Skip to main content

0800 917 1000 Open weekdays 8am-10pm, Saturday 10am-12pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report

Contents

B.5.4: Mandatory reporting

The Church’s requirement to report

26. There is no absolute duty in canon law for clergy to follow safeguarding guidance issued by the House of Bishops, However, under Canon C30 all clergy must have “due regard” to the guidance. Failure to do so is a disciplinary offence.[1] The Church considers this to amount to some form of mandatory reporting.

27. As observed by Bishop Alan Wilson, due regard “does not impose a sufficiently unambiguous obligation on individuals to report”.[2] As discussed above, the Inquiry recognised a need for greater clarity regarding the sense of the obligation and recommended that the language of Canon C30 be amended.[3]

Mandatory reporting under the general law

28. The government conducted a consultation process in 2016, in which it sought views on the introduction of a statutory mandatory reporting duty in the general law of England and Wales. This would require specified practitioners or organisations to report child abuse or neglect to statutory authorities, if they knew or had reasonable cause to suspect it was taking place. Failure to comply would be a criminal offence.[4]

29. As set out in the consultation report (published in March 2018), only 12 percent of respondents supported the introduction of mandatory reporting.[5]

  • 49 percent of respondents believed that mandatory reporting could lead to greater prevention and awareness of abuse and neglect;
  • 66 percent of respondents considered that increased reporting may divert attention from the most serious cases; and
  • 29 percent were also concerned about the increased pressure on resources.

The government therefore declined to introduce any change to the law in this area.

Views on mandatory reporting

30. During its three public hearings, the Inquiry heard widespread support for a mandatory reporting law with failures to comply being enforced through the criminal law.

31. This was prominent amongst victims and survivors, some of whom described the need for legislative change as “a no-brainer”.[6] For example:

  • AN-A4 said that mandatory reporting “has to be the bedrock for the future”.[7]
  • AN-A88 thought that it would cause “fewer problems for people because there’s no decision to be made. You don’t have to think, ‘Is this something that I should do or something that I shouldn’t do?’ You do it.[8]
  • Reverend Matthew Ineson noted that a mandatory reporting law would make it a matter of routine to “pick the phone up to the police”.[9]

32. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York both endorsed a mandatory reporting law. Archbishop Justin Welby told us he was “convinced that we need to move to mandatory reporting for regulated activities and that he would “firmly believe in a disciplinary sanction”.[10] Archbishop Sentamu said that there is:

no doubt in my mind that mandatory reporting could give more confidence to survivors that the matter will not be swept under the carpet”.[11]

33. There were conflicting views, however, as to what should be reported, to whom and when. Some victims and survivors advocated the introduction of a law:

that compels those in regulated organisations … to inform, as soon as reasonably possible, a safeguarding service and also external agencies such as the police, whenever they believe a child has been abused, or they have been told by a child that he or she has been abused”.[12]

A failure to report would be a criminal offence, creating “a culture of disclosure” and making people feel normal when they disclose, rather than feeling that by disclosing allegations they are doing something abnormal”.[13] This was supported by Canon Dr Bursell QC, who told us that there should be mandatory reporting, backed by criminal sanctions, where there is a “reasonable suspicion” of abuse.[14] The Archbishops’ Council observed that this might act as a disincentive to those considering work in social care professions.[15]

34. The view was also expressed that mandatory reporting might lead to additional administration and an increase in referrals. The Charity Commission was concerned that this could overwhelm smaller agencies without “additional resources to risk assess and handle the increased volume of reports”.[16] An increase in referrals could divert attention from the most serious cases, and could lead to a “tick-box approach with the sole objective being to obtain legal immunity rather than identifying the key cases. The Charity Commission therefore supported a criminal offence of deliberately concealing child sexual abuse, to “address deliberate non-compliance”.[17]

Back to top