Safeguarding Update

During the last week there have been  a number of developments relating to safeguarding, and these are summarized below.

Historic Child Abuse Inquiry

Last week the Home Affairs Select Committee endorsed Justice Lowell Goddard, the Home Secretary’s (third) nominee to chair the Historic Child Abuse Inquiry, 221 days after its establishment. The Committee took evidence from Justice Lowell Goddard at a pre-appointment hearing on Wednesday 11 February 2015, a recording of which is available here; and a full report, together with formal minutes is available here.

The Committee made a number of recommendations, including:

  • The establishment of a parallel Survivors’ Forum, on a formal basis, with strong links to the Panel. This forum should be properly funded, to provide any necessary support to its members.
  • The new Panel should give consideration to hiring specialist staff to provide support to abuse survivors giving evidence.
  • That the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office should conduct a new search of all government material, to establish that no relevant documents have been overlooked.
  • That the Panel should produce interim reports as frequently as it sees fit, but that the first interim report should be produced as soon as possible.
  • That Justice Goddard should play a full role in the selection of Panel members, as well as having a free hand over the appointment over the Inquiry Counsel and Secretariat.
  • That Justice Goddard should fully consult the Chairs of the Northern Ireland Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse and the Scottish national public inquiry into historical abuse of children in institutional care, with particular regard to seeking to avoid gaps between the areas covered by the various inquiries.
  • That the scope of the inquiry should be extended to include cases of abuse in Scotland and Northern Ireland where there is reason to believe that material relevant to the case might be held by the UK Government. This would include cases such as the Kincora Boys’ Home.

Safeguarding in the Church of England

At General Synod on 12 February, Mr Geoffrey Tattersall introduced the main provisions of the Draft Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure (GS 1952A) and the draft Amending Canon No.34 (GS 1953A) – Draft Measure and draft Amending Canon for Revision. The main points identified in his speech are summarized below, and the Report by the Revision Committee is available as GS 1952-3Y.

The main provisions of the draft Measure are:

Suspension of a priest: Section 36(1) of the Clergy Discipline Measure already provides for the suspension of a priest or deacon when disciplinary proceedings are commenced or he/she is arrested on suspicion of committing a criminal offence, is convicted of certain offences, or included on a barred list.

Clause 1(1) of the draft Measure adds a power to suspend where the bishop is satisfied on information provided by the police or local authority that a priest or deacon presents a significant risk of harm – as defined in clause 1(2) – but before suspending the bishop is required to consult at the very least the diocesan safeguarding advisor. Such suspension continues for 3 months but may be renewed.

Churchwardens: The current clause 2 of the draft Measure provides for the disqualification and suspension of churchwardens. Mr Tattersall highlighted that:

  • Although the initial draft provided for a waiver of disqualification, the Revision Committee was persuaded that any such waiver required further clarity. Consequently clause 2(2) provides that before giving any waiver the bishop must at the very least consult the diocesan safeguarding advisor, and must give reasons for any such waiver, and that any such waiver will be of unlimited duration and have effect in every diocese;
  • As to suspension, the Committee agreed that a bishop should not only have power to suspend a churchwarden in the circumstances set out the present clause 2(5) of the draft Measure: i.e. if arrested on suspicion of committing a Schedule 1 offence, but also if the bishop was satisfied that the churchwarden presents a significant risk of harm.

PCCs: There was agreement that the disqualification and suspension provisions for PCC members should mirror those in relation to churchwardens. Furthermore, a bishop should also be empowered to suspend PCC secretaries and treasurers who are not PCC members.

Other aspects of the draft Measure include:

  • rules for appeals against suspensions (clause 4);
  • House of Bishops’ Guidance (clause 5);
  • definition of ‘child` and `vulnerable adult (clause 6), noting that clause 6(2) has been clarified so that a `significant impairment` may be either temporary or indefinite;
  • provision for the suspension of clergy pending an application to bring proceedings out of time (clause 8);
  • provision for delegation of functions by Registrar of Tribunals (clause 9);
  • power for the President of Tribunals to remit a complaint to a bishop (clause 10); and
  • the re-appointment of legal qualified persons to provincial panels, (clause 11).

The Committee was reminded by the Legal Office of the reason why there was generally a one-year limitation period for complaints to be made under the CDM, (GS 1952-3Y, para. 74).

The most significant changes made in Committee to the draft Amending Canon are to give Synod the opportunity to debate regulations made by the House of Bishops in respect of risk assessments on clergy and to apply to licensed readers and lay workers provisions as to suspension and disqualification which mirror those for churchwardens and PCC members.

Safeguarding in Jersey

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry was set up to establish what went wrong in the Island’s care system over many years and to find answers for people who suffered abuse as children. The Inquiry Chair, Frances Oldham QC, has promised a “robust and fearless” examination of what went wrong and to find answers for people who suffered abuse as children. The hearings are being held in public at 11-15 Seaton Place in St Helier, although at times the Panel may hear evidence in private session. The latest updates of 10, 11 and 12 February are here, the timetable for the on-going hearings here, and key documents, here.

This Inquiry is separate from the Church’s investigations of an abuse allegation made in 2008 by a 26-year-old woman, HG. This week BBC Jersey reported that the Dean of Jersey had called for the release of the inquiry report. To date this has remained confidential on legal advice, and HG has stated that its publication could cause her harm.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Safeguarding Update" in Law & Religion UK, 16 February 2015, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2015/02/16/safeguarding-update/

1 thought on “Safeguarding Update

  1. It is a remarkable coincidence, that there have been three nominees for the role now assumed by Ms Justice Goddard, all of whom have been female. What are the chances of three judges selected at random from the judiciary all being female? Is there a hidden feminist agenda, I wonder?

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