Friday, September 04, 2015

Submission to Consultation on Safeguarding

Response by Simon Taylor (Derby 106) to the Archbishops’ Council’s Consultation on Safeguarding (Annex to GS 1896). 

1. Following the debate of the General Synod in July 2013, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the consultation initiated in the Annex to GS 1896. 

2. As well as serving as a member of the General Synod, I am a member of the Safeguarding Committee of Derby Cathedral as the clergyperson nominated by Chapter to serve on that Committee. I have a brief for the implementation of the Safeguarding policies of the Chapter. 

3. The consultation asks for views on six issues. I have set out the issues and my responses below: 

1. Amending the CDM to remove the limitation period for a complaint alleging misconduct of a sexual nature involving a child – and possibly vulnerable adults as defined in GS Misc 837, so that a complaint may be made notwithstanding more than 12 months has lapsed since the misconduct occurred. 

4. “Misconduct of a sexual nature involving a child” would seem to come into the category of those offences that would allow the President of a Tribunal to allow a complaint ‘out of time’ in the interests of justice. 

5. Nevertheless, given that it can take twenty years or longer for victims of sexual abuse to report that abuse, it would seem right that the discretionary element of this power should be removed. Child sexual abuse should be excluded from the requirements that a complaint should be brought within a 12 month period of the offence being committed. This may have the desirable effect of enabling abuse to be reported. 

6. I would also support an exclusion from the required time period of sexual abuse committed against vulnerable adults. 

7. The definition of ‘Vulnerable Adult’ in Promoting a Safe Church (GS Misc 837) would provide a good definition on which to base this change to the Clergy Discipline Measure. 

8. This would not cover all cases of sexual misconduct with adults. However it would be a great improvement on the current situation. The discretion available to the President of the Tribunal would remain for additional cases. 

2. Amending the CDM so that the bishop has power to suspend a priest or deacon whenever a written application seeking to make a complaint out of time is submitted by a complainant to the President of Tribunals, providing the bishop forms the view that suspension is necessary pending the President’s decision. 

9. This power would not be necessary in relation to the sexual abuse of children if the above changes are implemented. 

10. In the case of the sexual abuse of vulnerable adults it would remain necessary as not all cases might be covered by the removal of the time limitations for the tightly defined category of vulnerable adults (from Promoting a Safe Church). 

11. I would, therefore, support this extension of the Bishop’s power to suspend to all cases asking for consideration ‘out of time’ as the fairest means of delivering this. 

12. I would support the proposal for the shape of the extension to the bishop’s power to suspend as set out in paragraph 19 of the consultation document. 

3. Amending Canon law to enable the bishop to direct that a priest or deacon must submit to a risk assessment to determine whether there is a significant risk that the cleric may commit in the future misconduct of a safeguarding nature; failure to comply with the direction without reasonable excuse would be misconduct under the CDM. 

13. I am very nervous about this third proposal. As the consultation document states, “any procedure of this kind would rightly have to include substantial safeguards for clerics subjected to it” (paragraph 38). 

14. The consultation document sets out a detailed consideration of how canon law might be amended to enable this proposal. Yet it offers no detail at all as to what ‘substantial safeguards’ would have to be put in place. 

15. If the Archbishops’ Council is to proceed with this proposal, then the “narrow test” suggested by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commissaries to the Diocese of Chichester should be used. That is to say that the only circumstances in which a risk assessment could be required of a cleric is when they are “credibly suspected of sexual abuse”. 

16. The extension of this to “relevant conduct” in the consultation document (paragraph 24) appears to allow an indiscriminate and disproportionate use of the requirement of a risk assessment. 

17. There is also an apparent danger of a risk assessment being used as a ‘fishing trip’ to uncover actionable behaviour. 

18. Should risk assessments be used in the way considered, then care must be taken that they are performed by reputable bodies and offer a credible assessment of risk. Reference to appropriate professional bodies and an independent confirmation of the credibility of both the assessor and the method of assessment would be needed. 

19. Provision to ensure that this is at all times a clear and transparent process would need to be made. 

20. Given the lack of detail in relation to the ‘substantial safeguards’ this proposal would require, I hope that the Archbishops’ Council would bring more detailed proposals back for consultation before proceeding to legislate. 

21. It would also be helpful to know what constitutes good practice in relation to risk assessments and the relevant legal safeguards in other professions, such as teaching and social care. When bringing more detailed proposals for further consultation, it would be very helpful if such information could be provided. 

4. Amending canon law to prevent clergy from robing in church during the time of divine service when they are prohibited under the CDM from exercising any of the functions of their Orders and to prevent clergy with the cure of souls from allowing them so to robe. In addition the Council would be grateful for views on whether it should be unlawful for suspended clergy to robe during divine service. 

22. Clerical vestment, that is the wearing of clerical robes in divine service, is a part of the public ministry of a cleric. 

23. Part of the meaning of prohibition or suspension is the withdrawal from public ministry. It seems inconsistent for a cleric to withdraw from public ministry except during divine service. 

24. I therefore support the proposal to amend canon law to prevent prohibited clergy from robing for divine service. 

25. In order to enable this, I support the proposal to amend canon law to prevent clergy with the cure of souls from knowingly allowing them so to robe. 

26. I also think it right that suspended clergy should not be allowed to robe during diving service as it is part of the suspension from public ministry. It is no more in tension with the notice of suspension’s statement (that it does not mean a view has been formed as to whether the complaint is true or likely to be true) than withdrawal from any other aspect of public ministry. 

27. I hope that the Archbishops’ Council will go further and reconsider the Commissaries’ proposal that “Those who are suspended or prohibited should not be permitted to wear any clerical dress on any occasion” (Interim report, Recommendations to the National Church, p. 46). 

