Friday, 22 March 2013
The Dean, Bishop and Good Shepherds, Fact or Fiction?
The last week and a half has been enormously difficult for all of us. Thank you for your support.
Saturday’s meeting with Bishop Tim provided a welcome and much-needed opportunity to discuss the events leading up to Bob’s suspension. I was personally grateful for the opportunity to meet in person and for the service beforehand.
We now know that Bishop John Gladwin will be leading the upcoming investigation and visitation and I understand that he will be assisted in this by Norman Russell, Archdeacon of Berkshire. I do think the process being put in place is a welcome next step and I am sure all those involved will require our support and cooperation.
It goes without saying that there is there is considerable respect and love for Bob and Daphne in Jersey. Nevertheless, the recently-published Independent Review raised a number of very serious issues and it is absolutely for the best, not just for Bob but for the Church in Jersey and beyond, that these things are investigated properly. Support for Bob and support for what we trust will be a full and thorough investigation should surely be seen as mutually and entirely inclusive.
Finally, but not least today, there has been a great deal of unhelpful speculation in the press around constitutional questions. Much of this has only served to distract from the fundamental issue of safeguarding which, like the Bishop, we must be clear is at the heart of the Church’s mission. Whatever other conversations are required, the very best practice in safeguarding has got to be our overriding concern here. I know each of you places the greatest importance on safeguarding, as do I, and this is why we must look forward to the next steps in this process.
For now, I encourage you to continue in praying for all those involved and especially Bishop John Gladwin and Archdeacon Norman Russell in their leading of the inquiries.
Yours in Christ, Canon Geoff Houghton, Acting Dean of Jersey.
Given the circumstances and the Review's/Report’s preliminary findings I don’t think the Bishop had any alternative other than withdraw the Commission of the Dean of Jersey, it is a pity that decisive action was not taken years ago whereby the former Bishop of Winchester could also have been “suspended” because I believe he has much to answer for. If he was supposed to be a good shepherd he certainly allowed the wool to be pulled over his eyes. I may add that although in layman’s language the Dean is suspended, there is a difference between withdrawing the Commission and suspension. At last Tuesday’s States Sitting Members were reminded that as far as the States is concerned the Dean is at liberty to take his seat in the House. I am sure that statement was met with utter bewilderment by HG.
The Dean is reported as saying, “In Jersey there is a real feeling that suspending someone reverses the burden of proof in the public mind. Instead of our much cherished ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the suspended person becomes thought of (no matter what those in authority may say), as ‘Guilty until exonerated.’
I agree with that statement, the suspension is supposed to be a neutral act but has been used as a blunt but effective tool to end careers because of the time taken to complete the investigation. I can understand the Dean’s concerns, he is entitled to an even handed and timely investigation and hopefully that will be the case.
People will now have had time to read and digest the Independent Report written by Jan Korris. It would have been helpful if a Time Line had been included because it would have been easier to see how the matter was allowed to fester and like the Titanic was heading for disaster almost upon the Dean’s receipt of HG’s complaint.
As much as I respect protocols they do not override safeguarding victims or addressing their complaints, yet that appears to have been the problem with this case. It was in the autumn of 2008 that the Safeguarding Advisor (JF) informed the Bishop that the Diocese could be hugely exposed if the Church Warden was allowed to continue in post. Yet the warning went unheeded. It should be recalled that at that time the eyes of the world were focused on Jersey and the way it was investigating what became known as Jersey’s Historical Abuse. Concerns were being openly expressed about cover ups and old boy networks, yet this elephant in the room was not seen by the Dean nor the Bishop and his advisors.
I can understand the author’s difficulty in compiling a report and sifting through around 2000 documents, not having sight of the Dean’s nor the Vicar’s documents, plus meeting resistance from the Dean, his wife and the Island’s clergy, however I do believe there are some issues in the Report which needs to be addressed.
Whilst the Report is mainly about the Dean, it is evident that the former Bishop of Winchester was completely out of his depth and never got a grip of the situation. It is also evident that he never sought advice from senior church leaders including the Archbishop to overcome the impasse with Jersey’s Dean.
It is reported that “Bishop Michael described himself at interview as having been submerged in his role and facing very many tasks. He agreed that there was a difficulty in stopping and reflecting, or seeking external expertise and support. In an email to the Safeguarding Advisor in April 2009 Bishop Michael looks at the deteriorating situation and regrets he did not take a more forceful approach earlier on.”
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it cannot be used as an excuse for utter failure by a very senior church figure. The Bishop not only let himself down but it was at the expense of a highly vulnerable lady who was seeking his help.
