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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report

Contents

B.2.2: Internal reporting and investigation

Table 1: Safeguarding concerns or allegations regarding child sexual abuse

2015 2016 2017 2018
Total number of safeguarding concerns about children 1,052 1,342 1,257 1,209
Number of above related to sexual abuse 578 838 668 607
Number of above related to sexual abuse by church officers 493 537 457 210
Percentage reported to statutory authorities 34% 32% 32% 33%

Sources: ACE027643_075-080 and ACE027812

4. The Church’s internal procedures for responding to allegations are set out in separate practice guidance, one for church officers and another for volunteers.

The process for responding to safeguarding concerns relating to church officers

The process for responding to safeguarding concerns relating to church officers

Source: Based on Responding to, Assessing and Managing Safeguarding Concerns or Allegations against Church Officers (October 2017) ACE025256_024

The process for responding to safeguarding concerns relating to volunteers

The process for responding to safeguarding concerns relating to volunteers

Source: Based on Responding to Safeguarding Concerns (2018) ACE026719_013

5. Both policies require that, within 24 hours of receipt, a safeguarding concern or allegation against a church officer or volunteer must be reported to the diocesan safeguarding adviser (DSA). The DSA will then conduct an initial review to determine whether the threshold has been met for referral to external statutory agencies.[1] The efficacy of the DSA’s response is dependent upon being given appropriate information in a timely manner.

6. If statutory agency involvement is not required but a safeguarding issue is identified, the Church will conduct an internal investigation. This will assess the level of risk posed by the alleged perpetrator and establish his or her suitability to fulfil a Church role.[2] It is undertaken through the Church’s core group process, which was established in June 2015.[3] Its function is to:

oversee and manage the response to a safeguarding concern or allegation in line with House of Bishops’ policy and practice guidance, ensuring that the rights of the victim/survivor and the respondent to a fair and thorough investigation can be preserved”.[4]

7. Within 48 hours of receiving a relevant concern or allegation, the DSA must convene a core group. Members may include church officers from the parish or cathedral, diocesan officers and national bodies officers.[5] The diocesan bishop and the archbishop are excluded as members of the core group, in order not to compromise potential decisions about disciplinary matters.[6]

8. Consideration should always be given to suspension of a church officer for the duration of any investigation.

It should be emphasised suspension is an entirely neutral act and is a precautionary to ensure cases can be investigated in a dispassionate manner and to protect all parties involved.[7]

Members of clergy can be suspended after arrest, complaint or where the bishop is satisfied on the basis of information from a local authority that the member of clergy presents a significant risk of harm.[8]

9. If there are ongoing statutory investigations, the core group will be “informed by the recommendations from the statutory agencies”.[9]

10. Where there is no statutory agency involvement, the core group identifies lines of enquiry to be followed by the DSA, who produces an investigation report.[10] The core group makes an assessment of the facts, in light of the DSA’s report, and decides whether there is a case to answer, the case is unsubstantiated … or the case is manifestly false or unfounded”.[11]

11. Where there is evidence of ongoing safeguarding concerns, a risk assessment will be undertaken to inform the contents of a safeguarding agreement. For clergy, the core group should consider whether to recommend disciplinary action to the bishop.[12]

12. The core group process has led to improvements across dioceses in safeguarding decision-making, as Archbishop John Sentamu agreed.[13] In its Final Overview Report published April 2019, the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) described it as “a helpful process in managing responses”.[14] However, SCIE identified that there have sometimes been delays in convening groups.

13. In addition, SCIE found that core groups were not always convened across the Church, due to uncertainty amongst some as to what constitutes a church officer.[15] Mrs Edina Carmi agreed that the Church of England’s policy lacked clarity about who is a church officer and, as a result, the response of the Church can be inconsistent from diocese to diocese.[16]

14. In one case, she praised the decision of the DSA to take a broad interpretation of church officer[17] and to focus on what a child may think: “would a child look at an individual and think that they were part of the church and, therefore, might they assume that the individual was ‘safe’”.[18] The national safeguarding adviser, Mr Graham Tilby, agreed that this was a good approach to the question of who is a church officer.[19] In its closing submissions to the Inquiry, the Church accepted that if there is any doubt as to whether or not someone is carrying out the role of a church officer, a core group should generally be convened and that the guidance should make this clear.[20]

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