Rubbishing Ineson to save Croft?

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After the publication on May 11 of the ‘lessons learnt review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late Revd Trevor Devamanikkam’, the Times and Church Times have drawn attention to a past complaint against his sexual abuse victim, Matthew Ineson.

This was brought against former CofE vicar Ineson under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) in 2013. But the newspapers neglected to mention that the disciplinary complaint against Ineson went nowhere.

The Times ran a story on Monday May 15 after Ineson called on Twitter for the resignation of the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, one of the bishops criticised in the report. The story followed the decision by the Bishop of Newcastle, Helen-Ann Hartley, to direct former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, also criticised in the report, to step back from active ministry as an honorary assistant bishop in her diocese.

The paper said: ‘A spokesman for the Diocese of Oxford said the situation surrounding Ineson’s reports of abuse ten years ago had been complicated because the vicar was facing disciplinary procedures.’

The Church Times followed up the story having clearly had an off-the-record briefing about the CDM complaint against Ineson when he was a vicar in Rotherham while Croft was Bishop of Sheffield: 

‘The Church Times understands that the CDM against Mr Ineson concerned a “serious” safeguarding matter, but that Mr Ineson was not being accused of abuse.’

The CofE report into the handling of Ineson’s disclosures in 2012 and 2013 of his rape as a 16-year-old by Devamanikkam in 1984 referred to the CDM complaint brought by the former Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham, Martyn Snow, now the Bishop of Leicester:

‘This complaint had arisen following on from a meeting the survivor had with the Archdeacon of Rotherham and his Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser on 7 February 2013. The Bishop of Sheffield stated he was the person who made the survivor aware of the impending complaint against him (which was followed up in writing on 14 February). This letter also made the survivor aware of the pastoral support he could receive from a recently retired Bishop during this complaints process against him.’

However, in 2016 when the Guardian newspaper reported  on the safeguarding scandal about to engulf the CofE, before Ineson waived his survivor’s right to anonymity, that paper made clear that there were no grounds for a CDM action against him in 2013. Ineson, whom the Guardian report referred to as ‘Michael’, had been practising hospitality:

‘In December 2012, Michael told Croft, the bishop of Sheffield, about the alleged offences. In February 2013, he repeated the disclosure to Croft and, separately, to Snow, who was then an archdeacon but now the bishop of Leicester. Neither acted on the information, according to Michael.

‘Soon after, Snow made a complaint against Michael for his failure to inform the diocese that he had given shelter to a newly released prisoner for three nights. The man had been convicted of child pornography offences and was on the sex offender register.

‘The bishop of Sheffield decided to take no action on the complaint. By then Michael had resigned as a vicar.’

The director of communications for Oxford Diocese, who doubles up as the Bishop of Oxford’s spokesperson, is Steven Buckley. Three questions arise from this historic CDM complaint against Ineson being put into play in the media after the publication of the Devamanikkam report. Firstly, why did the ‘spokesman for the Diocese of Oxford’ not make clear that the CDM complaint against Ineson had failed?

Secondly, did this spokesman speak for the entire Diocese of Oxford when he briefed the press about the ‘situation surrounding Ineson’s reports of abuse ten years ago’ being ‘complicated’ because he was ‘facing disciplinary procedures’? Oxford Diocese is made up of various entities – Parochial Church Councils (PCCs), Deanery Synods, its Diocesan Synod, its Diocesan Board of Finance as well as its parish clergy, chaplains, central support staff, cathedral chapter, archdeacons and bishops. Was this spokesman speaking for all of these entities and individuals?

Thirdly, was the dredging up of the old CDM complaint against Ineson by the unnamed ‘spokesman for the Diocese of Oxford’ a diversionary tactic from the resignation call on Croft?

The next meeting of Oxford Diocesan Synod is set for June 10 on Zoom. It remains to be seen whether any of its elected members will try to get answers to these questions.

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in the UK.