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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report


B.3.2: Procedure under the Clergy Discipline Measure

Commencing a clergy discipline complaint

2. A complaint must be made in writing to the diocesan bishop or the relevant archbishop.[1] The diocesan registrar (legal adviser to the diocese) then advises on whether the complaint is of “sufficient substance” and whether the person making the complaint has a proper interest to bring the complaint.[2] This preliminary stage is intended to “weed out cases which are clearly of no substance … safeguarding-related matters will easily satisfy the test of sufficient substance”.[3]

3. Sir Roger Singleton stated that bringing a CDM complaint involved a “convoluted church process”. He brought a CDM complaint against Bishop Peter Forster in his capacity as the Church’s Interim Director of Safeguarding. Even in that role the process for determining whether he could bring the complaint was protracted.[4] This could discourage the making of complaints by others.

4. Preliminary scrutiny of a complaint takes place within a diocese. Bishops are responsible for discipline within their diocese, although they may delegate this to a suffragan bishop or an assistant bishop.[5] He or she will decide whether or not to recognise the complaint as a disciplinary matter. A bishop may deal with a disciplinary matter internally or it may be referred to the Church’s designated officer.[6] The majority of cases under the CDM will be dealt with by the diocesan bishop, with only a small minority passed to the designated officer.[7]

A flow diagram showing the disciplinary process under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003
Long Description
  1. PCC, Churchwarden, Others
  2. COMPLAINT in writing
  3. Sent to BISHOP
  4. PRELIMINARY SCRUTINY by diocesan registrar
    1. If criminal refer to the police
    2. Within four weeks the BISHOP decides
      • If criminal refer to the police
      • Other procedures might be more suitable
      • No Proper interest
      • No sufficient substance
        • Dismiss (Complainant may appeal)
      • Not a discipline matter
      • Recognised as a disciplinary matter
        • Suspension
          • Respondent's written answer
  5. Courses of action available to the Bishop
    • No further action ((Complainant may appeal))
    • Conditional deferment
    • Conciliation
    • Penalty with consent
    • Formal Investigation
      • President considers if there is a case to answer
        • No case to answer
          • No further steps
        • Case to answer
          • Tribunal to adjudicate
            • Appeal

The disciplinary process under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003

Source: The Church of England (based on

5. The designated officer has two functions: to investigate cases referred by diocesan bishops, and to prepare a report for the President of Tribunals (the Chair of the Clergy Discipline Commission, who exercises judicial functions in disciplinary proceedings).[8] Mr Adrian Iles, the Church’s designated officer at the time of our hearing, considered it was “blindingly obvious” that safeguarding complaints were so serious as to require referral for investigation, but this is not a current requirement of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003: Code of Practice.[9] Safeguarding complaints about abuse by church officers or significant failings to manage safeguarding allegations effectively should be sent to the Church’s designated officer where an investigation is required, but there is no system of oversight to ensure that this is the case at present.

6. A diocesan bishop may suspend clergy until a complaint is determined.[10] Under the CDM, suspension is an “entirely neutral act”.[11] It is a holding position, before any decision is taken about the substance of the complaint. However, the National Safeguarding Steering Group is considering introducing mandatory suspension of clergy where a safeguarding allegation has been made.[12]

Time limits

7. Complaints – including those relating to a failure to respond to allegations of abuse or to comply with safeguarding duties – must be brought within 12 months of the conduct involved.[13] Since 2016, this time limit does not apply to allegations of child sexual abuse.[14]

8. The case of Reverend Matthew Ineson (an ordained priest in the Church of England) demonstrates the potential difficulties in imposing or upholding such a time limit in cases relating to safeguarding.[15] He alleged that he was abused by Reverend Trevor Devamanikkam between 1984 and 1985, when he was 16 years old and that Bishop Roy Williamson was aware of the abuse at the time.[16]

8.1. Between 2012 and 2014, Reverend Ineson said he disclosed his abuse by Devamanikkam to senior Church leaders – Steven Croft, the Bishop of Sheffield; Glyn Webster, the Bishop of Beverley; and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.[17]

8.2. In 2017, Reverend Ineson made CDM complaints against Devamanikkam for the alleged abuse and also the members of clergy above for failing to respond to his disclosures appropriately or in accordance with the House of Bishops’ safeguarding policy (and other related matters).[18] Reverend Ineson’s CDM complaints were made more than 12 months after the events. As regards his allegations against Devamanikkam and Bishop Williamson, this was in part because he thought that he would not be believed.[19] At the request of the police, Reverend Ineson delayed making the remaining complaints while an investigation into Devamanikkam was ongoing.

