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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.3.3: The efficacy of clergy discipline

17. In Mr Iles’ view, the CDM process “worked well for serious cases”, including cases of sexual abuse whether or not there have been convictions.[1]

18. However, in the April 2019 survey by the Bishops of Lincoln and Salisbury, diocesan bishops identified a number of concerns about the operation of the CDM. The most frequent was delay which impacted both upon complainants and clergy subject to complaints.[2] They were also concerned about “a lack of connection between CDM and safeguarding” and how the CDM and safeguarding could work as “complementary and interlinked processes”.[3] Bishops also expressed a widespread desire for more extensive guidance and training on how to adjudicate and investigate in disciplinary situations.[4]

19. Mrs Edina Carmi considered that there was “a reluctance to consider the use of disciplinary measures”.[5] In her view, the Church needs:

A disciplinary process, better able to deal with clergy who in effect place obstacles in the delivery of a safer service and a culture which uses the process in such cases.[6]

20. The CDM is not designed to deal with risk management and it is not designed to deal with capability, while there will be overlap between cases of capability and discipline. In some cases, there will be an overlap with issues around risk management and capability. CDM is a disciplinary tool, the primary purpose of which is to make findings of fact and impose sanctions in respect of past wrongdoings. It is not intended to manage future risk or drive professional development. Capability procedures are more likely to be applicable where there is to be remedial action, for example through training. This may arise where someone has not reached the CDM threshold but is not sufficiently demonstrating adequate leadership in respect of safeguarding matters. Mr Tilby accepted that the capability procedures required further thought.[7]

21. Since 2015, clergy have had a duty to have due regard to the Church of England’s safeguarding policies. A failure to do so is a disciplinary offence and clergy discipline proceedings can be commenced. Although no CDM hearings have been conducted since 2016 for a failure to have due regard to safeguarding guidance, Mrs Carmi’s sampling exercise identified where the CDM might have been effectively deployed.[8]

22. The Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report included a consideration of the adequacy of the CDM and concluded that it was inappropriate as a means of addressing safeguarding concerns in a timely manner.[9] In May 2019, the Inquiry recommended that the Church amend Canon C30 requiring clergy to comply with the safeguarding guidance because the term ‘due regard’ lacked sufficient clarity.[10] The legal office of the Church of England is still “considering how best to implement this recommendation in order that some aspects of policy and guidance are seen as mandatory”.[11]

23. More generally, Archbishop Justin Welby told us that there needs “to be a really significant revision” of the CDM, moving away from the diocesan bishop as both prosecutor and judge to panels for investigations.[12] Mr Tilby agreed that there is a need for “more radical” reform of the CDM system, centred more around the victim or survivor; “a system which is much more focused and a proper justice process, a fair process”.[13]

24. In autumn 2019, the Church’s legal office and the National Safeguarding Team began work on developing proposals for improving the CDM through a working group. When speaking on radio about the proposed revision to the CDM, Bishop Tim Thornton (a member of the working group) said:

I wonder whether it’s right for us to think more generally about what I would call professional standards and see clergy properly as a profession and with other professions you then have perhaps independent people who come in and are used in panels where matters have to be assessed and adjudicated.”[14]

It was intended that these proposals would be submitted to the House of Bishops in May 2020.[15]

25. Archbishop Welby told us that “it doesn’t seem to me to be an impossible task and I don’t see why it should take too long, but I’m constantly frustrated by the length of time things take”.[16] As Bishop Peter Hancock (then Lead Bishop on Safeguarding) said:

the church needs to get on with this … let’s look at what we are trying to achieve, find a process that does that”.[17]

26. The working group on CDM is considering:[18]

  • whether the CDM in its present form is the right process for matters concerning safeguarding;
  • the further development of Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy (2015), which is intended to provide clarity and definition to the standards expected of clergy and provide a benchmark against which questions related to misconduct and capability should be judged;
  • a triage process where complaints are brought, to ensure that complaints are dealt with in proportion to their seriousness, with less serious complaints being initially referred to mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution;
  • a single body to process complaints with the judicial function currently exercised by bishops being delegated to this body, which will determine which if any safeguarding elements arise from the matters referred to it (whether in respect of matters which are issues of professional discipline or capability) and which should include the input of safeguarding professionals; this should include examining whether disciplinary processes, or other routes are appropriate ways of dealing with the concern; and
  • various methods to supplement the current provision of ecclesiastical legal aid.

Any proposals will require formal consultation with clergy, the laity and complainants.

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