Press Release: General Synod member calls for Archiepiscopal Visitation to investigate safeguarding in Southwell and Nottingham

Call comes after High Court Judge asks the Archbishop of York to spell out “without delay” safeguarding lessons that the bishop of Southwell and Nottingham needs to learn.

A recently elected member of the General Synod’s House of Laity, Gavin Drake, has called on the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, to hold an Archiepiscopal Visitation to investigate safeguarding in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. The call came after a High Court Judge, who serves as the Deputy President of Clergy Discipline Tribunals, urged the Archbishop to spell out “without delay” any lessons the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Right Revd Paul Williams, needs to learn on safeguarding issues.

His Honour Judge David Turner QC made the request in a written decision notice in which the judge upheld the Archbishop’s decision to take no further action against Bishop Paul Williams, following a complaint brought by Gavin Drake, a campaigner against gender-based violence who runs The Jill Saward Organisation.

But despite upholding the Archbishop’s decision, the judge was critical of Bishop Paul Williams in various stages of the decision notice, and he concluded it by saying: “I respectfully express the hope that any lessons the Bishop (or indeed others) need to learn may be spelt out by the Archbishop without delay, given the obvious importance of the concern underlying the complaint.”

In a letter today to Archbishop Stephen, Gavin Drake wrote: “While Judge Turner invites you to do this ‘without delay’, I would ask you to consider an Archiepiscopal Visitation by independent external safeguarding professionals into safeguarding practices within the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. Since publishing the churchabuse.uk website on 10 October, I have been contacted by numerous people with shocking stories to tell about the way Bishop Paul Williams has responded to other safeguarding cases.

“If the Church really is serious about striving to be a safe place, it needs to fully investigate allegations of wrongdoing. You have blocked two investigations into complaints that I have brought under the CDM about Bishop Paul’s safeguarding practices. I urge you now to convene your own investigation – outside the CDM – to fully understand the seriousness of the situation in this diocese.

“Alternatively, if you do not intend to undertake a visitation, then I urge you to comply with Judge Turner’s invitation to spell out the lessons you say Bishop Paul Williams needs to learn, as the judge requested, ‘without delay’”.

Explaining his reason for requesting the Archiepiscopal Visitation, Gavin Drake said: “safeguarding in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham is a shambles. The diocesan Bishop, Paul Williams, has admitted that he was not aware of significant new legislation, which was described by the Church of England as ‘an important development in strengthening safeguarding in the Church’ – and this when he was on the legislative body – the General Synod – that made new law.

“The Deputy President of Tribunals has urged the Archbishop of York to spell out “without delay” the lessons that Bishop Paul Williams needs to learn. I am going further and asking the Archbishop to conduct an official Archiepiscopal Visitation into safeguarding within the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham by competent, professional, external safeguarding experts.”

In October, Gavin Drake launched a website – churchabuse.uk – on which he has published a considerable amount of paperwork connected to the complaints against the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.

“As a result of the churchabuse.uk website, I have received a considerable amount of disturbing information about Bishop Paul’s handling of other safeguarding matters. It is clear to me that he and his diocese are out of their depth when it comes to maintain a safe church and acting appropriately.

“A full independent investigation looking into all aspects of safeguarding in this diocese is the only appropriate course of action.” Gavin Drake has tabled two Private Members Motions at the General Synod, calling for new legislation enabling scrutiny of diocesan safeguarding and also for additional information to be published as part of a national safeguarding audit.

Author: GavinDrake