Independent review published

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The Diocese of Oxford has published a summary briefing and recommendations, along with the full report, from the independent review into events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

In 2017 Peter Farquhar was murdered. His need for an emotionally close relationship had been exploited, and an intelligent, talented man was made vulnerable. Peter was a member of his local church; his strong personal faith featured in the abusive relationship, and his murderer, Ben Field, also had roles within the church.

This was an extraordinary and unusual case. Everyone who came into contact with the murderer, Ben Field, was manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church.

The Church and wider society need to be ever more vigilant of those who can be made vulnerable by the likes of Ben Field, simply because they are elderly or lonely. For this reason, the Diocese of Oxford commissioned an independent review to establish lessons learnt from the events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

The review, commissioned by the Diocese of Oxford Safeguarding Panel, was carried out by Dr Adi Cooper, OBE, an independent consultant in adult safeguarding and adult social care. Dr Cooper makes 13 recommendations for improving safeguarding awareness and prevention as well as supporting a shift to a more open culture within the Church of England around safeguarding in all its complexity for parishes.

“Although the events in the Parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton were unusual, there is learning from them that can inform improvement in safeguarding policy and practice,” writes Dr Cooper. “The lessons from the harm done by Ben Field presents a challenge for the Church regarding specific themes: the abuse of trust in a religious paradigm, attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and safe recruitment both of clergy and volunteers.”

Responding to the report, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, said: “I welcome the report and the recommendations it contains. The events to which it relates have caused immense distress to many. Following the trial and conviction of Ben Field, the Diocese was determined to learn what further action was required to ensure that potentially vulnerable adults attending church are adequately protected from harm. This review helps to challenge the commonly-held view that safeguarding is solely about preventing child abuse, and it is a clarion call for further improvements to our work on LGBTI+ inclusivity, our selection processes for clergy and volunteers, and the training and support the Church provides.”

23 October 2020

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Notes for editors:

  • The independent report and recommendations were published in full on 23 October. The Diocese will report progress against each of the recommendations during 2021.
  • We believe this to be the first independent review concerning the Ben Field case. A Domestic Homicide Review is due to report in 2021
  • The report and recommendations are published at oxford.anglican.org/events-in-stowe-maids-moreton/
  • For media enquiries, call Steven Buckley 07824 906839 or Liz Hudson on 07702 563211