Clergy Discipline Commission Annual Report 2018 – Summary

The House of Bishops received the Clergy Discipline Commission Annual Report 2018, GS Misc 1226 (“the Report”) in May 2019; this is the fifteenth annual report* made by the Commission to General Synod, and covers its work in the year to 31 December 2018.


The Report is made in fulfilment of the duty placed upon the Clergy Discipline Commission by section 3(3)(c) of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 to make an annual report to the General Synod, through the House of Bishops, on the exercise of its functions during the previous year. Whilst the Chair and Deputy Chair sit respectively as the President and Deputy President of Tribunals, and in those capacities exercise certain judicial functions under the Measure, the Commission has no judicial role in respect of individual cases. The Commission has general responsibility to monitor disciplinary procedures under the Measure in practice, and its specific duties include formulating guidance for the purposes of the Measure generally, issuing general policy guidance to persons exercising disciplinary functions, and giving general advice as to appropriate penalties

Paragraphs 1 to 3 and Appendices 1 and 2 of the Report set out the membership and functions of the Commission, paragraphs 4 to 15 summarize the work of the Commission in 2018, and an analysis of complaints in given in paragraphs 16 to 21 and in Appendix 3.

This post reviews the Report; a subsequent article will address items of particular interest.

Work of the Commission in 2018

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Commission limits its comments on the IICSA to the fact that it was briefed on its work in relation to the Anglican Church, in particular with regard to the inquiry’s interest in the Clergy Discipline Measure, and that the Designated Officer under the Measure was invited to give written and oral evidence to the Inquiry.

Pastoral Support

The Commission acknowledged that the provision of pastoral care and support is a particularly challenging issue to get right, and following discussion it approved and issued a pro-forma letter that bishops could use to send to those who provided pastoral support on their behalf to respondent clergy, and to the respondent receiving the pastoral support. The letter sets out the scope and expectations of the role (of the bishops).

Cross Examination

The Commission recognised that in cases concerning alleged sexual misconduct towards a complainant or witness where the respondent was acting in person without legal representation, cross-examination could be a particularly stressful experience for a witness. Noting that in criminal proceedings persons who were charged with sexual offences were prohibited from cross-examining in person a witness in relation to whom the offence was alleged to have been committed, the Report observed that within the CDM, the right to cross-examine should be restricted.

The Commission agreed that the Clergy Discipline Rules would in due course need to be amended to restrict the right to cross examine in person; pending such amendment and in the interests of dealing with the issue immediately, the Chair, as President of Tribunals, agreed to issue a practice direction which was published in May 2018; this restricts the right of a respondent to cross-examine in person a witness where the alleged misconduct was of a sexual nature towards that witness, where the misconduct (whether sexual or not) was towards a witness who was a child at the time, and in any other case where the witness’s evidence was likely to be impaired if cross-examined by the respondent in person. The practice direction made provision for such cross-examination to be carried out by a legal representative.


The Commission “continued to consider the issue of delay in CDM proceedings”. It discussed the responses to a questionnaire that it had commissioned to all diocesan registrars consulting them on delays in disciplinary proceedings in relation to priests and deacons. The results suggested that, once a complaint was brought under the CDM, it “normally proceeded reasonably expeditiously, but that there were frequently long delays before a formal complaint was made under the CDM”.

The Commission was not in favour of a number suggested proposals for reducing delays by a imposing restriction on the ability of the respondent to challenge the suitability of proposed members; and whether an extra tribunal member from both the clergy and laity should always be appointed in reserve, in case a tribunal member was unexpectedly unable to take part. It agreed that the former could be arbitrary and unfair; with regard to the latter, it indicated that the current practice ensured an appropriate balance of members in relation to matters such as gender and ethnicity.

Another possible proposal was to reduce the number of tribunal members to three, in the hope that that would make it easier to fix dates for a hearing. However, the Commission did not accept that this would necessarily significantly expedite disciplinary proceedings. With only three members, the Chair might have a disproportionate influence on the other members of the tribunal. Furthermore, the Commission felt that a tribunal of five members rather than just three was more appropriate to determine issues that could lead to loss of a respondent’s vocation, income and home.

It suggested that a potential cause of delay could be the time taken to prepare the decision of the Tribunal, and it issued guidance to Tribunal Chairs reminding them to give their written decisions in a timeous fashion following a hearing.

Archbishops’ List

The Commission discussed a proposal to amend the Clergy Discipline Rules to allow names to be removed from the Archbishop’s list after a period of time where the original penalty was a rebuke; however, it declined to recommend any change to the current practice on the basis that the list existed for the purposes of the appointments process and enabled a receiving bishop to see if a candidate for appointment had been disciplined in the past – the receiving bishop could then find out more from the diocese where the candidate was serving.

Publication of Penalties

The Report notes that although there is a legal requirement for the decisions of tribunals to be published, there is no equivalent provision pertaining to the publication of penalties imposed by bishops, which form the majority of the cases considered, v infra. The Commission had previously issued guidance encouraging dioceses to publish on their websites penalties that were imposed by bishops”.

