Jersey safeguarding inquiries: update

On 22 November 2013 the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, issued a statement providing an update on the ongoing Jersey safeguarding inquiries. This indicates that:

  • the investigation into a safeguarding complaint in the Deanery of Jersey, conducted by former High Court Judge Dame Heather Steel, is in the process of being finalized;
  • the Bishop has received legal representations from an interested party requiring him to undertake not to release the report to any person. On the basis of legal advice, he has agreed to comply with this request and is currently unable to publish the report or provide further information about the representations that have been made;
  • based upon Dame Heather’s findings to date, the Bishop will not be taking disciplinary action against any member of the clergy in relation to the handling of the safeguarding complaint in question or the subsequent review process;
  • “in order to move us forward”, he sought the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury to initiate a pastoral visit to the Channel Islands so that a fresh perspective could be taken on safeguarding;
  • in view of the Islands’ many areas of common interest in both the process and the outcome, the Dean and Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey have been informed of the latest developments; and
  • the Diocese has sought expert advice from health professionals and specialist charities and made provision to help support HG, the victim at the heart of the original complaint, through a third party – but these are yet to be accepted.

The pastoral visit will be conducted in December jointly by the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, and the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, and has the Archbishop of Canterbury’s full support. They will meet local church leaders and Island authorities from both Deaneries, in order to help understand how the current situation may be progressed, and report back to the Bishop of Winchester by the end of the year.

Comment

In view of the sensitive nature of the Inquiry, the present legal constraints, and unfinished nature of Dame Heather’s report, there is a clearly a limit as to what details the diocese can place in the public domain.[1]  It would, therefore, be unhelpful to attempt to interpret this incomplete information or to speculate on possible outcomes. However, the recent statement appears to be consistent with the position outlined the Diocese Press Release of 28 April 2013 in which the Bishop is quoted as saying:

“[s]afeguarding must always be of paramount concern and is a vital part of the Church’s mission. We will now press ahead with the Visitation and Investigation and see them through to their conclusions, as we all have important lessons to learn. At the heart of this matter is safeguarding the vulnerable who have frequently been let down by the Church”.

and with regard to the associated legal issues, it added

“[t]he Bishop and the Dean have also agreed that, in the light of these recent events, there are areas in Jersey Canon Law which would benefit from further review and they are committed to working together as necessary to revise them”.


[1] The BBC has carried a report of some reactions to the statement.

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