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Update on Jersey safeguarding inquiries

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Tim Dakin has today issued the following statement, providing an update on the ongoing Jersey safeguarding inquiries:

“Earlier this the year I commissioned an Investigation into a safeguarding complaint in the Deanery of Jersey, conducted by former High Court Judge Dame Heather Steel. The purpose of the Investigation was to advise me if there was any reason for disciplinary action to be taken against any member of the clergy.

“Dame Heather has informed me that she is finalising her investigation report. However, I have received legal representations from an interested party requiring me to undertake not to release the report to any person. On legal advice I have agreed to comply with the request and this means that I am currently unable to publish the report or provide further information about the representations that have been made.

“What I can state at this point, based on Dame Heather’s findings to date, is that I will not be taking disciplinary action against any member of the clergy in relation to the handling of the safeguarding complaint in question or the subsequent review process.

“The purpose of launching the inquiries in March was to understand fully the handling of the original complaint and to learn lessons for the future. I am all too conscious that questions remain about safeguarding best practice as well as the effect that this issue has had on Jersey’s relationship with the rest of the Diocese. I believe Bishop John Gladwin’s Visitation will help in the long-term, but in practice I feel that more immediate steps must now be taken in order to achieve progress.

“Given the current circumstances, and in order to move us forward, I have sought the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury to initiate a pastoral visit to the Channel Islands, so that a fresh perspective can be taken on safeguarding. The visit will be conducted next month jointly by the Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, and the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, and has the Archbishop of Canterbury’s full support. Bishop Trevor is a former Bishop of Basingstoke and so I feel his previous knowledge of the Channel Islands will be of significant benefit. On the visit, the Bishops will meet with local church leaders and Island authorities from both Deaneries, in order to help understand how the current situation may be progressed. Their visit will enable further conversations to be held which I am sure will benefit the Islands and the wider diocese. They will report back to me by the end of the year.

“I am informing the Dean and Lt Governor of Guernsey of this as well. Although some of what has led to this proposal has more directly arisen on Jersey, the Islands will be bound to have many common interests in both the process and the outcome, and I wish them to be fully engaged in the relevant actions and interactions.

“In all of this, the victim at the heart of the original complaint should not be forgotten. As a Church, we are called to reach out to the least, the last and the lost, even though at times they may reject the help we offer. In HG’s case, that rejection has been entirely understandable, given how she sees her experience of the Church of England. A number of people across the Diocese have been working hard to find a way of helping that could be acceptable to her. Having sought expert advice from health professionals and specialist charities, we have made provisions to help support HG, through a third party. We pray that she will be able to accept what is being offered.”