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

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 the circumstances surrounding the complaint under CDM against the Revd Tim Davis.

In December 2017, the Revd Tim Davis was found guilty of conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority over a person then aged 15-16. A penalty imposed under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure (CDM) was immediate cessation of office and prohibition from the exercise of holy orders for a period of two years.

The Diocese of Oxford subsequently commissioned an independent review relating to the reporting, investigation and management of allegations and concerns about the conduct of Revd Davis. The review published today considers the timeline of concerns from within the parish about Revd Davis, delays and frustrations to achieving an acceptable disciplinary outcome, and the ongoing impact of CDM proceedings ‘which were less than satisfactory’.

The review, commissioned by the Bishop of Oxford, was carried out by Amanda Lamb, a specialist in service review and redesign of Children’s Social Care services, and Timothy Briden, barrister and Vicar General of the Province of Canterbury. The reviewers highlight considerable upset, suffering and delays incurred in bringing the matter before the Tribunal and make 11 recommendations for the Diocese and National Church. The recommendations encompass improved communications and pastoral care, appropriate assistance and support both to people pursuing a complaint and the respondent, and suggestions for changes to CDM practice and process.

Responding to the report, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, said: “On behalf of the Diocese of Oxford, I am very sorry indeed for the shortcomings identified in this case review review and the harm these shortcoming have caused to a number of people. They have contributed to the distress of the survivors and the many people affected in Christ Church Abingdon. Though they had no bearing on the penalty, I also recognise the additional emotional toll that these shortcomings placed on Revd Tim Davis.

As a Diocese, we are deeply committed to learning from these events and to the safeguarding of children, young people and vulnerable adults. During the last four years, we have invested heavily in our safeguarding team, in training and safer processes of support, review and oversight. This report also contains lessons for the whole Church of England that are already being considered through greater awareness of spiritual abuse, the development of better safeguarding processes and the planned revision of the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM). In the meantime, the Diocese will be working to increase awareness of the CDM, and the advice and support people can expect to receive.”


Notes for editors

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy

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Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford

8 September 2020

In March this year it was alleged that the Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, a senior member of the clergy and Dean of Christ Church Oxford, had not fulfilled his safeguarding responsibilities. The National Safeguarding Team (NST) duly appointed an independent safeguarding person, who was asked to investigate and report back. The report has concluded that the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The Bishop of Oxford has issued the following statement:

“I welcome the news that the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has concluded and that Martyn is exonerated. The investigation process was not without pain, and could have been concluded more quickly, but it is entirely right that allegations against clergy and church officers are properly investigated when they are made. This investigation brings full closure to the matter put before the NST, though these continue to be testing times for all at Christ Church. My prayers remain with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College at the start of this new academic year.”

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford

Notes for editors

  • A statement from the the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop is also available.
  • Media enquiries: Steven Buckley on 07824 906839

Clewer Initiative launches app designed to eradicate labour exploitation on British farms

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A new app designed to help tackle labour exploitation and modern slavery in the farming, horticulture and food production sectors is being launched today by the Church of England’s modern slavery initiative. Read more

The Ben Field verdict

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 The Ben Field verdict – A statement from the Archdeacon of Buckingham

Following a painstaking investigation by Thames Valley Police and a lengthy trial at Oxford Crown Court, Ben Field was on Friday found guilty of the murder of Peter Farquhar. You will be aware from the press coverage of the depth of Field’s cruelty to those who became his victims.

At the end of what has been a hugely difficult ordeal for all those affected, please keep in your prayers Peter’s family and friends, his former colleagues and pupils. Remember too, those who worship at Stowe Parish Church, where Peter worshipped, and the community in Maids Moreton where he lived. Field was also convicted of fraud against Ann Moore-Martin and of other crimes in the community – please keep all those affected in your prayers. Pray too for the people of Olney where Ben’s family live – pray for them, and for him.

At times like this, the caring ministry of our parish clergy and the healing depth of our Christian communities come into their own. There has been work going on in the background for over two years to address various safeguarding and pastoral aspects of the case.

We hope that all those affected are receiving the support they need. If, however, anyone reading this is particularly affected by the case and needs to speak to someone, please contact our Authorised Listeners via the Safeguarding Team on 01865 208290.

This has been an extraordinary and unusual case. No one who came into contact with Ben Field was not manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church and then, to quote his own words, “I’m gonna become a vicar … just because I can outmanoeuvre the Church.” His arrest put an end to this pretence.

Any incidence of harm to a church member causes us to reflect and we will need to learn what this case has to teach us about safeguarding. Sentencing will be followed by “lessons learned” reviews by various organisations including the Diocese. If you have any particular concerns to raise in connection with this or any other safeguarding situation, please contact our Safeguarding Team on the number above.

“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.”

The Ven. Guy Elsmore
12th August 2019

Information for journalists

    • Was Ben Field a ‘trainee vicar’? No- Field was never considered for ordination training
    • Ben Field first joined the congregation at St Mary’s in 2013
    • Ben Field was confirmed at the church in November 2015
    • Ben Field became PCC secretary, a role elected by the congregation, in September 2014
    • Ben Field became ‘deputy warden’ at the church in September 2014. The role of deputy warden is not a formal office in the Church of England and has no legal definition.

