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CDM review: an interim system

11 September 2020

ELS

Peter Collier QC, who chaired the working party

Peter Collier QC, who chaired the working party

THE Ecclesiastical Law Society’s CDM review has proposed an interim grievance which, it says, could be put in place “immediately” without any need for legislation. This, in their view, answers the need for two separate streams or systems for dealing with different types of complaint: “service-level complaints” and alleged serious misconduct:

 

Any grievance/complaint (other than one of gross misconduct) shall be sent to the diocesan bishop, marked “grievance”. Each diocese shall have a panel of “assessors” who shall be selected on account of their recognised skills and experience in dealing with matters of conflict and/or grievance.

Any such complaint shall be in writing and signed by the complainant and must:

  • set out specific details of the complaint, including what occurred and when it occurred; or what was not done and when it should have been done;

  • set out what it is the complainant is looking for by way of resolution of the complaint;

  • be accompanied by a statement of truth;

  • be delivered in a non-combative manner;

  • not include any deliberately false or misleading information;

  • not make frivolous or vexatious or false complaints.

 

The bishop on receipt of the complaint must within 7 days:

  • acknowledge receipt;

  • supply a copy of the written complaint to the respondent asking for their written response within 7 days;

  • identify an assessor who does not know the parties and who will seek on behalf of the bishop to resolve the grievance.

 

The respondent’s written response shall be in writing and signed and must:

  • set out in detail the respondent’s account about what did or did not happen;

  • set out how the respondent believes that the matter can be resolved;

  • be accompanied by a statement of truth;

  • be delivered in a non-combative manner;

  • not include any deliberately false or misleading information;

  • not make frivolous or vexatious or false complaints.

 

The assessor will, on receipt of the two written accounts, arrange to meet separately with the complainant and the respondent. Each may be accompanied by a supporter (not a family member or a lawyer) at those meetings if they wish.

Those meetings will be to ensure that the concerns and wishes of the complainant have been fully and correctly understood and that the respondent’s account is also understood, along with how the respondent feels that the matter could be resolved.

The assessor will be able in those meetings to seek any clarification of the parties’ accounts they feel is necessary. The assessor will also want to try and enable each of the parties to see and understand the other person’s perspective on the issues.

The assessor will make a judgement about whether:

  • what they have heard about is a matter where there is some prospect of achieving a reconciliation between the parties and/or some other resolution of the matter or:

  • whether in their view the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or malicious; or

  • whether there is no substance to the complaint; or

  • whether the complaint amounts to misconduct and if so whether in their view it amounts to gross misconduct.

 

If it is a case that in their opinion should be dismissed as being frivolous, vexatious, malicious, or of no substance, then they shall report that to the bishop immediately and if the bishop accepts that view the bishop shall dismiss the complaint.

The complainant shall be entitled to ask for a review of such a dismissal (details of manner of review yet to be finalised).

If the case is considered to be susceptible of resolution, the assessor will attempt to bring about such resolution by using one or more of the following means:

  • arranging a face-to-face meeting between the complainant and respondent — such a meeting might be appropriate for a respondent to apologise or to explain what happened from their perspective or to agree how things will be in the future;

  • facilitating a round table discussion to explore ways of resolving the issues that have arisen;

  • making arrangements for a conciliator or mediator to attempt to resolve the issues between the parties if they are willing to cooperate in such a process.

 

The assessor shall produce a report within 28 days of being appointed to inform the bishop of what steps have been taken, what the outcome has been and what conclusions the assessor formed about the seriousness of the matter.

In the event that the matter has not been resolved, the assessor shall recommend to the bishop what course of action the bishop should consider taking and the reasons for making that recommendation.

If it is a case that in the opinion of the assessor amounts to misconduct on the part of the cleric they shall report that to the bishop, and if the bishop agrees the complainant shall be invited to complete a Form1A to commence the formal disciplinary process.


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