Tag Archives: Martyn Percy Dean of Christ Church Oxford

OCTOBER 20 2020 – “GIBBS: INDEPENDENT BODY WILL SUPERVISE CHURCH’S SAFEGUARDING” – CHURCH TIMES – HATTIE WILLIAMS

“Gibbs: independent body will supervise Church’s safeguarding” – Church Times – Hattie Williams

INDEPENDENT trustees will hold the National Safeguarding Team of the C of E to account, the lead bishop of safeguarding, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, has confirmed. In addition, an independent panel will be set up to approve support packages for survivors. “Whatever it costs, the money will be found,” he said.
Dr Gibbs, who is also the Bishop of Huddersfield, was speaking on Monday after the House of Bishops unanimously endorsed a motion to accept the investigation report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), and “unreservedly apologise” to victims and survivors for the harm done by the Church. The House also committed itself to “urgently implementing” the Inquiry’s recommendations.
One of these recommendations was to upgrade the post of diocesan safeguarding adviser (DSA) to diocesan safeguarding officer (DSO) in order to allow them to be able to take the lead on safeguarding matters, including reporting serious incidents and commissioning investigations and risk-assessments.
To do this, the House agreed unanimously to establish an independent safeguarding structure, with a new trustee body, to take over responsibility from the Archbishops’ Council. The Bishops also agreed that an interim arrangement be put in place for additional independent oversight of safeguarding before the new trustee body is established.
Dr Gibbs explained after the meeting: “The key thing is that we are all agreed that safeguarding needs to be independent: we can’t have bishops, diocesan secretaries, making decisions about safeguarding for two reasons: because they are not professionally qualified in safeguarding, and because there is an element of structural conflict of interest. They have a diocese to look after and to run, so there is always a potential conflict.”
He reported full support among the Bishops for the independence of diocesan safeguarding advisers. The Bishops were “very happy to explore changing their name and status to diocesan safeguarding officers, but really in order to be affective that needs to be picked up in terms of how we structure the whole question of independence. . . and accountability.”
He clarified that under current guidance, DSAs are already able to report safeguarding issues without seeking permission; “but the reality is that they are employed within the diocese and line-managed by diocesan secretaries and bishops, and we need to cut that.”
It was an issue of balance, Dr Gibbs said. “You need people to have a proper degree of independence; but, on the other hand, they need to be rooted and integrated in the diocese if they are really going to bring about culture change.”
The new trustee body would oversee the National Safeguarding Team and hold it to account, rather than the Archbishops’ Council, as at present. Whether or not the independent trustees would have any relationship to the Church was “still to be worked out”, he said. “It has to be credible, partly that they are not answerable to and being line-managed by the National Church Institutions.”
The Church Times understands that the body would be established, and members appointed by an independent body, such as the Charity Commission.
Dr Gibbs said that both Archbishops were keen to implement this “very soon”. There would be a management board with an independent chair and the equivalent of non-executive directors. “You then have to think who represents the Church on that; some have suggested the lead bishop; but there clearly needs to be a majority of independent members on that board who are holding the NST to account on their safeguarding work.”
The NST has been criticised recently for its handling of safeguarding cases, particularly in relation to core groups, as in the case of the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy (News, 11 September). Dr Gibbs said that a full review and consultation on the core group process was “imminent”.
“The [2017] guidelines were written for someone who had been alleged to have abused someone; the complicated cases we have been dealing with recently are whether this senior church person has properly handled the process: that is a different issue. . . We certainly need to clarify at what stage and how are people represented; what are the procedures for making sure that things are being done properly; what is the process for appealing.” There was “a lot to do”.
Asked about the interim redress scheme for survivors to provide immediate financial and pastoral need, Dr Gibbs said: “We are aware of particular cases where there is urgent financial need and for other kinds of support . . . counselling, therapy, life coaching, debt advice. . . We recognise that we have a lot to learn about how we do this, which is why it is a pilot scheme.”
He described a system designed to repair the damage caused not by the original abuse but by how complaints were handled subsequently. “We are not revisiting at this stage the original claim; that may come later in the [full] redress scheme. What we are looking at is what has happened to [survivors] since they have first disclosed: in particular how has the Church responded to them?
“Sadly, some survivors have found that the whole process of disclosure — and how that has been handled by the Church and its representatives, i.e. insurance companies and lawyers — has left them in a worse place than before they disclosed. That is deeply shocking.”
A “package of support” would be decided upon and offered by an independent panel, which is currently being convened so that decisions about the case are not made by the lead bishops or by members of the NST.
“That would include an independent chair who has worked with survivors, a survivor voice in the panel, and someone with expertise in understanding trauma: a psychologist background.”
There was a fund to get this started, and the Church Commissioners had been approached to work out when and how redress might be costed, Dr Gibbs said. “Even in the interim phase, we need access to serious money to do this job. The needs of survivors will be funded to the extent that they need to be funded; this is about compassion, justice, and, dare I say it, generosity.
“Whatever it costs, the money will be found. That is a matter of honour as far as I am concerned. We have failed people dreadfully in the past.”
A new “more demanding” suite of training had also been developed to change attitudes to safeguarding on the ground. It brought people face-to-face with the kind of clericalism and deference highlighted in recent television documentaries, he said, which were also used in training. Recruitments processes were also being revised.
What was significant at the meeting on Monday, Dr Gibbs said, “was the fact that we had 100-per-cent support from the bishops — to recognise not only the need for cultural change, but their role in helping to drive and lead cultural change.”
Dr Gibbs, who has two more years as lead safeguarding bishop, said that there was “a small window of opportunity” to listen to survivors in order to bring about cultural change and establish training and independence. He did not want to waste it.
“We are starting from a very low base of trust. I am well aware that there is a well of frustration, anger, hurt, about the way that survivors have been treated in the past. I am very grateful for their willingness to work with us at all. I am very conscious that we have a very small window of opportunity to take this forward.”
While his role is primarily strategic, he said, “my contacts with individuals also massively influences my whole perspective.”
The House of Bishops is due to release a full response to the IICSA report in the coming weeks.

