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Nottingham vicar suspended after failing to maintain professional boundaries with a congregant

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A vicar from the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham has been prohibited from ministry for six months after pleading guilty to unprofessional conduct with a vulnerable woman.

In 2019, the victim reported to the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham’s safeguarding team that Rev Anthony Giles had groomed and sexually assaulted her.

The claims prompted separate investigations by the Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Venerable Phil Williams; the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Rt Rev Paul Williams; and a barrister in the Church of England’s national legal office – Mr Edward Dobson.

These led to the church’s office concluding that there was insufficient evidence of "the 'sexual' aspects" of the complaint. However, Rev Giles did admit he failed to maintain professional boundaries with the victim by sending her text messages which were inappropriate in frequency and content.

Rev Giles has been “stepped back from ministry on terms equivalent to suspension” since October 2020, with the six month penalty being imposed on Wednesday 6th October 2021. 

But the victim feels she has been “silenced” by the church and has no confidence in the church’s safeguarding process.

She said: “For the past two years everybody from the Archdeacon of Nottingham to the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham and the Archbishop of York has sought to protect my abuser and the Church of England.

“For the hierarchy of the Church of England, I am a nobody. My experience has left me feeling suicidal. The Church of England – my church – has abandoned me to protect itself. I no longer trust the Church. All along I was told to ‘trust the process’ but the Bishop and Diocese here have ignored that process and made up their own processes,” she continued.

Gavin Drake, an advocate for abuse victims, told Premier he thinks safeguarding procedures need to become speedier and more transparent.  

“The Church of England is looking at replacing the Clergy Discipline Measure with the new Clergy Conduct Measure, but it needs more than a change of name. It needs a change of approach. It needs to be open; it needs to be transparent. People need to be able to see and hear what is being said. And not just a redacted judgment delivered by a panel who haven't heard what the complainant has to say.”

The conclusion of the Church's legal process has come two years after the victim first reported inappropriate behaviour by Rev Giles.

“The whole process has been traumatic. I have had to fight to be heard at every stage and at no point, including yesterday at the tribunal, was there an independent person to represent me.

“I have felt that the Church has tried to suffocate and silence me.”

Once the six months suspension is lifted, Rev Giles will have his ministry under supervision for two years.

The Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham will release a statement on 11th October. 

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