Opening statement of David Greenwood on behalf of Core Participants Phil Johnson, Rev Graham Sawyer, Professor Julie MacFarlane, AN-A1, AN-A2, AN-A5, and AN-A6
- I would like to start by paying tribute to the brave survivors of clergy sex abuse who have dared to emerge from their own communities (sometimes in the face of hostility from their families or other congregants) and to tell their stories. Without them this Inquiry would not be possible. As well as all those who have contributed directly to this Inquiry the input of all brave survivors deserves recognition. It takes real grit to speak to anyone about sex abuse and when one is brought up in a religious environment there is an element of disclosure being a gamble against losing friends and family.
- In the context of the Chichester Inquiry, the efforts of Phil Johnson from whom we will hear later have been significant. With the help of Colin Campbell, a BBC reporter at BBC South East, Mr Johnson has documented and investigated the criminal activities of a series of abusers operating in the Diocese of Chichester.
- I have been asked whether there is something peculiar to the Diocese of Chichester that so many paedophiles were operating there. My response has been that Chichester is probably not unique. We have actually seen the potential for unlawful activity on the same scale being uncovered in other dioceses which have yet to be fully examined. Note the current large police investigation into failings at the Diocese of Lincoln, Operation Redstone. The inquiry into Robert Waddington in Manchester assisted by Archbishop David Hope. The catalogue of failings around Rev Garth Moore of Cambridge, of Rev David Smith in the Diocese of Bath and Wells and the Peter Halliday failure to report. These are just a few examples of appalling lack of positive action to protect children, each assisted by senior members of the Clergy.
- What we will hear in this Inquiry is a series of systematic, cultural and personal failures which have created places to which paedophiles are attracted in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be reported to the authorities, unlikely to be disciplined internally and importantly unlikely to be investigated by the police. Chichester attracted Peter Ball, Vickery House, Roy Cotton, Colin Pritchard, Robert Coles, Gordon Rideout, Ronald Glazebrook, Christopher Howarth and Noel Moore all of whom abused children in their care.
- I am instructed by Phil Johnson, Rev Graham Sawyer, Professor Julie MacFarlane, AN-A1, AN-A2, AN-A5, and AN-A6, all survivors of clergy sex abuse in this Inquiry. Each has felt affronted not only by the abuse they endured children or young adults but by the church’s shambolic and at times malevolent response to the allegations they raise.
- As part of my work with survivors of abuse I have studied in detail the structures, internal disciplinary codes and cultures of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England including the Methodist Congregation.
- I have found that poor responses revolve around four broad themes :-
- Internal rules (including disciplinary rules, secrecy and rules on the confessional and lack of mandatory reporting);
- The limitations of Hierarchical structures;
- Church Culture;
- The Church’s Unincorporated status.
- Internal rules
- We will hear in evidence in the coming days that the Church of England has failed repeatedly to act on independent report recommendations..
- The pace of providing guidance from the centre of the church has been lamentably slow. The Nolan report centring on the Catholic church safeguarding procedures was seen as an intended watershed and whilst the Roman Catholic church embraced its recommendations, at least on paper rather than in practice, the Church of England took no steps until 2004 with the publication of “Protecting All God’s Children” which itself amounted to weak guidance which maintained the complete discretion of each Bishop on safeguarding. All this is of course set against the background of the clear guidance given by the “Working Together” document to which all bodies should have been working from the early 1990s.
- The Past Cases Review of 2009 was billed as an audit of safeguarding cases but its public incarnation relied on reporting dishonestly low rates of “problem cases” in order to publicly whitewash over the problem.
- 2010 saw the implementation of the euphemistically-named “Responding Well” document which again provided non-mandated guidance, mainly around pastoral care issues, leaving responses again in the hands of untrained Bishops.
- The Church has insisted throughout on pet projects to keep responses “in house” such as the listener and safe spaces projects, each of which appear to be designed to perpetuate secrecy around clergy sex abuse.
