Expert speaks out: Why I challenge the Church of England and EIG on safeguarding

By Ian Elliott
December 17, 2017

Because of the repeated misleading comments that have been issued by Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) regarding the evidence that I had access to when undertaking the Review of the case of survivor B for the Church of England, I have decided to take the highly unusual step of confirming publicly what occurred. I have asked repeatedly for this to be done by those who commissioned the Report but to date, they have refused to do so. They are aware of what the records state just as I am. They gave me access to the case file, and facilitated my interviews, whilst undertaking the Review. 

It has been said that there are “factual inaccuracies” contained in the Report that I authored. I know of none. It has also been said that no advice was provided by EIG to suspend contact with the survivor following his decision to issue legal proceedings against the Church for compensation. I read the case file created for survivor B by the diocese. It was stated in the case record, that this advice was confirmed by EIG on 15 January 2015 over the telephone. 

This was again confirmed in interview by the person who made the telephone call. She described her distress at receiving such guidance. The receipt of this advice was also confirmed in two other interviews that I undertook, firstly with a senior bishop of the Church of England who was involved in the case. He expressed his upset and his regret at having followed that advice. He regarded this as being a major error of judgement on his part. I also spoke to a senior member of the national safeguarding team in the Church who also confirmed that this was their understanding of what had happened. 

According to the case record, the advice that was provided to suspend contact with survivor B came, in the first instance, from an unnamed Church lawyer and was then confirmed over the telephone by an unnamed person from EIG. This is recorded in the case file. Along with the confirmation of the information through the three interviews, I took this as being adequate evidence to confirm that advice had been given and accepted.

In my view, the advice was not only insensitive and uncaring, it was highly reckless. The survivor was in a fragile state and suffered from mental health difficulties. He was under immense pressure and to contemplate giving, let alone, accepting advice of this nature represented a massive error of judgement that needed to be addressed in the recommendations flowing from the Review. Therefore, I included a specific recommendation to address this issue. 

I was also told in interview that the advice was later withdrawn after a period of some days, but this does not alter the fact that it was recorded as being given in the first place, and confirmed in interviews to me by three credible and reliable informants. It was given, and it was also accepted, and then withdrawn.

It was also asserted by EIG that they had no contact with me during the Review. I attended two Core Group meetings convened to discuss the situation of survivor B, at which I met and spoke to the lawyer representing EIG and who had also led the settlement process with survivor B. I asked them if there were any written policies or guidance documents that they followed in their work with survivors of clerical abuse. I was told that there were none available at present but they were seeking to produce some guidance in the future. 

My Report was redacted throughout. EIG were never named. The focus that I had throughout the Review, was to maximise learning from the exercise, rather than highlight the bad practice of any one person or organisation. I would regard the recommendations that I made as being equally applicable to whomever contributes to the management of these situations, involving survivors of clerical abuse. What needs to take precedent always, are the pastoral needs of the survivor, rather than any financial considerations for the parties involved. 

Survivor B was unusual in that he stated that he disclosed to many people, many of whom had a clear memory of the conversation that he had with them. Some had made it clear that they had no recollection of the disclosure that survivor B said he had made to them. Given the lack of any recall of the disclosure for some whom survivor B said he spoke to, I chose not to engage with these people as there seemed to be little point in doing so. How could I usefully discuss a conversation with them which they had said that they had no memory of! 

It is highly unusual for me to openly comment on work undertaken in any cases of this nature. I am fully aware of the sensitivity of the evidence that I had access to. I have made this statement on this occasion, as I believe that a false and misleading perception of what work was undertaken, was being created, and that my recommendations were being discredited as a result. The soundness of the evidence upon which those recommendations are based, is known to those who received my Report. However, to date, they have refused to publicly challenge the comments made by EIG that the Report contained “factual inaccuracies.” I have been deeply disappointed in this reluctance to see the truth told and have, therefore, sought to address the issue through this statement. 

In my view, survivor B, and others who have an interest in knowing the truth, deserve to be informed that this case was reviewed in a fair and objective way, and that the highest professional standards were applied to the assessment contained in the Review Report. There are no factual inaccuracies within it, and those that state otherwise are making false and misleading statements that should be withdrawn.

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© Ian Elliott is an independent safeguarding consultant who has been widely involved in reviewing abuse cases in the churches. Concerned about the lack of adequate action of the Church of England, and continual attempts by insurers EIG to discredit investigative work, he spoke out to BBC Radio 4's 'Sunday' programme on 17 December 2017 (programme here; segement c29 minutes in). Mr Elliott is an internationally recognised safeguarding expert and reviewer, who led the Elliott Review for the Church of England nearly two years ago. He has worked at national church and government level around the world and is highly regarded for his work in Ireland, Australia and elsewhere.

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