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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report

Contents

C.3: Safeguarding in the Church in Wales

Safeguarding personnel

9. Each parish in Wales has a parish safeguarding officer.[1]

10. In addition, as at July 2019, the Church has two part-time provincial safeguarding officers (PSOs); all dioceses should refer all cases to the PSOs for management. PSOs provide day-to-day management and advice on safeguarding issues, and deal with attendance agreements, including for convicted perpetrators, and with managing cases relating to vulnerable adults. While calls to the PSO about child sexual abuse are infrequent, we were told that two officers were not enough, particularly given the large geographic area to cover.[2] In July 2019, a full-time safeguarding manager commenced work, but it is not yet clear whether this will be sufficient to meet demand.[3]

11. Cathedrals in Wales are treated as any other church in the diocese for safeguarding purposes. As a result, they are also subject to the oversight of the PSOs and must comply with the relevant guidelines produced by the diocese or archdiocese.[4] The cathedrals of St Woolos, Newport and Llandaff share two named safeguarding officers (who are volunteers) and have participated in recent Safe Church training.[5]

12. The Church in Wales has a safeguarding panel, appointed by the Standing Committee of the Governing Body, which meets approximately every six weeks. It has a lay chair (currently a former chief constable) and the majority of members are lay people, including social work professionals, two GPs and a retired teacher. All safeguarding cases are referred to the panel, with reports (including recommendations) prepared by the PSOs.[6] The panel makes decisions and follows up to make sure that they have been implemented.[7] Mrs Edina Carmi (an independent safeguarding consultant, who conducted an analysis of case files to assess the management of safeguarding in practice on behalf of this Inquiry) commended the use of the Provincial Safeguarding Panel, which is utilised in each safeguarding case.[8]

13. Where risk assessments are recommended, they are undertaken by an independent organisation.[9]

14. When required, an offender management plan is prepared by the PSO, and is signed by the PSO, the parish priest, the offender and the offender manager. A plan will usually be reviewed annually but, if an offender is considered higher risk, it may be reviewed more regularly. It may also be reviewed less frequently (every three years) if an individual is considered low risk. This reflects the volume of work of PSOs, but in those low risk cases the PSOs will review annually with the parish priest and the probation service to confirm if there have been any issues.[10]

15. Currently, the advice of the Provincial Safeguarding Team to clergy in individual cases is a recommendation. Archbishop John Davies, the Archbishop of the Church in Wales, said that he would like to see it become mandatory, although personally he could not imagine ignoring the advice given.[11]

Safeguarding policies

16. The Church’s first safeguarding policy – Children and Young People: a Code of Practice for use by parishes in the Church in Wales – was developed in 2000.[12] As a result of the Church in Wales’ Historic Cases Review in 2009 (discussed below), it was agreed that this text was obsolete and not sufficiently comprehensive.

17. The Church in Wales commissioned an independent consultant to prepare a “fit for purpose whole of Wales safeguarding policy” in 2014, combining policies for children and vulnerable adults, in accordance with Welsh legislation (the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014).[13] This became the Church in Wales’ Safeguarding Policy in 2016, which is reviewed annually by a committee of human resources and safeguarding professionals.[14]

18. The safeguarding policy requires the early involvement of the PSO, who then coordinates the Church’s response.[15] It is the responsibility of the safeguarding team to report allegations of child sexual abuse to statutory authorities. While there are no formal timescales for referrals, we were told that referrals to social services or the police would be done on the same day if possible.[16]

19. There are 22 unitary authorities in Wales, with at least five local bases in each. The PSO must contact the correct base to speak to the duty officer (who changes twice a day). We were told that this creates inconsistency, which the PSO thought was “quite worrying”.[17]

20. Where a referral is made to social services and a multi-agency investigation commences, the Church in Wales may attend the strategy meetings if invited to do so.

21. There are also no information-sharing protocols in place with either the police or social services. The Church recognises that this is an issue, as currently it relies on personal networks.[18]

Record-keeping

22. Each member of clergy has a personal file, which contains their career history from preparation for ordination to the end of their ministry. There is a ‘no destruction’ policy for these files, as the information is considered to be vital to the ongoing ministry development of the individual concerned.

