21 of the Sexual Offences Act to include serving clergy, those with PTO, and lay Church officers under its definition of people “in a position of trust”.

Fourth, church volunteers who refuse to undergo a DBS check will not be allowed to continue in their role, including overseas. This also applies to safeguarding training, the NST response states: “In circumstances of non-attendance or non-engagement, the person is unlikely to be given a certificate, which will have consequences for their continued ministry or role.

The spokesman clarified: “You have to ask: what is the resistance? It may be a lack of understanding. Ultimately, there is clarity that people who are refusing [to take part or engage] cannot carry on in that role. That has been tested for clergy and volunteers.”

In terms of the clergy, he said, there had been a “generational shift” in safeguarding awareness and training experience among ordinands. Refusal to do DBS checks or take part in safeguarding training was rare. “It is part of what they have done previously; the dialogue is very different.”

In church leadership, the only pass-fail question when selecting deans and bishops related to safeguarding.

Finally, the Church has agreed to send the findings of any independent reviews to the national review body. The spokesperson confirmed that it would be carrying out an independent review in the abuse carried out by John Smyth while he chaired Iwerne Trust, now the Titus Trust (News 1 March).

The NST response concludes with an apology to abuse survivors. It “remains committed to ensuring that words of apology are followed by concrete actions. . .

“The Church will need to consider carefully the evidence given to the July public hearings in respect of the national and wider Church, and is committed to progressing further improvements that can be made ahead of IICSA’s final report, when we anticipate further recommendations being made.”

A further update of its safeguarding report will be presented to the Synod next week. The NST spokesperson confirmed that an independent safeguarding ombudsperson service and a review of PTO guidance is being considered.

A CDM working group had also been established, he said. It is to be chaired by the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton.

The chair of the National Safeguarding Panel, Meg Munn, explains in a blogpost published on Thursday: “When the group starts its work, it will include a survivor voice, and will want to hear from experts and other professions on how discipline matters are handled.”

She writes that the panel has agreed to remove the time-limit on when complaints can be made after an incident; improve guidance on how to the use the CDM; and support the NST with special measure for victims and witnesses.

The panel suggests that the working group should also consider the threshold of suspension; different processes for varying levels of concern; the independence of bishops in conflict with pastoral support; the relationship between dioceses and the NST; peer reviews; training; and how to support clergy who are subject to complaints.

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