THE Ecclesiastical Insurance Office (EIO) has apologised to an abuse survivor, Gilo, for breaching his confidentiality, and has paid £30,000 in damages.
Gilo was sexually assaulted by the late Garth Moore, a former diocesan chancellor (News, 4 December 2015). After his long struggle to tell senior church figures about his ordeal, in 2016 the C of E settled his claim for a similar sum, and initiated the Elliott review, which later called for significant reforms to safeguarding procedures (News, 18 March 2016).
The next year, the EIO, the Church’s insurers, who are responsible for compensation payments to survivors and victims of abuse, published Gilo’s surname in a letter online, despite his wish to protect his identity. This week, the EIO apologised to Gilo for the data breach, agreed to pay damages of £30,000, and to enter into further mediation with Gilo and the reviewer of his case, Ian Elliott.
At the time of the Elliott review, the EIO issued a press statement that accused the report of containing factual inaccuracies (News, 28 July 2017). In 2020, Mr Elliott condemned the revelation that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) had responded to his recommendations by initiating closer ties between insurers, communications officers, and legal staff (News, 11 September 2020).
Responding to the mediated settlement on Monday, he said: “Since I produced the report, EIO have made comments on national television, on their website, and in evidence to the Inquiry (IICSA), regarding the accuracy of my assessments, claiming that they were flawed. These damaging statements are completely untrue. Despite this, they were never publicly withdrawn, and no attempt has ever been made by EIO or the Church to set the record straight. Telling the truth is important, and when that does not happen, trust is damaged and lost.”
Gilo also welcomed the mediation from EIO “over their repeated public dissembling around the review into my case. The bishop mandated to implement the review recommendations [the then Bishop of Crediton, now the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally] and the secretary-general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, remained silent to every question and request for help on this. Eventually a Subject Access Request revealed complicity between the Archbishops’ Council, NST, and Ecclesiastical, and showed they had sought to work together on reputational management.”
He continued: “It is disturbing that a three-day data breach, which we think was likely to be accidental, has had almost as much value as the abuse settlement with an impact lasting decades. In fact, I took home £3500 more than I did from the original settlement. It shows how derisory the abuse settlements are in the hands of the Church of England’s insurer and lawyers.”
His solicitor, Richard Scorer, said: “The outcome of this case speaks for itself. Ecclesiastical initially treated the claim as a claim for a minor data breach. But they have now paid substantially more by way of damages than would ordinarily be paid for a simple breach. In addition, their CEO, Mark Hews, has provided an unreserved apology, and they have agreed to a further mediation about the wider issue of their public treatment of the Elliott review.
“By settling the matter in this way, they have in reality acknowledged that this data breach occurred in a wider context of EIO failings towards survivors, some of which were explored in IICSA [News, 19 July 2019], and that those failings significantly aggravated this data breach. I hope that these events will be part of an urgent and radical reshaping of EIO’s behaviour towards survivors, and the full implementation of the Elliott report.”
The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, who was present at the settlement meeting, said: “Churches and insurers tend to say that they incorporate survivor experience in their response without actually doing so. The Church produces big rhetoric about engagement while fashioning ‘lessons-learned reviews’ that drag on for years without anyone seemingly learning any lessons. Meanwhile our insurer steers well clear of any external independent accountability while parading and hiding behind its Guiding Principles.”
A spokesperson for the EIO said on Tuesday: “We do not comment on the details of individual claims. We are sorry for the distress caused to the complainant and have apologised unreservedly.”