The Report states that the situation was not helped because the Diocesan Chief Executive A.R. was away from July 2009 – September 2010. I ask how that claim can be made. HG first made contact with the Bishop’s Office on 13th September 2008 which was almost 10 months before AR temporally left his post, what was AR doing in the meantime? He claims “the Diocese takes its safeguarding duties very seriously.” If it does, there is little evidence of this being the case in 2008.
It is also reported that upon receipt of HG’ s email to the Bishop on 13th September 2008, the Bishop’s Lay Assistant (M.S) in forwarding the letter to J.F. on 14th September, commented in the referral, “I have been in contact with [R.K.], and he thinks it’s all a lot of nonsense.” One may ask why did the Lay Assistant make contact with the Dean and what was his motive? Surely his job was to forward the email directly to the Safeguarding Advisor ?
On page 25 the author covers the arrest and HG leaving the Island, I believe the matter needs clarification because what is recorded is not accurate. What is evident is that in September 2010 the Bishop was visiting the Island, staying with the Dean and was to attend a Church Service on 26th September. There was concern that HG might disrupt the Service and somehow a Harassment Order was obtained to prevent HG disrupting the Service. There is no explanation as how the Harassment Order was obtained or the circumstances in which it was executed.
However it is apparent that HG was arrested on or just before the Church Service on 26th September then charged and held overnight in police custody to appear before the Magistrate on Monday 27th September. It is evident that HG was remanded in custody at La Moye Prison and appeared before the Magistrate two weeks later on Monday 11th October 2010. It is also evident that the Safeguarding Advisor became aware of the situation because in her Report she records "her concern at these extreme measures and worked at setting up care for her with the prison chaplain.” However we do not know what she achieved or what help or advice HG received.
What is known is that the Safeguarding Advisor (JF) was shocked when on 11th October H.G. was bound over and summarily deported from the Island for three years and put on a plane with no-one to meet her, no planned accommodation and no money. J.F. wrote to Bishop Michael, “Whilst I don’t think this is our responsibility in that the court decision and action was not of our making, I do feel we have a basic responsibility, as we would have for anyone, to do all we can to ensure her wellbeing.”
I have made enquiries into the matter and it is apparent that when HG appeared before the Magistrate on 28th September there was a Duty Advocate in attendance but it is not known what advice, if any was given to HG. I have been unable to ascertain what advice or assistance was given during the 2 week remand period but at the Magistrate’s Court on 11th October HG was represented via Legal Aid by an Allocated Advocate. I do not know what pre court time was given to HG but I am advised that the Court has no authority to deport any one from the Island and contrary to what is recorded on page 25 HG was not summarily deported.
In cases of Harassment the accused is given the option of being bound over to leave the Island or accepting what ever sentence the Court considers to be appropriate. I am told that on the advice of the Advocate HG chose to be bound over to leave the Island. Given what is known of HG’s health one wonders whether she received the appropriate help and advice at the time of her arrest, whilst in custody or at her Court appearances.
What is evident that despite JF stating that “in her opinion the Diocese had a basic responsibility, as we would have for anyone to do all we can to ensure HG’s wellbeing,” it is unknown whether anyone accepted any responsibility and I include the Jersey authorities? Surely it must have been or should have been made evident to the Court that shipping HG to the UK was akin to sending a time bomb which was likely to explode at any time.
On page 41 the author records, “The decision and manner of H.G.’s deportation requires further investigation. It is clearly a matter of concern that a vulnerable adult in such a distressed state could be removed from Jersey with no thought to her imminent care needs. It seems surprising that the complainant against H.G., in this case the Dean of Jersey on behalf of the Church, was not consulted or informed about the decisions taken, or action planned, concerning H.G.’s future. There are no records of communication from R.K. with the Diocese at this time and Bishop Michael later expressed shock and distress that the deportation had occurred.”
This is a statement I entirely endorse the need for further investigation and to this end I shall forward details of this Blog to our Chief Minister. I believe this is an Island matter and should be addressed via an Inquiry/investigation. I will request the Chief Minister to take immediate steps to address the matter and make his intentions known via a Statement before or at the next States Sitting which because of the Easter holidays is not until Tuesday 16th April.
The author records “the Church let H.G. down. Despite the difficulties of her background and disablement, and struggle with some everyday practicalities, H.G. was none-the-less in employment, pursuing hobbies, socializing and wanting to be accepted in the church community. Over the next three years H.G.’s life changed from having no history of being in trouble with the law, to having a police record and being a displaced person, homeless on the streets of the mainland.”
As a responsible and caring community how could the above happen, are our Health, Social Services, Police, Courts, Legal Advisors and other relevant agencies fully trained and resourced to respond to people like HG? Given her experience one is left to wonder.