On 11 September 2023, it was announced that the Archbishops’ Council had instructed Sarah Wilkinson, a barrister from Blackstone Chambers, to undertake a review of the first phase of the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB). She is an experienced public law practitioner who has represented the Government both as sole and junior counsel in a wide range of high-profile judicial review cases.
The Archbishops’ Council has asked Ms Wilkinson to establish a clear account of the events from the conception, design and establishment of the ISB until the announcement of the termination of contracts of members, establish and identify the reasons for the action to terminate, and identify lessons to be learned based on the findings.
The review was announced at the General Synod in July by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, and follows the statement issued by the Council on the future of the ISB.
She will complete her review by the end of November and the Council will aim to publish this report as soon as possible following the end of November. This review will also inform the work of Professor Alexis Jay on the future of safeguarding.
The Terms of Reference for the ISB Review are reproduced below.
ISB Terms of Reference
1. Sarah Wilkinson, (“the Reviewer”) and Rhys Jones (“Assistant to the Reviewer”), both barristers at Blackstone Chambers, have been instructed by the Archbishops’ Council to conduct an independent review (“the Review”): a. to use best efforts to establish a clear account of the events from the conception, design and implementation of the ISB, until the announcement of the termination of contracts; b. to use best efforts to establish and identify on the balance of probabilities the reasons for the action to terminate the contracts of the ISB members; c. to identify lessons learnt based on the findings in (a) and (b).
2. The review will not reinvestigate the data breach which was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office on 27 July 2022.
3. A report on the review will be submitted to the Archbishops’ Council on or before 30 November 2023 (“the Report”).
4. The Report will be published.
5. Any documents shared with the Reviewer for the purposes of the Review may be published in the Report unless subject to paragraphs 5(a) and 5(b): a. confidentiality for documents or any part of a document is requested from the Reviewer by the provider of the documents; or b. the relevant part of the document is legally privileged.
6. Any documents shared with the Reviewer for the purposes of the Review will not be shared with anyone else during the Review unless specific permission to do so is granted by the document owner.
7. Interviews may be conducted in person or online.
8. Interviewees will be granted anonymity in the Report if requested and if practical to do so (i.e. their names are not already in the public domain in connection with the ISB).
9. Any information provided anonymously to the Reviewer will be considered but may be given less weight if it cannot be independently verified by the Reviewer.
10. Transcripts of interviews will be retained by the Reviewer and not provided to the Archbishops’ Council.
11. A right of reply will be given to individuals identified in the Report (Maxwellisation). Individuals will be given a draft of the report and asked to comment on any conclusions drawn about them. It is likely that drafts will be provided in the week commencing 13 November 2023 and that comments will need to be returned to the Reviewer within 7 days.
12. All correspondence relevant to the Review should be sent to the Reviewer at email@example.com .