SEPTEMBER 25 2020 – MARTYN PERCY AND CHRIST CHURCH – CHURCH TIMES LETTER [MARTIN SEWELL AND DAVID LAMMING]

Martyn Percy Dean of Christ Church Oxford

CHURCH TIMES LETTERS – SEPTEMBER 25 2020

From Messrs David Lamming and Martin Sewell

Sir, — The further attempt by malcontents on the Governing Body at Christ Church, Oxford, to oust the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy from his position as Dean of the college has spectacularly failed, as an investigation by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) found that he acted “entirely appropriately” in respect of four instances when he received confidential information from former students of the college, all competent adults (News, 11 September).

The statement by the lead bishop on safeguarding, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, does not just report a finding that Dr Percy is “not guilty” of the baseless allegations: it is a positive affirmation that the Dean acted wholly properly.

Accordingly, the college’s announcement on its website, stating that it “will be reviewing the NST’s findings with regard to Christ Church’s safeguarding responsibilities”, is graceless: it ought to celebrate the reassurance that the Dean understands safeguarding practice better than his accusers, who should now consider their own positions on the Governing Body.

But there is also a lesson for the Church. We are the “two supporters” of the Dean who wrote to General Synod members in June stating that the NST was being “used” by the malcontents (effectively as a cat’s paw) to further their vendetta against the Dean, having lost a costly 11-day tribunal hearing in 2019 chaired by a retired High Court judge (News, 19 June).

As we pointed out, “No person, survivor of abuse, or vulnerable adult has made any complaint, ever, against Dean Percy.” The NST announcement on 8 September vindicates our assessment.

While the outcome for the Dean is indeed welcome, there must now be an investigation into the way in which the Church came to be so embroiled. As the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, has commented (on the Thinking Anglicans blog), “a full interrogation of how the NST became the patsy of the CC Oxford dons/plotters and into the procedures the NST employ must now take place.”

On 14 August, you reported the letter sent to the Charity Commission by many survivors, lawyers, academics, and Synod members, urging the Commission to intervene in the light of the Archbishops’ Council’s failure to call to account those with operational responsibility for the Church’s safeguarding practice. That letter was acknowledged on 11 September, a senior specialist case manager noting the “serious concerns” that the letter raises.

The Archbishops’ Council should now state how it intends to respond.

DAVID LAMMING
Boxford

MARTIN SEWELL
Gravesend


(General Synod members)

JUNE 20 2020 – VENDETTA AGAINST THE DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH MARTYN PERCY SPARKS LETTER TO THE GENERAL SYNOD

VENDETTA AGAINST THE DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH MARTYN PERCY SPARKS LETTER TO THE GENERAL SYNOD

 

“This letter is currently being circulated to members of General Synod of the Church of England, in advance of their virtual meeting in July. There will be two Q&A sessions, and it is hoped that this summary of the situation will encourage Synod members to look carefully into the way the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, is being appallingly treated – not only by the Governing Body of the College, but also now by the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England.

