ELS Working Party on the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003

April 12, 2020

ELS Working Party on the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003

Peter Collier QC writes:

Arising from my lecture to the Society – Safeguarding in Church and State over the last 50 Years – I have been asked to chair a working group of the Society to take forward some of the ideas that I ventilated towards the end of the lecture, particularly in relation to reform of the Clergy Discipline Measure. I am now in the process of putting such a group together, thinking through what the terms of reference would be and how the work could be progressed in the current lockdown.

As I said in the lecture “… a multi-disciplinary working party of practitioners sitting down round a table and doing ‘process mapping’ can generate new working practices much more efficiently than something imposed from on high or devised by managers who are now too far removed from the day-by-day doing of the work”.

So I would like to draw together a group of people who have a range of different experiences of the current system. Ideally there would be at least one of each of the following – a bishop, an archdeacon, a provincial registrar, a diocesan registrar, a legally qualified chair of bishops disciplinary tribunals, a lay and/or clerical panellist, a litigator doing CDM work; an advocate before tribunals, a clergy person, someone speaking for complainants, and a person speaking from the perspective of the President of Tribunals or the Clergy Discipline Commission.

If you think that you would be able to speak with some experience from one of those perspectives, I would love to hear from you. I think that there will be some perspectives where there will be several people offering and others where I might find it difficult to find someone with the necessary experience who would be willing to give their time to the exercise.

My initial thoughts about how we would set about our task are as follows. I would want to begin by collecting and analysing data amongst other things about what has happened since the CDM was introduced compared to what was the case prior to its introduction. How many complaints have there been? What have they been about? How many have got to each stage? How have they been disposed of? What has been the financial cost of the system?

I would then want to collect information through some sort of public consultation of the ELS membership and more widely ie an invitation to people to let us know what they think has worked well; what has not worked well; do people see any major issues of principle in the system; how could it be improved. There will doubtless be other issues as well as we talk things through together.

We would then look to see what proposals we want to make about how a system of clergy discipline should work and be operated in practice. I would imagine that quite a lot of the work will be done by dividing up tasks between us and liaising no doubt via Zoom as we move things forward. If you would be interested in taking part in this, then please get in touch with me by emailing execsec@ecclawsoc.org.uk who will forward all responses to me.

It would be helpful if you could make contact by 24 April 2020 with some indication of your particular area of experience and interest and I will try to finalise the membership of the group before the end of the month.

I cannot guarantee that everyone who offers will be able to take part as I anticipate that there will be some perspectives that will be over represented by offers of assistance and I will have to make a decision as to whom to include. However even if you do not become part of the working party itself there will be plenty of opportunity for all members of the society to offer their views during the consultation period.

Peter Collier QC

Easter Day 2020