28. The consultation document has misgivings about this, but it seems entirely consistent with the meaning of prohibition or suspension as to do with the withdrawal from public ministry. The ‘dog-collar’ is a public statement of ordination, and hence should be included in the meaning of prohibition or suspension. 

29. Both prohibition and suspension are positive actions that have to be enacted upon a cleric. I can see no reason, therefore, why a retired cleric should not be able to wear a clerical collar as a member of the congregation unless they have been positively prohibited or suspended. In this respect the Commissaries’ recommendations are both clear and correct. 

30. There are two minor amendments to the Commissaries’ recommendation in this respect that may be required. 

31. First, it may be helpful to explain that ‘clerical dress’ includes clerical collars. This does not define ‘clerical dress’, an impossibility in the Church of England, but it does make it clear that certain things at least are included in the prohibition. 

32. Second, clergy who are suspended should be permitted to wear a clerical collar at any hearing relating to the alleged offences for which they have been suspended. This is a slight amendment to the Commissaries’ proposed prohibition “on any occasion”. 

5. Amending Canon C 8 so that (i) only clergy with a bishop’s licence or permission may be invited by a priest with the cure of souls to officiate, and (ii) clergy who have cure of souls shall not allow clergy without a bishop’s licence to permission to robe or officiate within their own church or chapel. 

33. Canon C 8 2 (a) provides that “The minister having the cure of souls of a church or chapel … may allow a minister, concerning whom they are satisfied either by actual personal knowledge or by good and sufficient evidence that he is of good life and standing and otherwise qualified under this Canon, to minister within their church or chapel for a period of not more than seven days within three months without reference to the bishop or other Ordinary”. 

34. The Commissaries’ Interim report is concerned that some clergy have allowed others to officiate in their parishes without a proper license or permission to officiate (Interim Report, p. 23). 

35. The consultation document is concerned that “there is no definition in the canon for the meaning of ‘good life and standing’” (paragraph 48). 

36. The approach I think best would be to amend Canon C 8 so that it is clear on the face of the Canon that a cleric who has been prohibited or suspended under the Clergy Discipline Measure cannot be allowed to minister, even in a temporary capacity. This would seem to meet all the concerns in relation to safeguarding without imposing further restrictions on the minister with the cure of souls. 

37. The concern of the consultation document that “in practice this provision [Canon C 8 2 (a)] can enable a priest to minister when his authority to do so has been withdrawn on safeguarding grounds by a bishop” (paragraph 49) would be met by this introduction of clarity. 

38. Requiring the production of a licence or PTO prior to ministering in a church or chapel would not prevent the possibility of the production of such documents by a prohibited or a suspended cleric without reference to the prohibition or suspension. 

39. As a matter of good practice, ministers with the cure of souls who do allow others to minister in their church or chapel should be able to justify the ‘actual personal knowledge’ or the ‘good and sufficient evidence’ on which they base their decision. The Canon could be amended to include the requirement for justification. 

40. Such an approach would enable the Canon to be amended so that clergy with the cure of souls are prohibited to knowingly allow clergy who have been prohibited or suspended under the CDM to minister in their church or chapel. 

6. Amending the Churchwardens Measure 2001 and the Church Representation Rules so that: (i) a person who is on a barred list under the SVGA is disqualified from serving as churchwarden or as a member of a PCC, district council or synod; (ii) any person convicted of an offence mentioned in section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is disqualified from being a member of the PCC; and (iii) a bishop has power, pending criminal proceedings, to suspend a church warden or member of a PCC who is arrested on suspicion of committing an offence mentioned in schedule 1 to the Children and Young Persons Act. 

41. Given that members of the PCC (including ex officio members) are responsible for enduring that safeguarding policies are implemented, it seems appropriate to prevent barred or convicted offenders from serving on that body (including as an officer who is ex officio on that body). 

42. The consultation document is concerned that “a PCC would not be entitled to apply under the SVGA to the Disclosure and Barring Service for in formation as to whether any of its members had been barred” (Paragraph 57). This is, of course, a challenge to the Church of England in relation to all Safeguarding checks. 

43. This concern, whilst real, is similar to that of the prohibition of those disqualified from being a charity trustee from standing or being elected. I know of few parishes that would routinely screen those standing for election for such disqualification. Yet if the information comes to light subsequently, they are immediately seen as disqualified without further action being required. Requirements in relation to PCC members and Church Wardens being disqualified if they are on a barred list could function in a similar way. 

An Additional Suggestion 

44. In addition to the six proposals made by the consultation document, I would be grateful if the Council would consider an addition. 

45. My suggestion is that training in safeguarding at an appropriate level for (i) assistant clergy, (ii) clergy with the cure of souls and (iii) the senior staff of a Diocese should be made compulsory. 

46. There is provision within Common Tenure for this to happen. My Statement of Particulars says that “You are required by Regulation 19 to participate in arrangements approved by the Diocesan Bishop for your continuing ministerial development”. 

47. It should be possible to either (i) require Diocesan Bishops to require their clergy to undergo appropriate safeguarding training; or (ii) amend the relevant legislation to allow the Archbishop or some other body to require tenured clergy to undergo appropriate training. 

48. I am very grateful to the Council for the opportunity to contribute to this consultation. 

The Revd Canon Dr Simon Taylor

Member of the General Synod (Derby 106)
Canon Chancellor, Derby Cathedral and member of the Chapter’s Safeguarding Committee
Continuing Ministerial Development Officer (Clergy), the Diocese of Derby

25th September, 2013

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