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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Case Study: Archdiocese of Birmingham Investigation Report

C.2: The child protection coordinator

5. As a result of the Nolan report, the Archdiocese of Birmingham sought to recruit a qualified child protection coordinator (CPC, and later the safeguarding coordinator) to:

  • lead and manage the development of safeguarding practice and implementation of the policies at Archdiocesan level;
  • ensure the Archbishop is up to date on safeguarding matters;
  • take the lead on developing preventative practice;
  • respond to allegations of abuse;
  • liaise with, guide and advise parish safeguarding representatives;
  • make or oversee referrals to the police or any other statutory authority;
  • oversee the arrangements for the production, monitoring and review of covenants of care (now called safeguarding agreements or plans);
  • provide support and advice to survivors or victims;
  • be available by mobile telephone (switched on during out-of-office hours) to anyone wanting to discuss a safeguarding concern; and
  • deal with issues concerning vulnerable adults as well as children.[1]

6. The vacancy was advertised publicly. The Archdiocese interviewed three people for the role.[2] Mrs Carmel Knowles was appointed in 2001,[3] supported by Mrs Jane Jones.

Appointment of Jane Jones as child protection coordinator

7. In 2003, Mrs Knowles’ personal circumstances changed and on 7 January 2004[4] Mrs Jones was appointed as CPC. Mrs Jones was, of course, already known to the Archdiocese from her work with Mrs Knowles. Nevertheless, the vacancy was not advertised internally or externally but Mrs Jones was invited to submit a curriculum vitae before taking up the post.[5] She was the only person the Archdiocese considered for the role. Opening up the recruitment process could have offered the Archdiocese a range of candidates from which to choose.

8. When Mrs Shearer learned of Mrs Jones’ appointment, she expressed concern to the Archdiocese. She objected to the process by which Mrs Jones was appointed and was concerned that she received no explanation as to why the role had not been advertised externally. Mrs Shearer felt the senior clergy were perpetuating the culture of “appointing people … by tapping them on the shoulder rather than through a formal process and by external advert finding a range of suitable candidates”.[6]

9. Archbishop Nichols (the then Archbishop of Birmingham) thought most of the required recruitment steps had been taken but accepted the post of CPC was not advertised externally. He said this was because “continuity was a great benefit”, and Mrs Jones had valuable knowledge of the Archdiocese and the work itself so that she was “an excellent candidate”.[7] The Archbishop was also guided by the commission who, as senior members of local social services, would not have “accepted something which they thought was fundamentally flawed”.[8] His view was that the appointment procedure might have been a “blemish but not a disaster”, and that Mrs Jones was “an excellent child protection coordinator”.[9]

The 1993 position paper

10. In 1993, having watched a television programme about the Samuel Penney case, Mrs Jones wrote a ‘position paper’ called ‘Sexual Abuse by Catholic Priests’.[10] Although she had no direct knowledge of the Penney case or the people involved in it, she said the victims’ families were “dysfunctional”, appearing to blame the mother of one victim for acting irresponsibly in leaving her daughter alone with Samuel Penney. She stated that abuse committed by a stranger was “a straightforward criminal matter”. By contrast, she said familial or other forms of sexual abuse involved “a very complex web of power relationship” and “a balance between pleasure and pain”. Of one victim she said, “The impression I got was that this inappropriate behaviour probably went on in an affectionate environment. I know that that was not what the victim said on the television but he had allowed this to continue into his twenties.[11] Towards the end of the paper she wrote:

All the victims in cases such as this need our support. The first victim here is Father Penney himself.[12]

11. Mrs Jones told us that the paper was written a long time ago, when she had little experience of such cases or any specific knowledge of the Penney case. The paper had been written for her own edification and for discussion with a small group of people.[13] It was not for wider circulation and Mrs Jones said she did not distribute it amongst the Archdiocese. She was aware that Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville (Archbishop of Birmingham from 1982 to 1999) had sight of it but did not know how it came to be seen by him.[14] She understood Archbishop Couve de Murville found the document “useful” and he wrote a letter to her about it.

12. In a 2012 paper addressed to Archbishop Bernard Longley (Archbishop of Birmingham from 2009 to present), Mrs Jones considered that she was invited to join the child protection advisory group “at least in part because of a paper I had written following the Sam Penney case about the treatment of offending priests”.[15] This was clearly a reference to the 1993 paper. The Inquiry is concerned that, in the mid to late 1990s, Archbishop Couve de Murville considered the paper to be “useful” and that it may have formed part of the background to Mrs Jones becoming more involved in church safeguarding policy.

13. Neither Archbishop Nichols nor Archbishop Longley had seen the 1993 position paper until shortly before the Inquiry’s public hearings in November 2018. There is no copy of it in files kept by the Archdiocese.[16] Both Archbishops said that they did not consider Mrs Jones to be anything other than committed to the needs of victims and survivors, and that this was the priority for her work.

14. Mrs Jones told us that she did not now adhere to the views expressed in the 1993 paper.[17] She denied it was indicative of her putting the clergy first.

The victims have to take priority. Their care and support is essential. I have always held to that, it might not show it in this paper, but from the early days of my career I have worked with those who are poor and vulnerable and damaged in some way, and the whole function of my life to date has been to enable those people to be listened to and for their issues to be taken up.[18]

15. In July 2001, Mrs Jones wrote a paper entitled ‘Victims of Abuse: Who are they and what could be done to help them?’, in which she considered how best to help victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.[19]

Child abuse is a terrible and shocking thing … Rightly policies have also had to be formulated in an attempt to protect children from abuse in the future … Perhaps the best place to start would be by listening to victims and by asking them what they think could be done to ease their pain or find out how they managed to succeed despite it. The resulting information should indicate a way forward.

In our view, as this paper was written far closer to Mrs Jones’ appointment as CPC than the 1993 paper, it demonstrates that Mrs Jones’ views had changed.

16. However, the views expressed in the 1993 paper were reprehensible and were not views that the Inquiry would expect to come from someone with an experienced background in social work. The paper displayed an ignorance of the facts of the Penney case and a failure to appreciate the continuing harm caused to victims of such abuse.

17. A number of the complainant core participants suggested that Mrs Jones should not have been appointed as CPC. While the process by which Mrs Jones was appointed was flawed, there is no evidence that anyone concerned with her appointment knew of the 1993 paper or its contents. We do not consider that the 1993 paper had, or indeed could have had, any impact on Mrs Jones’ appointment as CPC in 2004.

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