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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

B.5: The Butler-Sloss report

The appointment of Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss

267. In January 2011, Bishop John Hind appointed Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to undertake a review of Mr Roger Meekings’ report into Reverends Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard. In the four months since Mrs Shirley Hosgood had resigned, safeguarding issues continued to dominate the time of senior figures within the Diocese of Chichester. Bishop Hind sought to resolve these issues by way of an “expert independent evaluation of the conflict over the accusations made against Bishop Wallace in the Roger Meekings’ report, accusations which closely echoed Shirley Hosgood’s view”.[1]

268. Bishop Hind decided Lady Butler-Sloss was “the ideal person” to conduct an investigation. As a senior judicial figure who had previously chaired the Cleveland Child Abuse Inquiry and had been the President of the Family Division, he believed she could be trusted to assess matters both forensically and independently. Bishop Hind said his choice of reviewer was motivated by his own inadequacy and “sense of helplessness in taking the Diocese forward”.[2]

269. However, these views were not shared by all members of the Diocese. Prior to her appointment, an email was received by Mr Chris Smith (the Chief of Staff to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time) from Mr Andrew Nunn, who was the Correspondence Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Mr Nunn remarked that Bishop Hind knew Lady Butler‑Sloss personally. In his opinion, the bishop appointed her because “he and Benn will be safe in her hands”.[3]

270. Mr Meekings was also doubtful as to her suitability. In 2002, she had chaired the Appointments Commission charged with the selection of the Archbishop of Canterbury. She also chaired the Advisory Council of St Paul’s Cathedral from 2000 to 2009. Mr Meekings questioned whether she could be truly independent. He suspected that her appointment represented “an attempt to dismiss what I had written and to salvage Bishop Wallace’s reputation and the reputation of the Diocese”.[4]

271. On behalf of victims and survivors at this Inquiry, Mr Scorer compared this to “the church marking its own homework” by selecting its own choice of reviewer. He said the Church of England procured a form of oversight that might be sympathetic to its practices, and so the review could not be regarded as genuinely and wholly independent.[5]

272. Bishop Hind rejected these suggestions, insisting that his “own position was utterly irrelevant”.[6] In his view, a competent reviewer would be capable of separating her personal and professional judgement. He concluded that “if you are going to require total cordons sanitaires around people, they would have to be Martians”.[7]

Conduct of the review

273. At the outset of the review, terms of reference were drafted by Archdeacon Philip Jones. These were then amended by Bishop Hind and agreed by Lady Butler-Sloss, and are set out in an appendix to her report.[8] She was to assess the reasonableness of the findings and recommendations made by Mr Meekings, along with the quality of support offered by the Diocese to victims of abuse.

274. Lady Butler-Sloss conducted her review between January and March 2011. She was supplied with the Past Cases Review and all documentation relating to the Cotton and Pritchard addendum, along with copies of the national and diocesan policies on safeguarding. She was also granted access to individual clergy blue files,[9] held at the Bishop’s Palace in Chichester.[10]

275. Lady Butler-Sloss conducted interviews with a number of senior clergy and diocesan staff. She also interviewed officers from Northamptonshire and Sussex Police. Mr Meekings declined to contribute to the process, stating that he had by this point “lost all faith in the diocesan processes”.[11]

276. According to her report, Lady Butler-Sloss only spoke with one victim as part of her enquiries.[12] This was Mr Philip Johnson, who told us he initiated contact on a number of occasions in an effort to give his account.

277. Lady Butler-Sloss also met with Ms Lawrence, who was Chair of Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) at that time. Ms Lawrence advised her of the serious safeguarding concerns unearthed by MACSAS, which were of potential relevance to her review. At Lady Butler-Sloss’ invitation, MACSAS and Mr Johnson subsequently drafted recommendations for the improvement of safeguarding procedures and response to victims.[13] The vast majority of recommendations proposed by MACSAS and Mr Johnson were adopted by Lady Butler-Sloss and set out in her review.

278. Lady Butler-Sloss attached an addendum to her report in May 2011. This was due to concerns raised about other individuals during her original review. The addendum reviewed the cases of several priests in the Diocese about whom there had been safeguarding issues. Those priests were Jonathan Graves, Gordon Rideout, Robert Coles, Ronald Glazebrook and two alleged perpetrators known as AN-F2 and AN-F3.

Findings of the Butler-Sloss report

279. The full report of Lady Butler-Sloss was dated 19 May 2011. It was critical of both the Church and the police in their handling of non-recent abuse cases.

Lack of understanding of the seriousness of historic child abuse

280. The review found senior clergy were slow to act on the information available to them and to assess potential risk to children in the Diocese. They failed to adequately communicate with Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers regarding allegations of non-recent child abuse, and to recognise the importance of this role insofar as safeguarding was concerned.[14]

281. In his evidence to the Inquiry, Bishop Hind accepted “this was a reasonable conclusion for her to reach” although he added he was married to a child protection professional and did personally appreciate the importance of safeguarding.[15] He said these issues had been greatly improved upon during the last decade. Similarly, Archdeacon Jones told us that the attitude of the Diocese towards victims of abuse had “changed immeasurably” since 2010, with all claims now being treated “openly and fairly, however historical”.[16]

282. The review also found that Sussex Police failed to take seriously disclosures of non-recent abuse.[17] It relied on, for example, the decision not to prosecute Cotton, despite similar accounts of abuse having been given by a number of his victims. DS Hick rejected this, arguing that although “mistakes or errors of judgement may have taken place in particular cases … both the force and the CPT officers took all allegations of child abuse seriously and understood the impact that such offences can have on the victims and others”.[18] It is impossible for us to reach a conclusion about this, given the absence of records from Sussex Police at the time.