 

Independent Case Review

12.12.18 – Independent Case Review:
Diocesan safeguarding response to allegations of spiritual abuse

On 28 December 2017, the Revd Tim Davis was found guilty of conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority over a person then aged 15-16.

The penalty imposed under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure (2003) was immediate cessation of office and prohibition from the exercise of holy orders for a period of two years, effective 12 March 2018.

The Diocese of Oxford has commissioned an Independent Case Review relating to the reporting, investigation and management of allegations and concerns about the conduct of Revd Tim Davis. The following individuals have been engaged to undertake the Case Review:

Amanda Lamb CQSW / M.Soc.Science in Social Services Management
Amanda specialises in service review and redesign of Children’s Social Care services, particularly residential, fostering and adoption. She has extensive experience of safeguarding work, managing both casework and strategic reviews and has been an independent consultant on historic cases reviews, and related issues, including complaint investigations, for the Church of England National Safeguarding Team. She has over five years’ experience at Assistant Director level in two Local Authorities with a proven track record of improvement and been an Additional Inspector on 3 Ofsted teams for Safeguarding and Looked After inspections.

Mr. Timothy Briden Member of Lamb Chambers – Barristers.
Timothy has a background in personal injury and clinical negligence litigation. He has also developed an additional specialist practice in ecclesiastical law. He is Chancellor for the Diocese of Truro and for the Diocese of Bath and Wells. He is also Vicar-General of the Province of Canterbury.

The independent Case Review will include the following stages:

  1. A Desk-Top and Document Review, which will identify what was known, by whom and how such knowledge was communicated and acted upon. It is envisaged that this will be completed by the end of January 2019 and will identify further lines of enquiry.
  2. Engagement with and opportunities to listen to stakeholders within the local congregation and Diocese who were impacted by the abuse of which Revd Tim David was found guilty. It is envisaged that this will be completed by the end of March 2019. The review team will also extend an interview request to Revd Tim Davis.
  3. Publication of a report that will include recommendations about any changes required in training, processes and systems at local, Diocesan and national levels. It is envisaged that this will take place by the end of May 2019.

The Independent Case Review will work to the following Terms of Reference that have been agreed by the Independent Chair of the Oxford Diocese Safeguarding Panel, Peter Hay. These will be kept under review with the Case Review Team so that the final review is complete and comprehensive.

  1. To review all information available in records and reports within the Diocese of Oxford and the Parish of Christ Church Abingdon relating to allegations and concerns raised about the conduct of Revd Tim Davis. To produce a detailed timeline and clear account of the responses within the Diocese.
  2. To consider whether responses were in accordance with recognised good practice, and compliant with Church of England policy and legislation as well as statutory policy and legislation.
  3. To consider in particular allegations relating to the spiritual abuse of power and the manner in which these were responded to and addressed.
  4. To identify learning points about any changes or developments in guidance or practice within the Diocese of Oxford when addressing safeguarding and disciplinary concerns relating to clergy and other church officers to ensure that matters are dealt with to the highest possible standards.
  5. To identify any changes or developments to complaints and disciplinary processes which might be recommended to the Church of England. In particular, ongoing contact and support to victim(s), and communications with the wider congregation.
  6. To produce a report, including recommendations, to enable learning to be shared and developments to be taken forward.

Notes for editors:

New Independent Safeguarding Chairman for the Diocese of Oxford

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PETER Hay, CBE, is the new independent chairman of the Diocese of Oxford’s Safeguarding Panel. Read more

Diocese welcomes findings of Serious Case Review

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The Diocese of Oxford has welcomed the publication of the Serious Case Review published on Wednesday 1 February by the West Berkshire Local Safeguarding Children Board.

The report was commissioned by the Local Safeguarding Children Board last year to look into how organisations handled allegations of sexual offences against children, which were committed by people in positions of trust. It followed the sentencing of two men earlier that year for separately committing sexual offences against children. One of those was Robert Neill, a teacher sentenced to 21 years for offences between 1986 and 2003, and the other was the Revd Peter Jarvis, who was sentenced to 15 months for offences committed between 2008 and 2012.

The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud, said: “We welcome the findings of the Serious Case Review. We have created an action plan in response to the findings in the report and have already begun to implement the recommendations.

“The Diocese of Oxford takes safeguarding extremely seriously and we are investing more resource in training, following new national guidelines.”

Referring to the case of Mr Jarvis, he added: “Any case like this is a matter of sorrow and regret for the Church of England. We recognise that the suffering of survivors of sexual abuse is profound and long lasting.

“The Church of England will not tolerate abusive behaviour in its clergy or anyone else for whom we have pastoral responsibility. We take allegations of abuse extremely seriously and always work with the statutory authorities to ensure abusers are brought to justice and that pastoral care is offered to those directly affected.”