A senior Jersey political leader has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury accusing the Church of England of suppressing a report that may document misconduct by the Bishop of Winchester.
A senior Jersey political leader has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury accusing the Church of England of suppressing a report that may document misconduct by the Bishop of Winchester. In a sharply worded letter dated 2 Nov 2015, Sir Philip Bailhache, (pictured) a Senator in the Jersey States Assembly called upon Archbishop Justin Welby to honor the mandate given to former High Court Judge Dame Heather Steel and release her findings into abuse allegations made against the Dean of Jersey and the subsequent response by the bishop and diocese.
On 8 March 2013 the Rt. Rev. Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, suspended the Very Rev. Robert Key, following an investigation into a safeguarding complaint made by an adult woman, known as “HG”, who accused the dean of not responding appropriately to her complaints that a lay leader had acted inappropriately towards her.
Sir Philip reminded Archbishop Welby that he had written to him on 26 March 2013 raising questions about the fairness of the initial inquiry, noting Dean Key had not been given the opportunity to respond to the criticisms before he had been suspended.
Bishop Dakin reinstated Dean Key on 28 April 2013 and the parties agreed that Dame Heather Steel be empowered to examine the deaneries safeguarding procedures, and whether any disciplinary complaints should be initiated against members of the clergy. Dame Heather gave a draft of her report to the diocese in November 2013, prompting a 22 Nov 2013 press release from the diocese stating that no action would be taken against any Jersey clergy. However, Bishop Dakin noted: “I am all too conscious that questions remain about safeguarding best practice.”
This statement, Sir Philip charged, left a “cloud hanging over the conduct of the church in Jersey.” He further stated that when the final report was given by Dame Heather to the bishop on 15 Aug 2014 no copy was given to the Jersey government, as had been stipulated in the inquiries original terms of reference.
This “refusal by the Bishop of Winchester to comply with his obligation” to pass on copies to the dean and island government had left the “Anglican Church in Jersey in limbo,” he said.
“Regrettably, I am driven to the conclusion that the Bishop wishes to suppress the report which may be embarrassing and indicate a lack of good judgement on his part,” Sir Philip stated, adding that he believed the bishop’s actions were “ill-judged, precipitate, unnecessary and contrary to the principles of natural justice.”
“I cannot imagine that the Church of England would so casually bury the report of a distinguished High Court judge on a matter of public importance in the UK,” he said noting that he was “afraid that, unless the nettle is firmly grasped in the near future, irreparable damage will be caused to the relationship between the Church of England and the church in Jersey.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s office did not respond to requests for comments on the accusations.
A spokesman for the Bishop of Winchester told AI: “The Report, commissioned by the Bishop of Winchester, into the handling of a safeguarding complaint made in Jersey in 2009 is currently being reviewed by legal and safeguarding experts. Its publication is the subject of legal action lodged with Winchester County Court. The Bishop requires the Court’s consent prior to any distribution of the Report and all parties involved are aware of this fact.”
The original complainant in the case, “HG”, on 6 Nov 2015 sent an email to 15 Jersey political leaders, safeguarding agencies and journalists accusing Sir Philip of seeking to “destroy me again”.
She expressed anger of the states’ handling of the issue, writing “Jersey looks from the outside like a lawless ungoverned and corrupt miniature version of North Korea, and actually I believe North Korea actually has a real government and according to reports, it’s people are happy, while Jersey grows more and more weary and miserable …”