Summary and background
A review of the case of Rev A was commissioned in September
2015. This followed the disclosure of alleged sexual abuse
committed by Rev A on Survivor B, decades ago, when he was a young
person. B also reported that he had disclosed this abuse to a
number of different people on separate occasions through the
intervening years, both within and outside the Church. On each
occasion, B reported that he had not received a response which he
felt adequately addressed his needs. B also reported two
other allegations of abuse - one by a senior church figure,
The National Safeguarding Adviser, Graham Tilby, along with the
diocese of London, formally commissioned CCPAS (Churches Child
Protection Advisory Service) to undertake the review to establish
what lessons could be drawn from an independent examination of the
CCPAS engaged Ian Elliott, Safeguarding Consultant, with whom
they have a joint working agreement, to undertake the review to
establish what lessons could be drawn from an independent
examination of the case.
In December the Church of England issued a statement about the
review in response to a newspaper interview with the survivor,
offering an unreserved apology and confirming that a settlement had
been reached with the survivor. The Church's response is still
ongoing and further details will be released at a later stage.
A senior woman in the Church of England, the Bishop of Crediton,
Sarah Mullally, received the report, at the request of Survivor B.
her response to the report here.
1. The reports of abuse that B has made are credible. They
contain a tragic catalogue of exploitation and harm. The many
attempts made by B to secure help from the Church within which he
had grown up, resulted in frustration and failure. This increased
his sense of anger at what had happened to him. He felt
2. His loss of faith is another tragic consequence of the
experiences that he was subject to. The impact on his health
appears to have been significant and continues today. Despite all
of this, B retains a desire to see practice in the Church greatly
improve. He wants to ensure that others who present in a similar
way to himself and who are seeking to be heard, helped, and healed
by the Church, will receive a fundamentally different response than
3. The expectation that a survivor of abuse would have in
contacting the Church, would be shaped by the policy documents that
it has produced. As has already been stated, the reviewer holds the
main policy document for the Church in high regard. Unfortunately,
practice in this case does not comply with what is contained in
this policy. It falls short of it in that it did not place the
pastoral needs of the survivor in a position of priority. Financial
interests were allowed to impact practice.
4. Significantly, those involved in providing a pastoral service
to B from within the Church, all expressed their concern about this
direction that they were given. It grated with them and they felt
unhappy about it. However, that unhappiness did not reach a
sufficiently high level to cause them to openly question it or to
5.It is hard to accept that those who receive a disclosure of
sexual abuse can fail to recall that it happened or to make an
appropriate record of what was said. It is reported that this is
what happened in this case. Practice of this nature is simply not
acceptable and must be addressed. All who find themselves to be in
this position must know what to do and must have some understanding
of how they should respond. To have no records and to rely entirely
on memory is simply not good enough.
6. It is important that practice is routinely monitored by a
body that is outside of the diocese but within the Church. This
body needs to have the power to intervene and seek change where
this is considered necessary. The present structure within the
Church does not allow for this to occur. Although there is a
central safeguarding resource, its role is primarily advisory. It
cannot intervene and address poor or inadequate practice when it
becomes aware of it within the Church.
7. Where policy is created, there is no central monitoring
process that routinely checks that it is being implemented. This
approach of relying on widespread goodwill and a shared commitment
to best practice across the Church, has been shown in other
situations to be fundamentally flawed. In the opinion of the
reviewer, there is nothing to suggest that this is not the case
within the Church of England. It is not a secure enough basis
for delivering a safeguarding service that may involve challenge,
8. Although resources have been created, they exist primarily at
the level of the diocese and report within the diocesan structure.
As outlined to me, the role of the bishop is critical and exerts a
strong influence on the safeguarding decision making that takes
place. Within this case, it is alleged that two of the abusers were
senior members of the hierarchy which would suggest that they would
be unlikely to make sound safeguarding decisions. Similarly, if a
bishop is unable to recall a disclosure of a serious sexual assault
occurring, this would cause the reviewer to doubt their ability to
respond appropriately to identified risk in their diocese. These
are not trivial issues. Behind every disclosure that is received
lies human pain and suffering that can be so intense as to be life
threatening. It deserves everyone's close attention.