“The authors, lawyers Martin Sewell and David Lamming, have worked tirelessly on the chronic mishandling of the Bishop George Bell case, and it is profoundly disappointing to see many of the problems identified by the Carlile Report seemingly replicated in the case now being considered against Prof Martyn Percy”

‘Archbishop Cranmer’

Dear General Synod colleague,

Christ Church, Oxford and the NST

Private Eye recently carried a piece on the reporting of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Martyn Percy to our National Safeguarding Team for alleged safeguarding deficiencies. No child, young person or vulnerable adult has made any allegation of misconduct and the report comes from Christ Church malcontents whose complaints (not about safeguarding) have already been dismissed by the retired High Court Judge, Sir Andrew Smith, employed by the College pursuant to the College’s governing statutes to comprehensively investigate.

The Church is being dragged into a vendetta not of our making and, surprisingly, our officials and advisors seem to have allowed this to happen. This abuse of our processes by well-connected persons raises an important matter of principle. We doubt many internal parish bun fights would be so well received at national level. The issue flags up our institutional deference towards those of privilege.

It is not a currently a transparent process: the only transparency is the motivation. If Dean Percy is criticised by the Church or the Charity Commission it will be pleaded in the defence to the Dean’s Employment Tribunal claim against the Governing Body to defeat or mitigate the damages for the dons’ failed coup. We are being used. This is a route to an objective that can now only be secured by pretending the Dean is unsafe.

It has all the hallmarks of bullying, plain and simple. The Dean, uniquely at Christ Church, has no grievance procedure under the Statutes. This means that he can be attacked with impunity by malcontents and has no defence other than an Employment Tribunal. The Charity Commissioners are now involved. Yet the NST have decided to side with the malcontents at Christ Church, without so much as interviewing the Dean, or even doing a simple fact-check. The strain, and the financial and emotional burden, must be dreadful; but the Dean is resisting injustice, and the abuse survivors who are aware of the circumstances unanimously support him.

Christ Church has no procedure for removing the Dean, either by the dons or the Church, other than by a complex statutory process (and which applies to all dons). Seven dons tried to remove the Dean in 2018-19, and this failed completely with all 27 charges against him dismissed following a costly 11-day hearing. We ought not to allow the dons now to try to use safeguarding as their short cut, and with the complicity of the NST and its processes abused for ancillary purposes. We defer to nobody in our concern for proper safeguarding practice. But this case has nothing to do with safeguarding. The allegations of “safeguarding concerns” now being made to the NST never featured in the complaint of 2018-19. No person, survivor of abuse, or vulnerable adult has made any complaint, ever, against Dean Percy.

Dean Percy is trusted by survivors and was invited to be a contributor to the seminal book Letters to a Broken Church, published in July 2019. When two lone survivors protested the enthronement of the Bishop of Oxford on 30 September 2016 for safeguarding concerns, the entire Church hierarchy ignored them save for Dean Percy, who ensured they had access to a College toilet and brought them coffee and sandwiches.

The NST declined to investigate Jonathan Fletcher as he was not employed by the Church of England but was, rather, vicar of a proprietary chapel. William Nye, in his evidence to IICSA (witness statement 22 December 2017, paras 87-90) states that clergy in institutions such as Christ Church must have “due regard” to C of E standards in safeguarding, but that discipline remains with the independent institution (in the case of Christ Church, as a formal process in accordance with its Statutes). The C of E does not have jurisdiction. However, the NST has decided, with specious reasoning, that jurisdiction nevertheless applies in order to investigate Dean Percy, despite this being an entirely parochial Christ Church matter.

As this is going to be a growing controversy with more information emerging, we are undertaking a detailed analysis which we will share with you in the near future, should it become necessary. We draw on our experience of the George Bell controversy. This case is arguably even worse: lessons have been ignored despite the expensive Carlile Review.

Below are links comprehensively addressing the issues. We hope you will take the trouble to acquaint yourself with the story and find the links helpful in understanding the controversy. There are to be two Q&A sessions at the informal ‘virtual’ General Synod on Saturday 11 July. As you learn of the problems, you may have questions relating to the issues.

Members of clergy might usefully apply the following test: would I have confidence in the NST to handle a case against me in the light of this?

With best wishes,

Martin Sewell
David Lamming

 

Annexures: