THE Canon Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, the Revd Dr Paul Overend, and his wife, Sue, contemplated suicide because of the safeguarding investigation that he faced, he said on Sunday.
On Saturday, it was announced that a church investigation had concluded that there was “no case to answer” after a protracted investigation by the police and the church authorities.
In a personal statement that was read out on Sunday, Canon Overend writes: “The diocese and the Church of England will now need to take stock of their safeguarding and CDM processes, which have harmed a great number of people and brought my wife and me close to suicide.”
He said on Monday that, at one point, his wife had been admitted to the Maytree Respite Centre in London for residential suicide-prevention care.
In his statement, he notes that his ordeal began 789 days earlier, when he was asked to step aside from his work as Canon Chancellor after an allegation that he had grabbed and kissed a Cardiff University student in 1997 (News, 10 January; 29 November 2019). He has always denied the charge, and was acquitted after a jury trial at Newport Crown Court last December (News, 4 December 2020).
As soon as the acquittal was announced, the Church initiated its own investigation under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), saying: “With the criminal process concluded, time is now needed to consider any further response that is required by ecclesiastical law, and according to House of Bishops’ guidelines and practices.”
This took a further six months, until the announcement on Saturday: “After due process, a ruling has been made in the case brought under the Clergy Discipline Measure against the Revd Canon Dr Paul Overend, Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral. It was determined by the Deputy President of Tribunals that there is no case to answer and no further steps should be taken. This has been a long and difficult process and our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected by it.”
A spokesperson for the diocese of Lincoln said: “The events of the last two years have been extremely stressful and emotional for many people, in a variety of different ways.”
In his personal statement, Canon Overend repeats the points that he made after his acquittal in Cardiff: “Clergy work pastorally with people and make themselves vulnerable in so doing. I advise all clergy to join the Faithworkers Branch of Unite the Union and to take out insurance to protect themselves and their families.”
It is understood that the couple are still receiving therapy.
Canon Overend’s statement in full:
“THE decision of the Deputy President of Tribunals, His Honour Judge David Turner QC, that ‘there is no case to answer’, finally brings to a close the Church’s investigation into a single historical allegation, dating back to a church social event in 1997. This decision comes 789 days after I was first asked to step aside from my role as Chancellor, and six months after I was unanimously acquitted in court.
“I am immensely grateful to all those in Lincoln and beyond who have been supportive of my wife and me throughout this ordeal.
“The Diocese and the Church of England will now need to take stock of their Safeguarding and CDM processes, which have harmed a great number of people and brought my wife and me close to suicide.
“Clergy work pastorally with people and make themselves vulnerable in so doing. I advise all clergy to join the Faithworkers Branch of Unite the Union and to take out insurance to protect themselves and their families.
“We need time now to recover from this horrendous ordeal and start to heal, and then to consider our future.”
Read an account of the couple’s ordeal here