CDM: publication of penalties

Background

In our analysis of the Annual Report of the Clergy Discipline Commission in 2018, (17 July 2019), we noted that the Code of Practice then stated:

“[265]. If a penalty is imposed on a priest or deacon other than after a determination by a tribunal, the penalty and brief particulars of the misconduct should be announced publicly”.

Nevertheless, the practice within the dioceses was not consistent; the web sites of some included notices of findings and penalties given to diocesan clergy, whereas others maintained a register of penalties imposed by the diocesan and area bishops in cases where there has been no tribunal; although accessible, this was held by the Registrar. At the time we suggested that in the interests of transparency, each diocese should adopt the more detailed format of reporting.

Agreed changes

At the General Synod on Monday 11 July 2022, the Draft Amendments to the Code of Practice issued under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 (GS 2281) – Amendments to Code of Practice under section 39 of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 was approved. With regard to the publication of penalties, paragraph 311 of the CoP was deleted and in paragraph 312:

(a) after “Where a penalty by consent has been agreed with the bishop” insert “, or archbishop, or a penalty under section 30 or 31 has been imposed,”;

(b) for the words “on the diocese’s website” substitute “on the Church of England website. The diocesan or provincial registrar should notify the President of Tribunals and send a copy of the Form 7 along with any further information necessary in order for the details to be published. The President will then cause the following to be published: the name of the respondent, the date penalty was agreed or imposed, the statutory ground of  misconduct.”

The amendments to the Code of Practice come into force “on a date for issue appointed by the Clergy Discipline Commission”. The latest changes to the on-line version of the CoP were made on in April 2021.

Recent events

It appears that the agreed changes to the Code of Practice have not been implemented. However, some dioceses, such as Oxford currently include notices of findings and penalties given to clergy under the CDM. This notes:

“In accordance with guidance issued by the Clergy Discipline Commission a Register of Penalties imposed by the Diocesan and Area Bishops in cases where there has been no Tribunal is published here.

Our policy is to remove notices of findings and penalties given to clergy in the Diocese of Oxford one year after the period of prohibition has ended. Where a rebuke has been given, this will be shown on the site for 12 months following the date of rebuke and then removed.

Records of Tribunal decisions can be accessed on the Church of England website and guidance on penalties is published by the Clergy Discipline Commission.”

This week, the issue of the publication of penalties was raised in relation to The Right Reverend Peter Hullah, former Bishop of Ramsbury. This was highlighted by the  Daily Mail on Tuesday evening. The case was brought under the Clergy Discipline Measure but had been settled on 1 August 2022, when the penalty of prohibition for life was agreed by consent.

As the Church Times observed:

“Before [the July Synod decision] only penalties by consent against a lower-ranked cleric were required to be published, not sanctions agreed between a bishop and an archbishop. Because the case against Bishop Hullah was settled after the Synod had voted to amend the Code of Practice but before the Clergy Discipline Commission rubber-stamped the changes, it was unclear whether, when, and where, the notice had to be posted.”

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "CDM: publication of penalties" in Law & Religion UK, 25 November 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/11/25/cdm-publication-of-penalties/