- The October 2017 Church of England Guidance entitled “Responding to, Assessing and Managing Concerns or Allegations against Church Officers”, whilst being detailed lacks independent oversight and does not mandate any action. The seal of the confessional is maintained. Inadequate support procedures are provided and Bishops still decide on sanctions or actions following risk assessments.
- There are a number of fundamental systemic flaws in the approach of the Church of England and Methodist Church in England and Wales:
- Any system operating without mandatory reporting imposed through legislation is reliant on the discretion of Bishops as to what action to take.
- There is no recourse for complainants who are dissatisfied with church responses.
- Internal guidance is operated at the discretion of each Bishop of the Diocese and good responses are therefore dependent on personal preferences, allegiances and protection of reputations.
- Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors are appointees of Bishops and are beholden to the Bishop’s views on certain issues. Each individual Bishop has differing views on the robustness of safeguarding responses he or she wishes to operate.
- Support offered to complainants is not independent. The provision of therapeutic support is not guaranteed and its duration is negotiable at best.
- Meanwhile the Church continues to insist on the inviolability of the confessional.
The Church of England operates a highly hierarchical structure with the Diocesan Bishop sitting at the top of the pyramid and having the last say on all matters relating to safeguarding. Whilst an attempt has been made at diluting this structure with the implementation of Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers, they still owe their positions to the Bishop and can find themselves bypassed if the Bishop does not agree with their decisions. We will hear more of this when we examine the relationship between the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Shirley Hosgood, and Bishop Wallace Benn. This ultimately led to Ms Hosgood leaving her position due to insurmountable differences of opinion.
We will hear however that Shirley Hosgood (an experienced social worker) has the following criticisms to make of safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester. They appear to be linked to the in-built deference to the Bishop as the ultimate decision-maker :-
- She felt unsupported by Bishop John Hind
- She found that the Bishop’s discretion often overrode good safeguarding advice
- Bishops were reluctant to accept her advice
- The management of allegations were not centralised
- There was no centralised standard of record keeping
- Bishop Wallace Benn had made subjective decisions about allegations against Cotton and Pritchard in the early 2000s
- She discovered that Bishop Wallace Benn had actually taken Gordon Rideout to the police station to answer an allegation in 2002 but this was not recorded on Rideout’s employee file, and was not included in the past cases review return in 2009.
- When she later discovered a blemished CBR check on Gordon Rideout, Bishop John Hind was reluctant to suspend Rideout’s Permission to Officiate certificate and Bishop Wallace Benn intended to deal with the situation outside the normal protocol. He stated in a letter this was due to his “affection and concern for Gordon”.
- Shirley Hosgood suspects that a declaration made by Gordon Rideout in 1998 acknowledging an arrest at that stage (which she read in 2010) had been temporarily removed from his employee file during the period that Roger Meekings was examining the files for his report. She feels Mr Meekings would not have missed such a significant document. She is alleging deceit by someone at or close to the top of the Diocese.
We will hear in this Chichester Inquiry of a culture in which burning paper files in the Cathedral yard was tolerated. Bishops ignoring past convictions and allegations was common place. We will see that there was a hopelessly dis-jointed system for dealing with allegations meaning that Clergy employee files did not contain reports of past allegations. We will hear of the removal of documents from files. We will hear of Bishops granting Permission to Officiate certificates to convicted paedophiles and to those facing criminal allegations. There is a strong suspicion of an organised conspiracy between clergy and Bishops in the Diocese of Chichester to enable children to be abused and it will be painful for all involved to hear. On behalf of the Core Participants I represent it is submitted that the poor practices you will hear about is a result of weak guidance, a lack of mandatory reporting and independent oversight.
We will hear evidence of highly subjective assessments of risks by Bishop Wallace Benn who at one point decided that Rev Roy Cotton was probably guilty of offences against Philip Johnson but that Rev Colin Pritchard had persuaded him that he was innocent.
There will be some questioning of whether Bishop Wallace Benn actually told the police of the allegations that were reported to him.
