Friday, January 31, 2014

Risk assessment for clergy tightened up

BISHOPS will have the power to demand that a priest undergoes a safeguarding risk-assessment under legislative changes proposed by the Archbishops' Council last week. 

Priests who fail to comply "without good cause" will be guilty of misconduct under the Clergy Discipline Measure.

The proposal is one of 12, published on Monday of last week, which will be debated by the General Synod next month. 

They have been produced in response to the report of the Archbishop's Chichester Visitation, which called for an "urgent" review of the Church's safeguarding legislation.

The report that lists the proposals states that commissioning risk-assessments would be "the exception, rather than the norm", and that bishops would need to give reasons to justify the direction. 

Priests would have the right to seek a review by the President of Tribunals of the diocesan bishop's direction.

Another proposal is that the Clergy Discipline Measure be amended so that complaints about sexual misconduct against children or vulnerable adults can be made at any time. 

Currently, a 12- month limitation period is in place, although the President of Tribunals can grant permission to make a complaint outside this period.

The final report of the Chichester Commissaries warned that the law of the Church of England was "presently not in line with the rest of the civil law of employment" (News, 10 May).

The new proposals follow up a key recommendation by the Commissaries that "urgent consideration should be made to amending the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 to permit the compulsory suspension of any cleric immediately a complaint of abuse which is not obviously malicious is received".

Currently, a bishop may suspend a priest once the diocesan registar has produced a preliminary report on a complaint. This can be within 24 hours. 

In cases where the alleged misconduct took place more than 12 months ago, however, suspension may not be possible for up to three months, because the President of Tribunals first has to grant permission for a complaint to be made.

The new proposals would give bishops the power to suspend a priest as soon as a written application seeking permission to make a complaint out of time is submitted by a complainant to the President of Tribunals.

The report can be found at

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