COMMENT ON PAST CASES REVIEW AND SINGLETON REPORT – 22nd June 2018
The past cases review (PCR) published in 2010 was announced with the following declaration in the church press release “We firmly believe that any concerns about a member of clergy or other office holder’s suitability to work with children have now been thoroughly examined in the light of current best practice by independent reviewers”
Contrast this with just one submission from one Diocese in which 390 personnel files were reviewed and 76 were found to have had no checks at all. 114 PTO files reviewed 12 had no checks at all. Of the 390 files reviewed and 24 needed further investigation. 1 person was ordained despite having a conviction for indecent assault; 1 person’s file had been taken by the Metropolitan police Paedophile squad. In another, “nasty” pornography discovered but no action taken. This information does not square with the quote above in bold. To our knowledge none of these cases were followed up, investigated further or reported to the police.
The true story is of vast cover up and avoidance of responsibility on an industrial scale.
The church set out in its review criteria to minimise any damage which could result from opening up the books. The criteria given to reviewers were that they should include (1) The number of files reviewed (2) The numbers referred to statutory authorities (3) The number dealt with formally internally. There seems to have been no concern that these three criteria ignored more detailed but still important safeguarding concerns such as cases where clergy had been arrested without being internally disciplined, retired clergy who still pose a risk, clergy against whom no action has been taken despite allegations against them, clergy with no CRB checks. Parish employees and volunteers were ignored. Non-diocesan organisations such as Cathedrals and monastic Orders were excluded
The question has to be asked what has happened to all these cases which remained very much live but which were ignored and swept under Rowan William’s bulging carpet ?
In the closing weeks of the PCR while the final results were being tallied – there was an extraordinary process in which Archbishop’s Council and senior figures in both Lambeth Palace and Church House were inviting dioceses to whittle their numbers down to zero. So for example in their original return, Chichester returned over 50 cases – but were asked to reduce this to zero on confused criteria that seemed almost to have been invented in closing stages. Chichester’s final return was in fact 3. 3 out of 13. Another diocese returned nearly 40 but this was reduced to zero. This seems to have been the pattern. We now know that Lincoln diocese has sent many files to the police, perhaps as many as 50 – but only within the last two years. Presumably many if not all these files should have led to arrest and potential prosecution at the time of the PCR.
In short the PCR was a whitewash. It was never going to be anything other. It left vast numbers of clergy un-investigated, unreported to the police, free to continue abusing and effectively protected by the church. This amounts at best to misfeasance in public office and at worst perverting the course of justice and harbouring criminals. Church officials’ behaviour should be investigated by the police.
Roger Singleton in his evidence to the IICSA IN March 2018 was critical of the Past Cases Review, its methodology and how it created a false rosy picture about safeguarding problems in the church. He made the point that files are very poorly kept and the press statement on the Past cases review was “under-evidenced”.
Yet we heard this morning on BBC R4 Today Roger Singleton now defending the past cases review by denying there was any cover up by the church. How can we have any faith in the review chaired by him when he has been so soft on the ludicrous charade that was the PCR? His review of the PCR has now been published. It is another attempt to keep things “in house” and persuade IICSA that “they can handle it”. Mr Singleton and his reviewers don’t get it and have been far too lenient with the church.
Mr Singleton’s report amounts to another attempted cover up. He uses loose words, and fails to call the PCR what it was – organised massage of the figures which hid abuse and allowed perpetrators and the good name of the church to be protected. He misses the point which is that the PCR was largely a statistical exercise unconcerned with rigorous assessment of church responses. There was no assessment of whether the church response in each case was appropriate (ie whether the alleged perpetrator had been treated too leniently or whether a case was reported to the police).
The CofE shoehorned a massive problem into an eggcup and hoped to get away with presenting this as a misrepresentation of reality. It has taken 8 years for this story to come to light as Phil Johnson and other members of MACSAS tried to get both the Church and the media to attend to this at the time. And we are seeing now today a whitewash of a whitewash. The church has vowed to introduce limited independent oversight but their idea of independence (for example their use of Roger Singleton) is not our idea of independence.
We need a bold minister to step in and appoint an truly independent reviewer to do a thorough examination of the cases and make referrals to the police of abusers and those responsible for covering up for them – and the church should pay for it.
David Greenwood and Gilo
22nd June 2018