A post in November this year noted the agreement at General Synod on Monday 11 July 2022 to the Draft Amendments to the Code of Practice issued under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 (GS 2281). These amendments to the CDM Code of Practice provided for the publication of Penalties by Consent in addition to the listing of Tribunal Decisions already in the Church of England website.
Changes to the CDM CoP
Paragraph 8 of GS 2281 indicates that these amendments issued by the CDC “shall come into force on a date for issue appointed by the Clergy Discipline Commission”; in practice, this date was over three months later, on 24 October 2022. The page on the CofE website Penalties by Consent now records the penalties that have been imposed by a bishop or archbishop with the consent of the respondent under section 16 of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 and penalties that have been imposed under section 30 or 31.
In accordance with the amendments of the CDM Code of Practice, the following details are published: the name of the respondent, the date penalty was agreed or imposed and the statutory ground of misconduct. The name of the diocese will also be published.
The Guidance on Penalties issued by the Clergy Discipline Commission (last updated January 2021) indicates:
“Conditional deferment (by consent only): A conditional deferment means that the complaint is kept on file for up to five years, but no other action is taken on it by the bishop unless a further complaint of misconduct is made within that period”.
In many dioceses, the complaint is retained on their web page for five years.
The Right Reverend Peter Hullah
The penalty relating to The Right Reverend Peter Hullah was published before the date upon which the Commission’s policy came into force. The case had been settled on 1 August 2022, when the penalty of prohibition for life was agreed by consent, and having been highlighted by the Daily Mail in November 2022, was published on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website. Unlike subsequent cases, this gives a brief summary of the circumstances giving rise to the prohibition, rather than the section under the CDM under which the penalty was imposed.
Reporting on L&RUK
Penalties by consent will be included in the monthly reports of ecclesiastical judgments; the December report will include the penalties imposed on: The Revd Phil Grieg, Diocese: Canterbury, 7 December 2022; and The Revd Simon Matthews, Diocese of Leicester, 31 October 2022.
Acknowledgements to David Lamming for alerting us to the information provided by Conor Gannon, Secretary to the Clergy Discipline Commission.
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The ‘Penalties by Consent’ page on the C of E website has not yet been updated to include the penalty accepted by the Revd Matthew Barrett of removal from office as rector of St Peter Port Church and vicar of St John’s Church (both in Guernsey) and prohibition from exercising any of the functions of his orders for one year. According to the report on the BBC website (to which a link was given in the C of E Daily Media Digest on 21 December), Mr Barrett “admitted to conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders under the Clergy Discipline (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Order 2006.” The report quotes the Dean of Guernsey, the Ven Tim Barker, as saying: “Because the conduct complained of involves other parties whose privacy must be respected, no further details will be given and speculation is discouraged.”
I am grateful to David Lamming for his comment. However, the publication of penalties imposed by the clergy discipline processes in Guernsey and Jersey are not published on the Church of England website because of the different data protection laws in the two bailiwicks (which are, of course, independent jurisdictions).
Thanks Tim. At the time, I did wonder about the CDM in the bailiwicks…
A further penalty by consent has now been posted on the C of E website:
The Ven SUSAN ELIZABETH FIELD
Date imposed: 4th January 2023
Relevant CDM section: 16(1)
Statutory Ground of Misconduct: s.8(1)(d): Conduct unbecoming & inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders
Penalty: Resignation from office & injunction
Once again, the restricted nature of the posting means that the nature of the archdeacon’s unbecoming conduct is a matter for speculation (though surely it must be known within the diocese). This is not satisfactory: plainly, I suggest, paragraph 312 of the CDM Code of Practice will have to be revisited and revised.
(Wikipedia, which has not yet been updated to include the CDM penalty, informs us that Sue Field has been “Archdeacon Pastor (and Archdeacon of Coventry) in the Diocese of Coventry since 18 March 2018.”)
Wikipedia is maintained by volunteer editors who can only add information with a reliable source. As soon as Field’s actual resignation is announced, the fact can (and will) be added.
Thanks for your Comment Dan. Like Wikipedia, Law and Religion UK is maintained on a voluntary basis by Frank Cranmer and myself, using wherever possible reliable sources of information, ideally with an URL link for use in the text. Although minimal, the information on the penalty by consent for the Ven Sue Field is from the CofE web pages, and no further details are likely to be forthcoming from that source. The penalty was imposed on 4 January 2023, and it seems that she is no longer in post.
On the broader issue of reliable information, Law and Religion UK has been operating since 2012 and last month we passed 2.5 million page views. The site is well regarded by ecclesiastical judges, clergy, academics &c, and may be of use to you on topics in this area.
Regards, David Pocklington
My apologies, David, I didn’t intend any shade to L&R, which is a very valuable resource. Would that every Diocese’s comms team were so diligent!
No problem Dan, no apologies necessary. As a former lobbyist, I’m always keen to push our product – L&RUK!
As the commenter who referred to Wikipedia in my original comment on 22 January, perhaps I should explain that my reference then to Wikipedia having not yet been updated to include mention of the CDM penalty imposed on Susan Field was not intended in any way as a criticism of Wikipedia. Rather, I was highlighting the fact that the limited information about the penalty on the C of E website raised more questions than could be answered by a Google search, and hence the need for the Code of Practice to be varied so as to require inclusion, at least, of the basic factual allegation of the misconduct on which the penalty was based.
Even now, there is nothing on the Coventry diocesan website about the case; only the bare statement that “The Archdeacon Pastor is currently in vacancy.”
I raised the issue of the inadequacy of the information provided on the C of E website with the Clergy Discipline Commission and received this response from the Designated Officer, Edward Dobson, on 31 January 2023: “The Commission met yesterday and considered your request for this to be revisited. The Commission were grateful for the points you raised but were of the view that as the new process for publication only came into force in October of last year it was too soon to revisit the issue. The Commission were satisfied that the new process is working well and accords with Synod’s vote in July.”
It may be that the new process is working well in as much as the strictly limited prescribed details are being posted on the C of E website [on the page now headed “CDM Penalties imposed (under sections: 16 | 30 | 31)”], but this does not meet the objection based on secrecy and lack of transparency. If a CDM case goes to a tribunal hearing, the facts of the case will be made public via the tribunal judgment. Why should a respondent be able to avoid publicity by accepting a penalty by consent, especially where that penalty is or includes a period of prohibition from ministry?
The most recent penalty by consent to be posted on the C of E website is the 5-years prohibition imposed on 7 March 2023 on the Revd Geoffrey Riba-Thompson under section 16(3A) of the Measure. Fr Riba-Thompson is vicar of St Stephen’s Church, Norbury and Thornton Heath, in the Diocese of Southwark, but currently there is nothing on the parish website about the case and Fr Riba-Thompson is still shown as vicar in the Newsletter dated 12.3.2023. What will the congregation be told at the Eucharist tomorrow?