We will hear of disagreements between Bishops and a Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser and of Bishops providing untrue accounts to another records examiner, Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss.
We will hear of refusals by successive Bishops to publish the findings of the Carmi and Meekings reports and of Bishop Wallace Benn taking legal advice about potential defamation.
All this evidence points towards a rotten culture pervading safeguarding activities in the Diocese of Chichester, a culture enabled and perpetuated by weak safeguarding rules, an unaccountable structure, and of misguided allegiances among fellow clergy.
At present the Diocese of Chichester like all Church of England Dioceses does not have external accountability built in to its system. Diocese do not punish members for poor performance. Instead they rely on vows, promises and loyalty to motivate good behaviour. Secular laws can only catch up with individuals or corporate bodies.
Bishop John Hind in his statement to the Inquiry acknowledges the issue. He says :
“A diocese has no clear identity in law. It is easy to speak about “the diocese” but this is not a clearly defined institution, but rather a number of interlocking entities each with a distinct corporate personality – for example its constituent parts, the Bishop, the Diocesan Board of Finance, the Diocesan Synod and Bishop’s Council, the Diocesan Board of Education. The issue is further compounded by understandable but incorrect assumptions about the power of a Bishop and his inability to command access to funds and counselling”.
Bishop Hind is of course referring only to the Diocesan level of complexity. Nationally the position of even more dis-jointed yet operationally inter-woven. There is no central promulgation of rules and ideas as we have seen in the Catholic Inquiry so far. The Church of England’s legal structure is so opaque that many advocates are calling on Government (via this panel’s recommendations) to bring enforcement mechanisms to bear on the Church of England’s structures.
Church organisations are actually legally simply groups of individuals like a cricket club. They are not corporate and so not accountable. Better responses and serious attention to good safeguarding practice will only be achieved through serious sanctions such as fines, withdrawal of charitable status or closure of the offending organisations.
It will be for the panel to decide on the evidence but on behalf of the Core Participants I represent we will be asking the panel to agree the following :-
- That the Anglican Church is unable to effectively respond to child sexual abuse risks. What is required is legislation to introduce mandatory reporting. Legislation is also required to introduce an independent statutory body to enforce basic standards of safeguarding. This statutory body would establish:
a. A Register of Institutions fit to look after children.
b. It would be an offence to look after children without being on the Register.
c. To be on the Register the institution will have to introduce a corporate structure.
d. The registered institution should be forced to adhere to the minimum standards of safeguarding regulation.
e. The independent body would have the power to prosecute organisations for breaches of regulations. Fines would be imposed for breaches. Organisations could be prevented from working with children.
f. All complaints would be passed to this independent body by any receiving institution with a criminal sanction for failing to do so.
g. The body would gather information from complainants, regulated institutions and third parties. It would have the power to compel disclosure of material.
h. The body would liaise with and assist civil authorities such as the Police and Social Services. The body would ensure that police and other statutory organisations are taking appropriate action within reasonable timescale.
i. The body would investigate complaints using a “balance of probabilities” standard of proof. There would be no statute of limitations under this scheme. The independent body would have the power to make awards of compensation similar to the CICA. It would have the power to decide on the support to be offered to a complainant and a scheme would be established to provide adequate compensation taking into account the effects on quality of life and a series of factors.
j. Complainants will be allowed to take advice from lawyers and a contribution to legal costs would be awarded.
k. The cost of the body’s work would be paid from a levy on institutions and those culpable would pay for the costs of dealing with individual cases in which they are involved.
Report potential offences
Having read through a great deal of the evidence gathered so effectively by the lawyers to the Inquiry we see that there are individuals whose conduct may require referral to the police. I ask the panel to be vigilant and to be willing to make such referrals.
Commission of Inquiry
Finally, whilst no other Diocese has been subject to this level of scrutiny to date and recognising that this Inquiry is not designed to find all wrongdoing in the church, I do ask the Panel to consider a recommendation that a permanent Commission of Inquiry is set up to carry out investigations elsewhere in the church and in other bodies.
03 March 2018