in the back
Bashing the bishops in York
Church of England, Issue 1468
AFTER THE FLOOD: Archbishop Sentamu, in whose palace basement records of complaints against clergy were irreparably damaged by floodwater
SOUTH Yorkshire Police is investigating complaints of misconduct in public office against four Church of England bishops and an archbishop, John Sentamu.

The complaints were made by the Rev Matthew Ineson, who says the churchmen all failed to act on his repeated disclosures in 2012 and 2013 that he had been abused by a priest 20 years earlier, when he was a teenager in Bradford. At the time of Ineson’s disclosures all five clerics were working in the church’s Northern Province of York.

It is unusual for Inspector Knacker to be involved in such a case. Most grievances against clergy are dealt with internally through the Clergy Disciplinary Measure (CDM), which covers everything from gripes about a vicar’s choice of hymns to allegations of abuse. All complaints are sent up the line to the diocesan bishop, who passes judgment and hands down a penalty where necessary. If the complaint is against a bishop it goes to the archbishop – though in practice no bishop has ever been disciplined under the CDM except for Rt Rev Peter Ball, who was already behind bars.

Immune from investigation
One of the strangest features of this discipline procedure is that complaints must be lodged within 12 months of the alleged offence. Given that the average length of time between child sexual abuse and disclosure is 14 years, this means cases of clergy abuse against children and young people are almost immune from internal investigation.

Stranger still, if the 12-month deadline has passed, the person against whom the complaint is made has to consent to it being pursued. Thus in the case of Matthew Ineson, who was raped by his parish priest at just 16, the church was in the bizarre position of having to ask his abuser – Rev Trevor Devamanikkam – for permission to investigate. Devamanikkam simply ignored the request. (He was less successful at staving off the police: sent for trial in June 2017 on six counts of sexual assault, he killed himself the night before he was due to appear.)

Damaged by flooding
Ineson’s internal complaints against the bishops in 2015 also fell foul of the one-year rule. Nor was that all. The Clergy Discipline Commission, which oversees the CDM process, says in its annual report for 2015 that six complaints were made against bishops and all were dismissed, but that these figures “are based solely on the return for the province of Canterbury figures – records for the province of York were damaged by flooding”.

The relevant documents had been stored in the basement of Archbishop Sentamu’s palace outside York, which was indeed affected by flooding in the last week of 2015. Thankfully, precious church archives from the 15th century survived the deluge. Sadly, the complaints against 21st-century bishops did not. God certainly moves in a mysterious way.

‘The Devil’

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‘Criminal or reckless’ acts may have led to Geoff Gray’s death at Deepcut, a court hears, as preparations are made for a new inquest into his violent death.

More on Colin Graves, chair of the England & Wales Cricket board, who really didn’t like the last Eye’s story about his threatened libel action against a respected cricket writer.

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Private Eye Issue 1467