Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Jerseys Anglican Church: Some Problems with Safeguarding


Clergy and senior lay leaders in Jersey's Anglican Church have had training in protecting islanders from abuse, the Bishop of Dover said. The Right Reverend Trevor Willmott said new safeguarding measures are in place to reassure everyone in the church. It follows a decision by the church's governing body - the Synod - that improvements must be made. Bishop Willmott said there was no question in his mind that "God's people are safe in this island".

-- BBC News

What would be useful to know, in the interests of transparency, would be the enhanced policies and procedures. I’ve had a look at the Town church website, and the only thing remotely connected is in the diary where there are “safeguarding training and lunches”.

There is no safeguarding officer to contact in the list of contacts, no safeguarding policies on the website, and no indication of these new improvements at all, no links to safeguarding elsewhere (such as Dover) - or, for that matter, what training consisted of, or what they had for lunch!

Now pretty well any club or organisation which deals with children and vulnerable adults has a policy on their website, but the Anglican Church in Jersey does not. We have no idea how complaints will be handled, whether minutes of meetings will be kept, whether it will be ensured that vulnerable adults will have someone they trust in attendance.

[As an insert, I have been informed that St Brelade's Church will be making a copy of the policy available at the back of the church on the notice board.]

It is also not clear how the church would act to implement the policies anyway. Part of the problem, both locally and in the UK, has been the way that in local communities, it is difficult to find someone outside and independent to look into these matters.

As one English survivor, called CF, said of her case:

"An abuse policy that does not have a clearly stated process of implementation is effectively worthless. A vulnerable person or an abused person by definition has no power in the Church. This means that someone with power has to make a decision to implement the policy, but to do this they have to suspend their total and complete faith in the priest or other person concerned."

There is a link to the Canons of the Church of England in Jersey on the Town Church website, and it is here that some interesting notes on safeguarding arise as the local Canons differ from the English Canon Law.

Let us look at changes to Canon Law to improve safeguarding in England:

On 16 February 2015, David Pocklingtom reported on changes taking place to Canon Law in England. This is what he noted:

At General Synod on 12 February, Mr Geoffrey Tattersall introduced the main provisions of the Draft PCCs: There was agreement that the disqualification and suspension provisions for PCC members should mirror those in relation to churchwardens. Furthermore, a bishop should also be empowered to suspend PCC secretaries and treasurers who are not PCC members.

(GS 1952A) and the draft Amending Canon No.34 (GS 1953A) – Draft Measure and draft Amending Canon for Revision. The main points identified in his speech are summarized below, and the Report by the Revision Committee is available as GS 1952-3Y.

The main provisions of the draft Measure are:

Suspension of a priest: Section 36(1) of the Clergy Discipline Measure already provides for the suspension of a priest or deacon when disciplinary proceedings are commenced or he/she is arrested on suspicion of committing a criminal offence, is convicted of certain offences, or included on a barred list.

Clause 1(1) of the draft Measure adds a power to suspend where the bishop is satisfied on information provided by the police or local authority that a priest or deacon presents a significant risk of harm – as defined in clause 1(2) – but before suspending the bishop is required to consult at the very least the diocesan safeguarding advisor. Such suspension continues for 3 months but may be renewed.

Churchwardens: The current clause 2 of the draft Measure provides for the disqualification and suspension of churchwardens. Mr Tattersall highlighted that:

Although the initial draft provided for a waiver of disqualification, the Revision Committee was persuaded that any such waiver required further clarity. Consequently clause 2(2) provides that before giving any waiver the bishop must at the very least consult the diocesan safeguarding advisor, and must give reasons for any such waiver, and that any such waiver will be of unlimited duration and have effect in every diocese;

As to suspension, the Committee agreed that a bishop should not only have power to suspend a churchwarden in the circumstances set out the present clause 2(5) of the draft Measure: i.e. if arrested on suspicion of committing a Schedule 1 offence, but also if the bishop was satisfied that the churchwarden presents a significant risk of harm.

And the draft Measure states this:

A relevant person must have due regard to guidance issued by the House of Bishops on matters relating to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults.

(2) Each of the following is a relevant person—
(a) a clerk in Holy Orders who is authorised to officiate in accordance with the canons of the Church of England;
(b) a diocesan, suffragan or assistant bishop;
(c) an archdeacon;
(d) a person who is licensed to exercise the office of reader or serve as a lay worker;
(e) a churchwarden;
(f) a parochial church council.

(1) In this Measure, “child” means a person aged under 18.
(2) In this Measure, “vulnerable adult” means a person aged 18 or over whose ability to protect himself or herself from violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation is significantly impaired through physical or mental disability or illness, old age, emotional fragility or distress, or otherwise.

Given that part of the reason for the split between Jersey and Winchester arose from a complaint made by a lady called HG about a churchwarden, these changes in England’s Canon Law - which mention churchwardens - need to be replicated in Jersey.

Remember what the report said about the Churchwarden (EY):

"E.Y.'s behaviour towards women had been a matter of concern at St X for some time with comments about it coming from various sources. In a telephone call to the Safeguarding Advisor J.F. in December 2008 the Dean R.K. says that E.Y. had been spoken to about the fact he is too tactile, stands too close to women, touches too much/inappropriately. His manner was deemed to be inappropriate to such an extent that he was chaperoned within the church when in close proximity to women. This was an informal but explicit policy of the parish and at interview the Dean of Jersey acknowledged that it was known to him."

What is missing, therefore, from the Bishop’s statement is:

1. Policy and procedure documents available online in the public domain, including contacts and how to report a complaint.

2. Changes to Jersey Canon Law to bring it in line with England’s new safeguarding measures.

3. Clearly the informal policy described above should not be tolerated, but it would be good to have that made explicit as well.

Without those changes, the statement by the Bishop of Dover, that "God's people are safe in this island" seems rather hollow. It leaves significant gaps which still need to be rectified if that statement is to be made good.

1 comment:

Póló said...

Jersey would also have to clear up the distinction between the sacred and the profane, given the Dean's dual role in church and parliament and those elements of his appointment that do not come via the Bishop.

Should be fun.