8.3. When the President of Tribunals wrote to the clergy who were the subject of the complaints (including Devamanikkam) asking for their observations on granting permission for the complaints to be outside of the time limit, none of them agreed.[20] The President of Tribunals extended the time limits only in relation to the complaints against Devamanikkam and Bishop Williamson.[21]

The investigation and hearing

9. If a case is referred to the designated officer for investigation, that investigation may continue even if the individual resigns or if a complainant chooses to withdraw.[22]

10. The designated officer meets with and interviews complainants, who may be accompanied by a companion if they wish.[23] While the current holder of the post has received some training in his other judicial posts, the designated officer does not receive specific training about handling or interviewing vulnerable witnesses.

11. At the conclusion of the investigation, the President of Tribunals considers whether there is a case to answer for conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of the clergy, or a failure to comply with the duty to have due regard to the House of Bishops’ guidance on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.[24] If a case goes to a hearing, it is dealt with by a disciplinary panel (of clergy and lay people, with a legally qualified chair). A complainant is asked to submit written evidence, and he or she gives evidence and is cross-examined on behalf of the respondent.[25] Findings are made on the balance of probabilities.[26]


12. If a member of the clergy is convicted of an offence by a criminal court, the bishop may remove them from office without a complaint being made and without the need for disciplinary proceedings.[27]

13. In other cases, a bishop or a tribunal may:

  • take no further action;
  • record the complaint conditionally for up to five years; or
  • refer the complainant to a conciliator to mediate an agreement between the complainant and the respondent.[28]

14. Other penalties vary, depending on whether a CDM case is dealt with by a tribunal or by the bishop.

14.1. A bishop may impose a penalty by consent (ie a penalty agreed with the respondent, without the need for a hearing). Witnesses told us that there may be a lengthy negotiation and a confidentiality agreement (which may allow clergy to apply for work elsewhere, particularly if he or she is not included on the caution list).[29] As there is no oversight of cases of penalty by consent, it is unclear whether this is a suitable disposal used only in appropriate cases. Mr Iles said that there should be no “horse trading”.[30] Negotiating disposals of complaints may lead to a penalty at a lower level than merited by the offence or likely to have been imposed by a tribunal, as noted by some bishops in a 2019 survey led by the Bishops of Lincoln and Salisbury.[31]

14.2. The tribunal may impose various penalties, ranging from a rebuke to removal from office and prohibition from ministry for life.[32]

The penalty will be recorded on the Church’s caution list.

15. Under the CDM, an individual cannot be deposed from holy orders (ie have their status as clergy revoked) following disciplinary findings on safeguarding matters even if there has been a conviction for sexual offending. It is available only for disciplinary matters which relate to “doctrine, ritual and ceremonial” under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure.[33] While Mr Iles suggested there was little practical difference between prohibition for life and deposing from holy orders, there is a symbolic difference which may be important to some victims and survivors.[34] For example, unless an individual is deposed from holy orders, they may wear clerical dress and be addressed as ‘Reverend’ or ‘Father’.

16. By contrast, clergy convicted of child sexual abuse are deposed from holy orders within the Church in Wales.[35] The Church of England considered reinstating the deposition “a few years ago” but it was rejected because “it did not add anything in practical terms to what could be achieved by prohibition for life”.[36] In Bishop Alan Wilson’s view, deposition from holy orders should be reintroduced:

I think there are people who should not be in Holy Orders. It’s as simple as that. And I think that not to have that red line sends up a very powerful signal in any profession.[37]


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