On 8th March the Diocese of Winchester published a Press Release which stated that, following the publication of the report Independent Review of a Safeguarding Complaint for the Diocese of Winchester, the Right Reverend Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, had withdrawn the commission of the Dean of Jersey, the Very Reverend Robert Key, effectively suspending him. The report, which was commissioned by the Diocese of Winchester’s Safeguarding Panel,
“… found that there were a number of failures in the implementation of policies, in relation to a safeguarding complaint in 2008”, and
“… raises concerns that the Dean of Jersey did not comply with key safeguarding procedures in dealing with the complaints of a vulnerable adult parishioner, who had made a complaint about abusive behaviour by a Churchwarden in Jersey.”
The Press Release notes the Bishop’s disappointment that the Dean of Jersey refused to co-operate with the review. Following the announcement of the suspension
“… the Bishop will now begin an investigation into the conduct of the case by the Dean of Jersey and other matters raised by the report. The report describes a number of areas where proper practice was not followed including an apparent failure to take the complaint seriously, a perceived lack of neutrality, poor communication and lack of action.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a Press Release supporting this action:
“The Bishop of Winchester’s swift, decisive and wholly necessary actions following his receipt of this report are to be commended. I too wish to add my own personal apologies to the young woman who was so badly let down by those she had turned to for help and I wholeheartedly support the investigation that the Bishop has launched. He must receive full cooperation from all involved.”
“We cannot place a high enough importance on safeguarding issues and it is vital that lessons are learned from this case, not just in Jersey but throughout the whole of the Church of England. Every day, the vulnerable come to us for shelter, for support and for comfort. Their trust cannot be taken for granted.”
The Independent Report
The Report notes:
“The purpose of the review is not to revisit the allegation of abuse which was put to the police in November 2008 and found to have insufficient evidence to proceed, but to consider how the Diocesan Safeguarding Procedures, and any separate Jersey complaint procedures, responded both at the time of receiving the complaint and the repercussions that followed it.”
Its Terms of Reference were:
1) To consider the way the complaint was initially addressed both from:
a) The complainant’s position,
b) The following of Diocesan Safeguarding Procedures,
c) The following of Jersey complaint’s procedures where appropriate.
July 2008 – November 2008
2) To consider how the subsequent allegations of failure by Officers of the Church and Diocesan Staff to resolve the issue were handled.
December 2008 – October 2010 Jersey: October 2010 – July 2011 Mainland
3) To explore what communication and behaviours appear to have helped or exacerbated the problem with a view to making recommendations for dealing with similar complaints in the future.
The relationships between the Bailiwick of Jersey and the United Kingdom, the Diocese of Winchester and the Church of England in Jersey, and specific provisions relating to the Dean of Jersey introduce a number of potentially complicating factors. There is a paucity of academic consideration of ecclesiastical law in this area, but the main issues are summarized below:
- The Dean of Jersey is appointed by Letters Patent issued by the Queen which require the Bishop of Winchester to “admit” the Dean and Island officials to “accept” him.
- The Church of England in Jersey is subject to its own canon law, originally authorized by King James I in 1623 and revised in March 2012. The revised canons are annexed to an Order in Council and include provisions specific to the Dean (C 17) and the Bishop of Winchester (C 16), to whom the Dean (along with all the other clergy in Jersey) owes canonical obedience (C 1.3).
- Those subject to provisions relating to clergy discipline (F 3) must have due regard to “… the Bishop of Winchester by virtue of his office and consecration and the jurisdiction vested in the Dean by virtue of his Letters Patent from the Sovereign”.
- The Dean of Jersey is a member ex officio of the States of Jersey, with the right to speak but not to vote: States of Jersey Law 2005 s 2.
At a time when there is criticism of a number of the papabili and other church leaders for their lack of action in relation to vulnerable groups, the Bishop of Winchester’s “swift and decisive action” will be welcomed and the conclusions of the new investigation followed with interest. (How different from the inaction of those previously in charge in the Diocese of Chichester.) Furthermore, the general recommendations within the report have wide application throughout the Church of England and beyond. Although there are legal issues arising from the relationship between Jersey and the United Kingdom, the main issue remains the Independent Report and the subsequent investigation.
The impasse, and the cause of the suspension of the Dean, appears to be his refusal to co-operate with the independent review, based upon his status as President of the Clergy Discipline court and as a member of the States. The Independent report says that the author was unable to discover what this status was or what difference it makes or should make to the behaviour of the Dean (not much effort in googling there then!)
Another curious thing, and as a non-lawyer I am not sure how strange it actually is, is the way in which the Chichester Report is quoted as if it were case-law: this is the way that Jersey should’ve behaved because this is the way that Chichester was expected to behave. Interesting how a body of case-law and precedent appears to be developing, as written by independent reviewers, but not subject to review in turn by any higher court of appeal. Each independent reviewer acts as the decision of the Supreme Court. Could you disabuse me of that concern?
Not being an Anglican canonist it’s difficult for me to comment intelligently; but I suspect that in a relatively new area such as safeguarding there is almost bound to be a tendency to cite the findings of previous reviews in support of the line that one is wishing to advance.
Precedent in this area is difficult, because these things are not judicial proceedings (even when carried out by a former President of the Family Division). But the very fact that the Independent Review of Historic Cases from Chichester was undertaken by Baroness Butler-Sloss and the Archbishop’s Commissaries who produced the interim Visitation Report were Chancellor Bursell and Bishop Gladwin almost guarantees that their views on safeguarding generally are going to be given a lot of weight by other reviewers in the same area.
As to your point that none of this is reviewable by any higher court of appeal, I imagine that, in strictly technical terms, if one of these investigations strayed out of line its activities might possibly be reviewable by the Administrative Court. But (if I’m honest) I doubt that that would be likely to happen on two grounds: first, that in English law (though not in Scots) you need to prove that there’s a public law element in the situation that you are seeking to have reviewed and, secondly, who would be prepared to underwrite the costs of such an action?