Yesterday I was able to see an interview with HG, the woman at the centre of the current crisis involving the Church of England on Jersey. In it HG makes a number of allegations against various people in the Diocese and on Jersey and asks for the Dame Steele inquiry to be withdrawn.
BBC Jersey broadcast portions of the interview this morning. You can hear them by clicking here. The first slot begins at 5 minutes and the second slot (which includes an interview with me) begins at 65 minutes.
The Diocese of Winchester has issued a response to the interview.
It is very clear that HG’s experience in Jersey was a deeply upsetting one and that she feels that her complaint at the time was not properly handled. Safeguarding the vulnerable is one of the key responsibilities of the Church and we must ensure that we have the right policies and processes in place to handle such matters sensitively. Undertaking these independently led inquiries now is absolutely about ensuring that the Diocese and the Church fully understands HG’s case, informing what we can do in the future to help vulnerable people feel protected. I recognize that this has been a difficult process, for HG above all else, but the safeguarding of the vulnerable is too important a duty for this Diocese and the wider Church of England to ignore.
The interesting part of this statement is that it doesn’t engage with any of the allegations HG makes against people in the Diocese. It doesn’t refute them or confirm them, it simply ignores them. Compare this to the statement from the Jersey Police (HG claims she was “brutalized” by them).
In 2008, the States of Jersey Police recorded and investigated a complaint of indecent assault. Following completion of that investigation, in consultation with Legal Advisors, it was determined there was insufficient evidence to proceed at that time with a prosecution. The victim in this case was supported throughout.
Following publication of the Winchester Diocese Safeguarding Independent review by Jan Korris in March 2013, this highlighted potential new lines of enquiry and the original indecent assault complaint remains subject of re-investigation, with a view to ask for re-consideration by the Law Officers Department. Consequently, this remains a matter of sub judice.
During 2009/10 the States of Jersey Police recorded a number of complaints of Harassment made against this same victim. She was dealt with via the Criminal Justice System and was legally represented throughout that process, including representation at court.
All detainees are dealt with in accordance with Safer Detention UK guidelines whilst in police custody. There have never been any formal police complaints recorded in this case.
The States are in the process of establishing an Independent Police Authority to oversee the work of the States of Jersey Police, with the chairperson having already been selected and appointed.
The States of Jersey Police are also actively supporting two current reviews. One being led by Jersey’s Independent Safeguarding Chair on behalf of the Chief Ministers Office and the other being led by Dame Heather Steel, on behalf of the Bishop of Winchester.
That’s a good statement. It addresses the allegation and clearly denies it (see the bolded section). It also suggests that the original allegation of indecent assault may be re-opened (but to do that one suggests the Jersey Police will have to interview HG again – I can’t see that happening).
Where does this leave us? The Steele investigation is now under-way despite the fact that HG wants nothing to do with it (and indeed claims elsewhere that she hasn’t spoken to Dame Steele). There is also the visitation by Bishop John Gladwin which is exploring the relationship between Jersey and the rest of the Diocese of Winchester, but my sources inside Jersey indicate to me that this is just causing more friction.
HG has started a blog and you can read that here. I’m not going to quote from it on this site, mainly because it contains a number of potentially libellous allegations together with some disturbing material. No formal allegations (apart from the initial complaint of indecent assault that the Jersey Police investigated) have been made in connection with any of the claims she has made in her blog.
The whole thing is a mess. Spend some time on HG’s blog and you get a clear impression of her reliability as a witness. I suspect that there is a danger that this whole affair may unravel very quickly and leave a lot of egg on faces. The whole affair has become less about safeguarding and much more about truth telling (or the lack of it).
I recorded an interview with Premier Radio this lunchtime which you can listen to here or below.