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Top UK barrister to lead review into collapse of CofE's Independent Safeguarding Board

by Premier Journalist
Sarah Wilkinson.jpg - Banner image

An independent review into what happened to 'Phase 1' of the Church of England's Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) is to be led by a top public law barrister, the Church has announced.

The ISB was put in place to investigate several cases of clergy or church sexual abuse, alleged to have happened in the Church of England.  It attracted national headlines when it imploded earlier this year, after two of its members were suddenly sacked and the interim chairperson resigned, leaving confidential cases unresolved and seemingly no-one assigned to continue delicate support work with vulnerable survivors.

The Archbishops’ Council has instructed Sarah Wilkinson, a barrister from Blackstone Chambers, to undertake a review of what went wrong.  According to her firm's website, she is an experienced public law practitioner, with more than 10 years experience, who has represented the Government both as sole and junior counsel in a wide range of high-profile judicial review cases.

In a statement the Church of England said Ms Wilkinson's task is to establish "a clear account of the events from the conception, design and establishment of the ISB until the announcement of the termination of contracts of members, establish and identify the reasons for the action to terminate, and identify lessons to be learned based on the findings."

Her review is due to be completed by the end of November and the Church says the Council "will aim to make it public" as soon as possible after that.  It says the findings will also inform the work of Professor Alexis Jay on the future of safeguarding within the Church of England.

The announcement of her role and the timescale follows several months of uncertainty for those whose cases were being investigated when Phase 1 of the ISB was abruptly disbanded.  A review was announced by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell at a meeting of the Church's parliament - the General Synod - this summer.  A protracted session at the event in York saw the two sacked ISB members - Jaswinder Sangera and Steve Reeves finally allowed to speak, but there was a lot of dissatisfaction expressed by survivors and their advocates.  Long time Synod member Gavin Drake, a lifelong campaigner for victims of sexual assault, resigned in protest at the handling of the matter.

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