It reviewed and reissued this guidance in light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force in May 2018. It was satisfied that its policy was GDPR compliant and its revisions include examples of how penalty announcements should be worded. [A copy of  Publicity for Clergy Discipline Proceedings: Guidance to Diocesan Bishops and Registrars as of 2016 is available on the Oxford Diocese web site.]


The Commission considered the important role often played by Archdeacons in presenting complaints, and it wished to encourage the provision of training for Archdeacons in relation to the CDM.

Analysis of Complaints in 2018

An overview of the complaints in 2018 is given in paragraphs 16 to 23 (page 4); this is are summarized below:

  • The total number of clergy falling within the provisions of the Measure as at 31 December 2017 of over 20,000; this includes approximately 10,800 licensed stipendiary and non-stipendiary clergy, 1,070 chaplains and clergy in other ministries, and an estimated 7,200 active retired clergy and those holding a permission/licence to officiate [Ministry Statistics 2017, published by the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops’ Council in 201].
  • In 2018, 90 complaints were made under the Measure against priests or deacons. The total number of respondents in respect of those cases was 75;
  • Thirteen dioceses had no complaints, twenty six had up to five complaints, and four dioceses had six or more complaints.
  • As in previous years, the majority of complaints (72%) were made by complainants other than archdeacons, churchwardens or persons nominated by a PCC; archdeacons were the source of 25% of complainants.
  • Twenty-four complaints were made against bishops in the course of 2018; thirteen were dismissed, and no further action taken in four more. Six complaints were outstanding at the year-end (the same figure at the end of 2017).
  • The President and Deputy President of Tribunals considered 68 applications and reviews during the course of the year.

A fuller analysis of complaints in 2018 is presented in tabular form in Appendix 3 of the Report; this shows by whom complaints were made and how they were dealt with. These include:

  • Action taken in 2018 in relation to complaints made in 2018 or earlier:

Dismissed by the bishop under s11(3)                                                26
No further action under s12(1)(a) & s13                                              21
Conditional deferment under s12(1)(b) & s14                                       2
Resolved by conciliation under s12(1)(c) & s15                                    1
Penalty by consent under s12(1)(d) & s16                                           20
Formal investigation under s12(1)(e) & s17                                         18
Withdrawn (rule 59(1)(a))                                                                       1
No decision as at 31st December 2018                                               19

  • Penalties by consent imposed under s12(1)(d) & s16:

Prohibition for life (with or without resignation)                                      2
Limited prohibition (with or without resignation)                                   14
Resignation w/o prohibition including revocation of licence                  1
Injunction                                                                                               1
Rebuke                                                                                                  3
Injunction and rebuke                                                                            1

  • Cases referred for formal investigation under s12(1)(e) & s17:

President of Tribunals decided ‘No case to answer’                              7
President referred complaint to bishop’s tribunal                                   6
President not decided as at 31st December 2018                                 0
Formal investigation ongoing as at 31st December 2018                      3
No further steps taken under s16(3A) (penalty by consent)                  2

  • Number of suspensions imposed:

s36(1)(a) in course of complaint proceedings                                        8
s36(1)(b) following arrest                                                                       2
s36(1)(c) following conviction                                                                 1
s36(1)(d) following inclusion in a barred list                                           0
s36(1)(e) determination: cleric presents significant risk of harm            4
s36A pending determination re proceedings out of time                        0

  • Cases where a penalty of prohibition or removal from office was imposed:

s30(1)(a) following conviction and sentence of imprisonment               4
s30(1)(b) following divorce decree/order for judicial separation            1
s30(1)(c) following inclusion in a barred list                                           0

  • Complaints against Bishops and Archbishops

Formal complaints made to archbishops
in respect of a bishop                                                                          24
in respect of an archbishop                                                                   0

  • Action taken in 2018 in relation to complaints made in 2018 or earlier

Dismissed under s11(3)                                                                       13
No further action under s12(1)(a) & s13                                                4
Conditional deferment under s12(1)(b) & s14                                        0
Resolved by conciliation under s12(1)(c) & s15                                     0
Penalty by consent under s12(1)(d) & s16                                             0
Formal investigation under s12(1)(e) & s17                                           0
Withdrawn (rule 59(1)(a))                                                                       5
No decision as at 31st December 2018                                                 6

  • Applications and reviews before the President/Deputy President of Tribunals

Application to bring a complaint out of time (s9)                                  27
Review of a dismissal (s11(4))                                                             24
Referral of a decision of no further action (s13(3))                              10
Consulted by bishop re penalty, divorce/conviction (s30(2))                  0
Appeal against notice of suspension (s36(6))                                        1
Review of inclusion of name in list under s38(1)(a) to (d) (s38(2))        2

  • 16 complaints were delegated to a suffragan bishop for determination under s13 Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure.
  • 3 cases determined by a tribunal [Note: although on the CofE web site, one of these cases is dated December 2017, the penalty was determined in March 2018]

[Note: The previous Annual Report of the Clergy Discipline, covering the period up to 31 December 2017 incorrectly indicated that it was the thirteenth such report; The Report covering the period up to 31 December 2016 was in fact the thirteenth Report.]

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Clergy Discipline Commission Annual Report 2018 – Summary" in Law & Religion UK, 21 June 2019,

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