9. There are positives in the case that it is important to note.
Perhaps the most significant is the fact that this review was
commissioned by the Church itself. No barrier was placed in the way
of the review and all requests for information were responded to
promptly. It has already been noted that all of those who were
interviewed for this review expressed a sincere desire to learn
from what had happened with the intention of ensuring that similar
mistakes were not made again. This is a very significant fact that
must be seen as a real positive for the future.
10. An important and underused resource for the Church in
guiding its safeguarding practice, is the experience of survivors
of clerical abuse. As in this case, B holds great anger about what
happened to him but despite this, he was able to share great wisdom
with regard to how survivors can be reached out to, engaged with,
and helped. There is a need for a dialogue to be established with B
and others like him so that the Church can reach a position where
it is complying with its stated policies.
11. The Church is to be commended that it has created the
policies it has. It now has to focus on the ensuring that those
policies are fully complied with by everyone within the Church. To
achieve this, the reviewer believes that structural change is
recommended if the mistakes that have been made by other Churches
are to be avoided. The existence of policies alone, is not enough.
What matters are the actions that are taken to implement those
policies and deliver high quality safeguarding services to those
who require them.
The eleven recommendations reflect the key findings of the
review and are presented under three headings.
i. All those who may
receive a disclosure of abuse should be provided with training that
is aimed at ensuring that they have the skills, and knowledge
necessary to respond in accordance with the stated policies of the
ii. All those who have
received a disclosure of abuse should record what information has
been shared with them and ensure that they explain to the person
making the disclosure, what actions they will take, when they will
take them, and why.
.Those in positions of seniority in the Church are more likely to
be approached by a survivor of abuse to report what has happened to
them. It is particularly important that these people have a
comprehensive understanding of the policies of the Church, and also
have an ability to implement those policies. Where help is needed
to develop skills or knowledge in this area, this should be
provided Where the abuse is communicated through
correspondence, guidance should be produced that is available to
those handling correspondence to support them in determining how to
respond to this situation. It is important that this guidance is
fully compliant with the stated policies of the Church.
The Role of Advisors
i. All advice received
by agents employed by the Church, should be referenced against the
stated policies of the Church before it is followed. Emphasis
should be placed on ensuring that financial considerations are not
given a priority that conflicts with the pastoral aims of the
Church when engaging with survivors of abuse.
ii. The Church should
seek to create written down guidance with regard to how it will
respond to claims for compensation from survivors. This guidance
should be shared with survivors from an early juncture in the
process. Every effort should be made to avoid an adversarial
approach, placing emphasis on the provision of financial
compensation as an aid to healing and closure for the
A first response to a survivor of abuse within the Church should
be the issuing of an apology.
The Safeguarding Structure
i. The Church should
create a means by which it can inform itself as to what the reality
of safeguarding practice is across the entire Church, as
experienced by those receiving a service. The National Safeguarding
Team should be given the power and the responsibility to monitor
practice and to intervene where it is thought necessary to do so.
It cannot do this if it is limited to an advisory role alone. The
reviewer would believe that this can be achieved without
diminishing the authority of the bishop in their diocese if
carefully constructed and approached as part of the structure of
the Church as a whole body.
decisions as they occur across the Church, should be subject to
review by an independent body within the Church, which has the
skills, knowledge and expertise to do this. The role of the
National Safeguarding Team should be looked at again to enable it
to possibly fulfil this requirement.
The experience of other Churches who have sought to respond well
to the issue of clerical abuse should be carefully examined and
attempts made to ensure that mistakes made elsewhere will not be
repeated within the Church of England.
Survivors of clerical abuse hold great wisdom as to how the Church
can prevent what happened to them reoccurring. To that end and
where the motivation exists on the part of the survivor, a
mechanism should be created that is aimed at creating a means
whereby that knowledge can be directly shared with those involved
in safeguarding in the Church.