The Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) held its 7th preliminary hearing on Tuesday 15 January 2019. In this context, it is “preliminary” in relation to the further two weeks of hearings planned for 1 to 12 July 2019. A summary of the parts of the transcript which are of relevance to legislative issues is reproduced below.
7th preliminary hearing – General Issues
The relevant parts of the 46-page transcript comprise:
- Welcome and opening remarks by the Chair, Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of the IICSA, [1/1 to 2/17];
- Opening statement, Fiona Scolding QC, Counsel for the Inquiry; [2/19 to 31/9]; and
- Submission by Mr O’Donnell instructed by Slater & Gordon Solicitors, representing A10 to 21, A23 to A25, and A35, all of whom are complainants, victims and survivors, [31/12 to 32/13] and
- Submission by Mr Greenwood who represents victims and survivors A1 to A4, A22, and also represents the Ministry and Clergy, The Sexual Abuse Survivors organisation, [32/17 to 35/25].
Last year, the inquiry held public hearings relating to two case studies in this investigation. It heard three weeks of evidence about the Diocese of Chichester from 5 to 23 March 2018 and one week of evidence about the response into allegations against Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester from 23 to 27 May 2018. Since that time, the Inquiry has been drafting a report into both case studies which it anticipates publishing during the first quarter of 2019. The Inquiry will hold third and final hearings in this investigation for two weeks from 1 to 12 July 2019. [1/13 to 1/25].
The final hearing will focus upon the wider Anglican Church, including the Church of England and the Church in Wales in the context of their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse. [2/1 to 2/4].
The purpose of the present hearing is to provide an update on the work that the inquiry has been carrying out since the hearings in July 2018, and to discuss the necessary preparations for the hearing to commence in 11 July 2019. [3/7 to 3/11].
Ms Scolding reminded the Inquiry that the scope of the investigation, as currently defined, is to firstly investigate the scale and nature of sexual abuse that has taken place and has been perpetrated by members of the Anglican Church. This includes clergy, employees and volunteers. Secondly, to explore how public authorities, both the church, but also the police, local authorities, and the Crown Prosecution Service, have responded to the disclosure of such allegations. Thirdly, the adequacy of the policies and practices of the church as a national body, but also at a diocesan and parish level, and what steps were taken by the church to try and deal effectively with cases of abuse and to minimise the risks of abuse occurring. [5/13 to 6/2]. This investigation will also examine the culture of the church, by which [the Inquiry means] its behaviours, values and beliefs. [8/4 to 8/6].
The broad issues for the third public hearing will be, first, the views of victims and survivors as to the failures of the church currently and what steps they consider should be taken to improve safeguarding practice. The investigation team does not seek to replicate the intensity of focus it brought to bear upon the Diocese of Chichester to other dioceses. However, it does wish to consider the responses made to other allegations of abuse reported to the church. The investigation team has already been provided with materials about other alleged perpetrators in other dioceses, some of which have resulted in internal reviews by the church. [12/10 to 12/23]. Two cited examples were: the allegations which resulted in the report written by Her Honour Judge Cahill QC and the report compiled by Mr Ian Elliott [12/24 to 13/2].
Seal of the Confessional
Miss Scolding noted that the Church in Wales is part of the Anglican Communion; it has a different structure and a separate and distinct set of practices in respect of safeguarding. In particular, to give one example, their guidance identifies that there must be reporting of allegations and complaints about child sexual abuse, even if such has been received under the seal of the confessional. The Inquiry will therefore be examining the practices and processes of the Church in Wales and their efficacy, and to examine where and what further steps need to be taken to improve safeguarding in this context. [11/23 to 12/9].
The Inquiry would seek an update in respect of the seal of the confessional within the Church of England:
“We understand that the Church of England has a working group which was set up some time ago and, in particular, to understand that work in the light of the recommendations and experience of the Australian Anglican Church, given the recommendations that were made by the Australian Royal Commission on Sexual Abuse in that respect. We will also obtain evidence about the approach taken by the Church in Wales on the same issue”. [18/2 to 18/11].
With regard to clergy discipline, the Inquiry would investigate whether or not the current system of clergy discipline works, in respect of child protection whether it should be amended, and whether there should be a different sort of process for clerics where there are difficulties with child protection which includes or involves individuals with expertise in that area. [16/12 to 16/18].
The Inquiry is also seeking information on safeguarding practices from the dioceses and from the Church in Wales, including their view about the clergy discipline measure and about the system for permission to officiate. [22/17 to 22/19].
Submissions by Mr O’Donnell and Mr Greenwood
Mr O’Donnell commented:
“What we really hope to see in this third and final hearing is a spread of survivor evidence from across the other Anglican dioceses of England and Wales, because it seems to us that, without this, any recommendations that ultimately come from this Inquiry that might impinge upon the Anglican Church would inevitably carry less force on the simple ground that the church would say it’s just evidence from the south-east of England, which is what the (inaudible) addressed”. [32/2 to 32/10].
More specifically, Mr Greenwood noted the experience of Matthew Ineson in the Sheffield diocese, a core participant, and suggested that this would be a useful case to examine; this “also demonstrates how the clergy discipline measure system has thwarted his attempts to achieve accountability for the failings in his case”. [32/22 to 34/1].
He suggested that the document that was presented to the General Synod in July 2018, GS 2092, “which is essentially a response to the Inquiry here, the IICSA Inquiry, reveals inadequacy in the response and is worthy of examination, possibly with a member of the National Safeguarding Group”. [34/14 to 34/19].
Finally “commentary on the legal structure of the church and its inability to enforce directions on safeguarding does need to be looked at. The lack of a command structure, the autonomy of bishops, failures in the CDM mechanism, all need to be underlined”. [34/20 to 34/25].
Church of England Statement
The Church of England issued a Statement from Bishop Peter Hancock, lead safeguarding bishop in which he welcomed the comments from Fiona Scolding QC, counsel to this component of the IICSA Inquiry.
He said that he fully supports the emphasis on the present and future of safeguarding in the Church of England which will help with its commitment to make the Church a safer place for all. Noting that Miss Scolding said the Inquiry will be looking at whether changes being implemented by the Church of England are relevant and purposeful, he said
“I believe this part of the Inquiry will be critical in helping us ensure that our safeguarding work is effective and rigorous and that survivors’ and victims’ views are heard. We continue to be committed to working closely with the Inquiry in a constructive and transparent way.”
Thinking Anglicans’ Report of the Preliminary Hearing notes that the IICSA has also published a number of the written closing submissions made at the conclusion of the Peter Ball hearings in July last year. These are:
- On behalf of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England
- On behalf of Baron Carey of Clifton
- On behalf of Slater and Gordon survivors
- On behalf of Switalski survivors
Other closing statements are to be found here.
For the purposes of its Inquiry, the IICSA regards the “Anglican Church” as: “the Church of England, the Church in Wales, and other Anglican churches operating in England and Wales”.
The format of the transcript is in pages arranged into 4-part sections in the order L,L,R,R; this makes for easier reading than earlier transcripts written as L,R,L,R.. The references above are in the format [line number/page number].