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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report

Contents

C.6: Past case reviews

58. The Church in Wales has undertaken a number of reviews over recent years about its handling of safeguarding cases.

Historic Cases Review

59. In 2009, the Church in Wales commissioned the Historic Cases Review. It was undertaken by Mrs Elaine Cloke (who was seconded from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales’ Office for this purpose) and involved the review of 1,381 personal clergy files.

59.1. A total of 219 files were referred to the Provincial Safeguarding Panel established to oversee the work. The majority related to incomplete service records, and complaints relating to clergy conduct or personnel issues.

59.2. Five files were identified as having information relating to child protection and safeguarding issues requiring further action. All were referred to the appropriate statutory agencies following discussion with the relevant bishop.[1]

59.3. One further file related to allegations of child sexual abuse made by the complainant’s mother against a member of the clergy in 1999. At the time of the Historic Cases Review, the alleged perpetrator had retired but held PTO. The allegation was reported to the police but the police took no further action as the complainant and the complainant’s mother did not wish to take matters further. The alleged perpetrator’s PTO was reinstated without any further action taken by the Church in Wales. In preparing for this Inquiry, the Church in Wales reviewed the case again and a letter was discovered from a parishioner to whom the alleged perpetrator had admitted his offending. As a result the case was referred to the police again in 2016. Although no further action was taken by the police, the alleged perpetrator’s PTO was removed and has not been reinstated.[2]

60. The final report (published in April 2011) made 36 recommendations, including:[3]

  • All clergy authorised for ministry should continue to be subject to DBS enhanced checks. References and ‘safe to receive’ letters should not be the only checks to be relied upon. All necessary checks must take place prior to appointment.
  • All DBS checks which return information indicating that the person concerned could pose a risk to children should be referred for consideration by a provincial panel (which is independent of the Bench of Bishops and has at least one person with relevant qualifications and extensive safeguarding experience).
  • Children or young people and alleged perpetrators should not be interviewed by Church staff prior to being referred to statutory agencies or during any criminal or child protection process.
  • Risk assessments should be required as a matter of course prior to a disciplinary tribunal or during the process if there are any safeguarding concerns in relation to clergy.
  • Policies and protocols should be established between the Church in Wales, the police and social services departments on “the way forward in safeguarding”. This should include advice on communication, ongoing sharing of information, accountability and the avoidance of delays in investigations in reaching conclusions.
  • The clergy as a role model, as seen by children and young people, is significant. This should be fully recognised and appreciated by the Church in Wales. Inappropriate and unacceptable conduct should be a professional development issue and, where necessary, subject to disciplinary procedures.
  • The Church should be equipped with the necessary professional advice, support and training by the employment of a PSO.

Review of deceased clergy files

61. While preparing for this Inquiry, the Church in Wales decided that the files of members of clergy who had died before the Historic Cases Review should be reviewed.

62. An independent social worker, Mrs Anest Gray Frazer, was engaged to review 150 files. Her report, published in 2016, concluded there was no information that required further investigation by statutory authorities.[4] This was largely because the record-keeping was so poor that it was difficult to identify problems and how they had been resolved. In the personal files where safeguarding concerns were identified, there was no clear record of the safeguarding allegations and the nature of the concerns, how these were handled, how the information was followed up, the actions taken, the decisions reached or the outcome. Personal files were inconsistent, both in their structure and the information they contained. There was little information in relation to any safeguarding issues, whether the individual had attended any training, notes of appraisals or supervisions where safeguarding issues were addressed. Some individuals did not even have personal files.

63. Mrs Frazer made the following recommendations:[5]

  • The Church in Wales should implement a robust process to record and manage all safeguarding concerns to ensure compliance with statutory duties and requirements. If a safeguarding concern is raised, it must be recorded and stored on the personal and personnel file.
  • A quality assurance process should be established to ensure adequate recording procedures are in place and adhered to when a safeguarding concern is raised.
  • All staff would benefit from training about basic record-keeping and case note recording.
  • Safeguarding matters should be included as a standard agenda item and discussed at all staff supervision or annual performance meetings.

Review of personnel files at the Diocese of St Davids

64. In July 2018, Bishop Joanna Penbethy commissioned a review of all personnel files in the Diocese of St Davids to ensure that all safeguarding matters had been handled appropriately.[6] She was concerned about reassurances about the nature and extent of investigation of potential safeguarding matters and the appropriateness of the resultant action.[7]

65. The review was conducted by Ms Samantha-Jayne Waters (a lawyer employed by Dyfed-Powys Police for many years). She examined the 310 clergy personal files held by the Diocese of St Davids, not those held by the PSOs, and did not speak directly to any individuals.[8] Ms Waters did not make recommendations about individual safeguarding cases but made the following recommendations about record-keeping and the clergy personnel files:

  • All safeguarding and disciplinary incidents should document the allegation, the process followed and the outcome reached.
  • Where a member of clergy transfers and there has been a historical concern, a full understanding should be obtained.
  • Where disciplinary matters are “prima facie” actionable then appropriate referrals should be made rather than a bargaining with potential retirement.
  • A uniform filing system should be introduced which encapsulates the requirements of information that must be held within the personnel files and in accordance with a retention schedule.
  • Consideration should be given as to the most effective means of retaining a safeguarding or discipline file system.

Auditing

66. The Church in Wales does not, presently, have a system of auditing safeguarding actions within provinces, dioceses or parishes. We were told that regular external auditing would be useful, particularly to avoid complacency after the conclusion of this Inquiry.[9] The Church in Wales has indicated that it is investigating the commission of an external provider to audit safeguarding policies, procedures and case work on a regular basis.[10]

Deference

67. In 2012, the Church commissioned an external review of the Church in Wales, with particular focus on its structures and use of resources. The Review Group[11] identified “too much deference and dependence” in the Church in Wales and that bishops needed to collaborate more.[12] The review also found that clergy were leading the initiatives in safeguarding, but that lay people needed “to take more responsibility and more ownership” of safeguarding in the Church.

68. In Archbishop Davies’ view, the attitude that “Father knows best and what Father says goes is to be discouraged; it disempowers lay people and fails to recognise their role in the Church’s ministry. However, he conceded that culture very much depended on local circumstances and personalities.[13] The Church is increasing the profile of safeguarding amongst lay people as well as clergy to combat a common inability to believe that clergy are capable of abuse. This begins in the parish and includes disseminating information about safeguarding practice and safeguarding matters, for example, through parish magazines.[14] The Provincial Safeguarding Panel seeks to ensure lay empowerment and ownership of safeguarding in the Church by providing that only three of the 10 members are to be clergy.[15]

References

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