A FORMER Bishop of Ramsbury, the Rt Revd Peter Hullah, has been banned for life from ministering in the Church of England, after his admissions of sexual misconduct.
Bishop Hullah was the suffragan Bishop of Ramsbury in the diocese of Salisbury from 1999 until 2005. A spokesperson for the Church of England offered an “unreserved apology” to “those who came forward to share their experience”.
The case, under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), was settled in August, and a penalty — prohibition for life — agreed by consent. This is currently the severest sanction that the C of E is able to impose. It became public only in a report published by the Daily Mail on Tuesday evening.
The penalty means that Bishop Hullah is prohibited from holding a licence to conduct services, although it is understood that he has not held permission to officiate for several years and does not use his clerical titles even though he is not barred from doing so. A spokeswoman for the diocese of Salisbury confirmed that Bishop Hullah had not had any involvement with the diocese since his retirement in 2005.
On Thursday, a notice of the sanction was posted on the website of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In July, the General Synod voted to amend the CDM Code of Practice to require that “brief particulars” of a penalty against a bishop that is agreed by consent are posted “on the Church of England website” (News, 15 July).
Before this, the Code of Practice seemed to suggest that only penalties by consent against a lower-ranked cleric were required to be published online, but not sanctions agreed between a bishop and an archbishop.
Because the case against Bishop Hullah was settled after the Synod had voted to amend the Code of Practice but before the Clergy Discipline Commission rubber-stamped the changes, it was unclear whether, when, and where, the notice had to be posted.
A “brief summary” of the case included in the notice states that Bishop Hullah received the penalty for “sexual misconduct involving two different women on two separate occasions”.
The Times reported that the complaints against him were made to church officials in 2019. It is understood that Kent Police investigated the allegations against Bishop Hullah, and decided not to bring charges.
Before his consecration, Bishop Hullah worked at Sevenoaks School, in Kent, between 1982 and 1985. He was headmaster of Chetham’s School of Music, in Manchester, from 1992 until 1999.
While at Chetham’s, Bishop Hullah accepted the resignation of Michael Brewer, after allegations of an affair with under-age students. In 2013, Mr Brewer was convicted on five counts of indecent assault against Frances Andrade, a girl who had been one of his pupils. Mrs Andrade took her own life during the trial (News, 3 October 2019).
In 2019, Bishop Hullah gave evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). He said that he had not felt that Mr Brewer was a risk to students, only a risk to the stability of the school. “I was more interested in, actually, the school running smoothly,” he said.
One of the recommendations made to the Church of England by IICSA in 2020 was to “reintroduce the power to depose from holy orders where a member of the clergy is found guilty of child sexual abuse offences”: a sanction often referred to as being “unfrocked”.
IICSA’s recommendation is reflected in the proposed Clergy Conduct Measure (CCM), approved in principle at the July meeting of the General Synod. Legislation to bring the CCM into force, replacing the current CDM, is expected to be introduced when the General Synod meets in February.
A spokesman for Bishop Hullah said: “These allegations have not been brought before any form of tribunal. They are historic matters which have been dealt with by the Church over a period of time and concluded by consent.
“Peter Hullah expresses deep regret to those affected in any way, and apologies for any distress caused to anyone involved in this process.”
A spokesperson for the Church of England said: “We can confirm that Peter Hullah has now been prohibited from ministry for life following a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure brought by the National Safeguarding Team.
“We would like to acknowledge the courage and offer an unreserved apology on behalf of the Church to those who came forward to share their experience; support has been offered to all involved.
“The Church expects the highest standards from those in leadership, and there can be no excuses when this does not happen. We will continue to listen to all those who come forward, and to work together to make the Church a safer place for all.”
Code amendment. In July, the General Synod voted to amend the part of the CDM Code of Practice that governed the publication of penalties by consent. The original Code only specified that “brief particulars” should be posted when a penalty was agreed “with the bishop”; Synod voted to append “or an archbishop” (News, 15 July).