23. If clergy move from the Church of England to the Church in Wales (which is common), the Church in Wales will not necessarily receive the English clergy file (known as the ‘blue file’). There are no clear protocols for sharing such information. Some dioceses send the original file or a copy of it; others do not. A file may be incomplete. As Archbishop Davies commented, this practice is “unsatisfactory and inconsistent”.[19] The Church in Wales indicated to the Inquiry that it hopes to enter into a formal information-sharing agreement with the Church of England to allow a more consistent sharing of personal data between the two churches.[20]

24. The clergy personal files are kept by the diocesan bishop, and only the bishop has access to them. Access may be granted upon request, for example, to disciplinary tribunals and safeguarding officers.[21] Following the Inquiry’s hearing, the Church in Wales drafted a new clergy personal file policy, to allow access to personal files by PSOs.[22]

25. Ms Fay Howe, the current PSO, accepted that the current record-keeping system for referrals to the PSO needed a complete overhaul and that the current system was “in the dark ages”.[23] She said that a central record-keeping service would make it easier to access relevant information.[24]

Clergy discipline

26. Discipline in the Church in Wales is carried out by a disciplinary tribunal. The bishops are not involved in the investigative process or in decision-making.[25] The tribunal has 24 members (six appointed by the Bench of Bishops, 12 members of the clergy, two legally qualified lay members, two lay members who are either medically qualified or a trained counsellor, and two lay members of the Church in Wales), each holding office for five years.[26] The tribunal’s powers apply to bishops and the Archbishop, as well as parish priests.[27]

27. The disciplinary process involves a number of steps.

27.1. If a complaint is made about the conduct of a member of clergy (whether written or oral), it is referred immediately to the registrar of the tribunal who undertakes a triage system within the provincial office to determine the relevant next step. If there is a safeguarding element, the safeguarding panel may become involved (irrespective of whether any disciplinary action takes place) and insurers may need to be notified, alongside investigatory work.[28]

27.2. After triage, cases of clergy discipline are formalised in writing and sent to the registrar of the tribunal. An investigatory committee may be formed to decide whether there is a case to answer. The committee includes legally or medically qualified individuals, as well as clergy.[29]

27.3. The tribunal may suspend anyone under investigation until the hearing and determination of a complaint.[30] (Currently, the Archbishop does not have the power to suspend another bishop at any stage, although the Church in Wales is considering this.[31])

27.4. At the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing, the tribunal may impose a range of sanctions, including absolute or conditional discharge, rebuke, inhibition, disqualification, deprivation or suspension of their office, and deposition from holy orders and expulsion as clergy from the Church in Wales.[32] Deposition is used by the Church in Wales for individuals convicted of child sexual abuse.[33]

27.5. Until 2017, an individual was no longer subject to disciplinary rules if they resigned from office. Since then, even if an individual resigns, the disciplinary process will continue.[34]

28. In 2017, a report was prepared into the disciplinary process by a working group. The working group made eight recommendations, including to:

Retain the right of the Bishop to make such referrals [to the disciplinary tribunal] … the Chair of the Safeguarding Panel and/or the Chair of the Representative Body should also be able to draw matters to the attention of the Archbishop’s Registrar who may also refer matters to the President of the Tribunal”.[35]

29. Five members of clergy in the Church in Wales have been the subject of disciplinary proceedings related to child sexual abuse.[36]

29.1. In 2003, Canon Lawrence Davies was deposed from holy orders following conviction for sexual assault against boys.[37]

29.2. In 2004, Reverend Darryl Gibbs was convicted of two offences of making indecent photographs of children and conditionally discharged for 12 months in respect of each offence (to run concurrently). He was also prevented from exercising his ministry as a priest for eight years.[38]

29.3. In 2006, a priest was accused of indecent assault and rape of a child. The CPS did not prosecute but the disciplinary tribunal found the allegations proved on a balance of probabilities and ordered the individual to be deposed from holy orders. Following an appeal to the Provincial Court of the Church in Wales, he was reinstated but ordered that he would not be permitted to officiate without a risk assessment. The same priest was referred to the tribunal again in 2015 for failing to report abuse by another to the police. The Archbishop of Wales dismissed the argument that the seal of the confessional provided a defence. On appeal the Provincial Court found that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to discipline a member of clergy who was not in office. The Church in Wales was dissatisfied with this conclusion, as it considered that it would lead people to seek to avoid disciplinary action by taking steps to resign or retire. Disciplinary rules and regulations were changed so as to apply to all ordained clergy in the Church in Wales, regardless of whether they were in office or retired.[39]

29.4. In 2007, a perpetrator admitted sending messages of a sexual, “unseemly” and intimate nature to a girl under the age of 18. He was prohibited from officiating unless and until he provided to a bishop the written opinion of a consultant psychiatrist as to his fitness for office; the individual bishop would then decide whether to grant a licence.[40]

29.5. In 2009, Reverend Richard Hart was deposed from holy orders following convictions relating to indecent images of children.[41]

30. The Church in Wales is reviewing its historic safeguarding records to ensure that consideration is given to deposition from holy orders for any clergy convicted of a safeguarding offence in the past.[42]

31. Since the third public hearing, the Church in Wales has proposed to introduce into the constitution a new disciplinary heading of “failure to comply with advice from the Provincial Safeguarding Panel without reasonable excuse”.[43]

References

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