The Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) has announced a settlement in a case brought against it by Professor Martyn Percy, the former Dean of Christ Church Oxford. It has also called for an urgent independent review into the case.
In a statement on its website the ISB also says there needs to be ‘a rigorous review of the processes and practices of the Church of England alongside other developments at Christ Church.’
Dr Percy brought the case against the ISB following an almost four year battle with the governing body of Christ Church over allegations of sexual harassment. That case ended last November in a settlement involving a payoff – reportedly in the region of £1.2 million - to the former dean.
Dr Percy then requested to the Archbishops’ Council and Diocese of Oxford that there should be an independent review of the alleged weaponization of safeguarding by individuals and agencies within the Church of England perpetrated against him.
The ISB was commissioned to undertake the review, however Professor Percy challenged the restricted terms of the draft terms of reference. In the event, the court dismissed the claim brought by Dr Percy against the ISB, in part because all parties agreed that the ISB was not a legal entity against which such a claim could be brought.
In its statement, the ISB said the original review’s published terms of reference would have needed significant amendment to ensure that any independent ISB review had sufficient scope and depth.
The ISB says the absence of an Information Sharing Agreement with the Church of England significantly hampered the continuation of the work. The review was initially paused and then discontinued by the Archbishops’ Council which decided that it should be conducted by some other person. That individual has yet to be agreed.
The ISB is urging the Archbishops’ Council to ensure that an independent review is commissioned urgently. It says it agrees with Professor Percy’s assertion that such a review should be led by a KC or Judge.
The ISB has agreed to drop any enforcement of a costs order made against Dr Percy.
The case comes after criticism that the ISB is not sufficiently independent from the Church of England to be an effective safeguarding body. This week in its first annual report, it set out proposals for greater independence.
It follows claims by its two remaining board members Steve Reeves and Jasvinder Sanghera, that the Church of England has obstructed some of the ISB’s safeguarding work.
Commenting on the Percy case, Steve Reeves said :
“Ongoing legal action between the Independent Safeguarding Board and Professor Percy was not going to result in the independent review of the issues of concern. Children, vulnerable adults, survivors of abuse, and the public need our focus to be on providing independent oversight and scrutiny of safeguarding in the Church of England”.
Fellow ISB Board member Jasvinder Sanghera said :
“The ISB recognises that Professor Percy has made serious allegations against Church authorities, including that there has been a deliberate weaponization of safeguarding against him. It is right that these claims are investigated without fear or favour.”
Professor Percy added: “Although there was evidence to suggest other senior individuals and bodies did not want the ISB to engage with the issues that have been raised, the board members have showed considerable tenacity, courage and determination in their work, which bodes well for the future of fully independent oversight and scrutiny in relation to Church of England safeguarding practices”.