Last week the Jersey Evening Post gave front page coverage to a letter from Senator Bailhache to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to press for the publication of the Steel Report. The Senator wrote as a Senator in the States of Jersey and as Lay Chair of the Jersey Deanery Synod.
Those in the Jersey Church circle have been impressed ( there are others who are unimpressed) at how speedily the Senator has become the chair of the Deanery Synod and it would be interesting to know whether his letter was ever approved by the rank and file Synod members.
The Senator attacked the Bishop of Winchester for failing to apologize for causing ‘unjustified humiliation and distress’ to the Dean and his wife. He accused the Church of ‘burying’ the report to prevent embarrassment for the Bishop of Winchester. He warned that failure to act could cause ‘irreparable damage’ between the Church of England and the church in Jersey and urged the Archbishop to come out in support of the contents of the Steel report in the interest of ‘Christian reconciliation’.
The Senator made no mention of the real victim but that is understandable because as far as he and his colleagues are concerned she does not exist, so much for “Christian reconciliation?”
The Dean has some pretty influential allies who are pressing the Archbishop to release the Steel Report in the belief that it will bring closure to the sorry affair. However they seem to have lost sight of the fact that the Dean and his supporters are hell bent on extracting an apology from the Bishop of Winchester. Until the apology is given there will be no closure.
Sadly they have failed to acknowledge the impact the release will have on the victim. Surely as true Christians the welfare of the vulnerable should take precedence over any perceived “hurt” suffered by a senior member of the clergy.
Tony the Prof has recently published an excellent blog in relation to this matter and on the recent visit to the Archbishop of Canterbury by a delegation from Jersey. It can be accessed HERE.
In any normal organization where there are petty spats the boss would have a serious talk with both men, remind them of their responsibilities and if they could not work together for the good of the organization then they should find alternative employment. Sadly the Church of England is not a normal organization and is certainly not adverse to spending thousands of pounds defending the indefensible.
I have published several blogs on the Dean saga and on 27th January this year I published a blog titled “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.” I said that nothing would be gained by pressing for the release and every one should let sleeping dogs lie. We know that the woman wanted to move on even though she had every right and expectation to some form of redress.
It would seem that the only people who can’t let it go are those who support the Dean, who by his own admission mishandled the complaint and added his apology to that of the Archbishop and the Bishop of Winchester.
My letter to the Archbishop is below. I understand that he has made it known that he is not responding to Senator Bailhache’s letter. I don’t need a reply but I hope the Archbishop will read it and have the courage to do what is right.
I write as one of the many disillusioned members of the Church of England who are increasingly frustrated at the way the Jersey church is being hijacked by a small group who claim to speak for me. They appear to be more concerned with driving wedges between Jersey and the Bishop of Winchester rather than building bridges and are using the Steel Report as its wooden horse.
You have recently received a strongly worded letter from Senator Bailhache which accuses you of failing to grasp the nettle, whilst I agree with the Senator I do not agree with the nettle he wants you to grasp. Senator Bailhache is part of the problem and whilst he is entitled to support the Dean who is his friend and colleague, he also has a duty to be even handed as Lay Chair of the Jersey Deanery Synod.
The Senator is requesting the publication of the Steel Report but has failed to accept that the publication will solve nothing because it will do nothing for the welfare of the young woman at the heart of the matter or solving the impasse between the Dean and Bishop Dakin of Winchester.
What is evident is that Bishop Dakin could have handled the Dean’s suspension in a more professional manner. The same could be said of the Dean’s handling of the abuse complaint way back in the summer of 2008. What is conveniently forgotten is that the Dean on being reinstated said, “I regret mistakes that I made in the safeguarding processes and I understand that, upon reflection, it would have been more helpful if I had co-operated more fully with the Korris Review. I now add my own apology to that of the Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury to the vulnerable person at the heart of this matter.
The Dean has admitted that he mishandled the abuse allegation therefore even though no disciplinary action is being levelled he cannot nor can others claim that he is exonerated. Had his mistakes not been made at the outset none of the difficulties would have followed.
It should be noted that whilst all of you have made public apologies to the young woman none of you have found the humility to apologise to her personally or ensure that promises made by Bishops Dakin and Gladwin to assist her have been kept.
Your apology was for badly letting the young woman down, that is an understatement because at the behest of the Dean, his wife and the late Bishop of Winchester she was arrested at home whilst still in her night attire, was detained in a police cell for 24 hours and then imprisoned for two weeks before being effectively deported from Jersey in her night attire and left destitute in the UK. Senator Bailhache claims that the Dean’s suspension was ill judged, precipitate, unnecessary, and contrary to the principles of natural justice. If ever there was a miscarriage of justice one need look no further than the action taken by members of your clergy to remove a problem.
Whilst much money, time and effort is being consumed by Senator Bailhache and his colleagues they are oblivious to the real victim who in their eyes does not exist. The Senator has made reference to a paragraph in your letter of 9th March 2013 but has carefully doctored it to exclude your reference to the young lady.
The Steel Report cannot and must not be released for a number of reasons, not least because the original Terms of Reference were amended at the behest of the Dean’s colleagues and the arrest and deportation of the vulnerable young woman was excluded despite the Korris recommendation. The choice of Dame Heather was a grave mistake, not only because of her association with Senator Bailhache but for the comments made during her meeting with me and are contained in the transcript which she promised to give me. However for obvious reasons she has failed to keep her promise.
Jan Korris was criticized for not interviewing the Church Warden or the young woman, However Dame Heather has also failed to interview both, so how can her Report be taken seriously? The most serious reason for non- publication is of the known impact it will have on the young woman.
The recent representations from Jersey make no mention of this important pastoral consideration. Bishop Dakin has informed the Bailiff of the need for an impact assessment before publication but that is still awaited. There are also assurances given to the Court which have to be met, which will all also cost money.
I am probably one of very few people who have had meetings with the young woman, Dame Heather and Bishop Gladwin who after meeting him in London visited my home to thank me for my endeavors and assurance that I would continue to assist with the Inquiry. I no longer act as a mediator for the young woman but that does not mean that I do not care for her welfare.
I don’t know what hats the Lt Governor, Bailiff and the Chief Minister were wearing but the cost of their visit was paid by the tax payers. I am sure the visit was useful but I doubt whether they were able to give a full and impartial account of events. However I have considerable documentation which supports why the Steel Report should not be released and would be pleased to share with you should you doubt my claims.
I trust that you will address this letter with the urgency it deserves and arrange for the Steel Report to be shredded for the reasons above. I also ask that you take steps to ensure that the Dean and Bishop Dakin are reminded of the responsibilities and that it is hypocritical to stand in the pulpit and ask us to love our neighbour when they do not practice what they preach.
I understand that Senator Bailhache circulated his letter to the Lt Governor, Bailiff, Chief Minister and Bishop Willmott so I will do the same. His letter was also circulated to the media; in the interest of transparency I will do the same.
F.J. (Bob) Hill, BEM.
10th November 2015