Inadequate record-keeping and victim support

283. Lady Butler-Sloss found there was “seriously inadequate record-keeping of important events affecting clergy ministering in the Diocese, and existing records were not checked”.[19] She also identified a failure to respond appropriately to disclosures of abuse and to provide victims with adequate, timely support.

284. Bishop Hind explained that blue files were kept at the Palace, whilst area bishops had their own clergy files. This meant that information on clergy was stored in a number of different places, and there were no dedicated safeguarding files.[20] The report recommended there should be meticulous record-keeping both of issues of safeguarding and general personnel matters. We agree that relevant documentation should be held in the blue file at the Palace and the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser’s safeguarding file, with cross-referencing of important information.

285. As identified by Mrs Edina Carmi in the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) report,[21] recent improvements have been made by Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers. However, there are continuing deficiencies in record-keeping. She emphasised that “each diocese needs to ensure the systems in place are adequate and consistent with national expectations for all recording systems, including case records and clergy files”.[22]

286. The review undertaken by members of the National Safeguarding Panel into the Past Cases Review also identified significant problems with record-keeping.[23] Mr Graham Tilby stated that a national central database is currently being set up to address deficiencies in record-keeping and to provide an accessible record to safeguarding professionals.

287. In addition, training must be put in place to ensure a Church-wide understanding of the system, along with regular auditing to verify that there is a consistency of approach across dioceses. The consequence of this approach, as Mr Tilby observed, is that “the Church as a whole will be in a much better place in terms of oversight of those who may pose a risk … and obviously much better information sharing across the diocese and with the national Church”.[24]

Reverend Roy Cotton’s permission to officiate

288. One area of consideration was Cotton’s permission to officiate (PTO), which was granted upon his retirement in 1999. In her report, Lady Butler-Sloss commented:

A further reason relied upon by WB not to be concerned about the granting of the PTO was the continued ill health of RC and his lack of contact with children. The purpose of the PTO was, according to WB and supported by NR, to permit him to celebrate communion in the nursing home where he was then living.[25]

289. In June 2011, however, Lady Butler-Sloss received a letter from a BBC journalist named Colin Campbell. Following Mr Campbell’s investigations, it transpired that Cotton did not in fact reside in a nursing home at this time and had taken a number of public services. Enquiries conducted by Archdeacon Jones confirmed that Cotton was not transferred to a nursing home until September 2003, some four years after the grant of his permission to officiate.[26]

290. As a result, Lady Butler-Sloss produced an addendum to her report in January 2012. She conceded that she had been given incorrect information by Bishop Wallace Benn and Archdeacon Nicholas Reade about Cotton’s permission to officiate. She noted “I very much regret that I accepted the information I was given and did not make further inquiries”.[27] This incident highlighted a significant difficulty faced by bishops and archdeacons, namely the practical impossibility of monitoring any clergy member with permission to officiate. Lady Butler-Sloss was misled, but it is unclear whether or not this was inadvertent.

Publication of the report

291. Bishop Hind initially expected the report would be confidential to him, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the National Safeguarding Adviser. However, Lady Butler-Sloss made it clear from the outset that she expected her report to be published. She also strongly advised that the Meekings report should be published, so as to enable a proper understanding of her review. At that time, it had not been published because Bishop Benn had threatened legal action.

Implementation of the recommendations

292. The Butler-Sloss review, coupled with the findings of the Meekings report, highlighted numerous shortcomings and failures. Lady Butler-Sloss told us that the combination of both reports “sent a real shock throughout the Diocese”.[28] Archdeacon Jones described her conclusions as “a welcome prompt to move to a point where the Diocese operated to the highest possible standard in safeguarding terms”.[29]

293. Shortly after completion of the review, Mr Colin Perkins was appointed as Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. Bishop Hind said he “very quickly established an extremely collaborative style” and had “every confidence” that the recommendations would be fully implemented under Mr Perkins’ oversight.[30]

294. We have seen a schedule prepared by Mr Perkins, in which he helpfully detailed the acceptance and implementation of all recommendations made by Lady Butler-Sloss.[31] For example, he noted that since 2011 there had been a substantial increase in the financial budget for the safeguarding team. The team had therefore significantly expanded its membership, with the addition of a victim-support specialist and three full-time caseworkers. Since 2012, training on allegations management has been provided to approximately 1,200 key parish personnel across the Diocese. According to Mr Perkins, the value of the recommendations was in “providing a public endorsement for good practice from a source accepted as authoritative by those outside the professional safeguarding sphere”.[32]

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