I write as a longstanding member of the Church of England and a senator in the States Assembly to express my deep dismay at the action taken by the Right Reverend the Bishop of Winchester to withdraw the Commission of the Dean, the Very Reverend Robert Key. The Dean enjoys wide respect in the lsland and the Bishop's action has caused shock and bewilderment. The action was taken on the basis of a report by Jan Korris ("the Reviewer") into events surrounding the church's treatment of a vulnerable young woman ("HG"). Following receipt of that report, and on the advice of the Winchester Diocesan Safeguarding Committee, the Bishop announced the withdrawal of the Commission and an investigation into the conduct of the case by the Dean. Subsequently it was announced that Bishop John Gladwin would chair the inquiries, now described as "safeguarding inquiries". It is not clear whether this investigation purports also to be a disciplinary inquiry into the conduct of the Dean. If it is, it appears to be contrary to the provisions of Jersey law. If it is not, it is unclear how the Dean is to exonerate himself from the accusations made against him.
My concerns are twofold. (1) The withdrawal of the Bishop's Commission seems disproportionate to any alleged failings of the Dean. Such alleged failings relate to procedural omissions and not to misconduct. (2) lt is not clear that the Bishop intends to respect the special historical relationship between the diocese and the Bailiwick, and to have regard to the provisions of the Canons of the Church of England in Jersey ("the 2012 Canons").
(a) The Reviewer accuses the Dean of being "disingenuous" in claiming that he had not seen the email from HG sent to his Yahoo address; the Reviewer failed to notice, or presumably to establish by inquiry, that HG had used the wrong email address which is why the Dean did not receive it on the day it was sent.
(b) The Reviewer states in relation to HG's alleged "deportation" from Jersey that it is "clearly a matter of concern that a vulnerable adult in such a distressed state could be removed from Jersey with no thought to her imminent care needs." It is a pity that the Reviewer did not seek to establish the facts. HG was not deported from Jersey. I have read the transcript of the proceedings and it is clear that the Magistrate acted with appropriate care and compassion throughout. HG admitted a course of harassment over 18 months which involved aggressive, obscene and abusive emails and telephone calls to the Dean and his wife. HG was supported in court by a mental health worker and by friends from Winchester. She was represented by experienced legal counsel. The Magistrate had psychiatric and other reports. The binding over order with a condition that she left the lsland for 3 years was made at the request of her counsel and with HG's consent. Inter olia, it was clearly considered by all concerned that that order was in the best interests both of HG and those she had abused. The Reviewer expresses surprise that the Dean was not consulted, but it would be highly irregular for a complainant to be consulted by the Magistrate about the proposed sentence in a criminal case.
Much of this would have emerged if the Bishop had shown a copy of the Reviewer's report to the Dean, and invited his comments upon it, before taking the decision to withdraw his Commission. His failure to do so was in breach of the principles of natural justice, and arguably unlawful. I do not doubt that the Bishop acted in good faith and in the interests of the Church as he perceived it. But in my view he made a mistake. Both the Dean and Mrs Key have been treated unfairly, and great distress has been caused in Jersey both to the Anglican community and more widely.
The essence of the complaint against the Dean, as it appears from the report, is that he was slow in responding to HG's complaint, did not immediately suggest that she should contact the police, did not notify the Safeguarding Adviser, and more generally did not follow the guidance laid down in the Diocesan Safeguarding Procedure. On the other hand he did see HG shortly after receiving the complaint on 5th August 2008, did encourage her to make a complaint to the police on 25th August, and gave his advice after HG wrote to Bishop Michael on 13th September. The diocese was in fact aware of the complaint 39 days after the Dean, Shortly after, the Dean did in effect suspend the churchwarden, EY. On the face of the chronology, there does appear to have been some slowness of response, but this is hardly the stuff of disciplinary action. Furthermore, not only was the diocese aware of HG's complaint on 13th September 2008, but it was closely involved with most of the difficulties caused by her relationships with many others in the church between September 2008 and the date of the review.
The Dean of Jersey is a Crown Officer. When he presents his Letters patent, issued by the Queen, and is sworn into office by the Royal Court, he takes an oath to observe the laws and customs of the Island. C17(2) of the 2012 Canons provides: "The Dean shall exercise his jurisdiction in accordance with the terms of his Letters Patent, the Bishop of Winchester's Commission, these canons and local law and custom." The Letters Patent and the Commission are the sources of the Dean's authority and, when he has been sworn to office, he is bound by those two sources and the law. It is not open to the Dean to ignore his legal obligation to exercise his jurisdiction in accordance with the law and, in particular, the 2012 canons, or their predecessor Canons promulgated by His Majesty King James I in1623. The Order in Council of 14th March 2012 sending down the 2012 Canons states ,,Her Majesty was pleased ... to order that the Canons of the Church of England in Jersey shall be '..observed." The 1623 Order in Council contained a similar provision. It seems to me wrong, therefore, to criticize the Dean for being concerned to comply with his oath to act lawfully in accordance with the laws and customs of the lsland.
Neither the Dean nor the Bishop is above the Law. If there is an allegation that the Dean has erred in some way that justifies a disciplinary process, that process is expressly set out in the 2012 Canons, and it should be engaged. It is not clear what the terms of reference of the visitation under Bishop Gladwin are to be, nor whether they include a disciplinary investigation. If they do, that would be a breach of the 2012 Canons.
The majority of churchgoers in the lsland wish earnestly to see reconciliation between the diocese and the church in Jersey. There is no difference between the diocese and the Island in so far as the importance of observance of appropriate safeguarding measures for vulnerable people is concerned. On the other hand, reconciliation cannot be achieved if the special historical relationship between the diocese and the lsland, and the connections between the churches and the ancient parishes that are not replicated in England, are ignored. The 500 year attachment to the diocese of Winchester is important, but so is the traditional connection between church and state in Jersey which does not appear to be fully understood by the Bishop. I accordingly respectfully request that you should take a personal interest in the resolution of this damaging dispute which threatens to do serious harm to the church in Jersey and lasting damage to its relationship with the diocese of Winchester.
I have hesitated long as to whether this letter should be placed in the public domain. I have no wish to exacerbate tensions, nor to prejudice any formal process that may ensue. On the other hand, the diocese has published a report which is in my view unfairly critical of the Dean and placed statements on its website that damage his reputation. I have been elected by the public, and I believe that the public is entitled to know that there is another side to the story.
Senator Sir Philip Bailhache(END)