Dean of Jersey Suspended? Not Quite…

In the news this weekend is the report that the Dean of Jersey has been suspended by the Bishop of Winchester over allegations of mismanagement of a safeguarding issue. This comes in the light of the Chichester Diocese issues with child protection.

Very Rev Robert KeyTHE BISHOP OF WINCHESTER has today withdrawn the commission of the Dean of Jersey, the Very Reverend Robert Key, effectively suspending him. The Dean of Jersey’s suspension follows the publication today of an Independent Report (see below), commissioned by the Diocese of Winchester’s Safeguarding Panel. This has found that there were a number of failures in the implementation of policies, in relation to a safeguarding complaint in 2008.

The report raises concerns that the Dean of Jersey did not comply with key safeguarding procedures in dealing with the complaints of a vulnerable adult parishioner, who had made a complaint about abusive behaviour by a Churchwarden in Jersey.

Well that seems simple, but all is not what it seems. Apparently the Chapter of clergy in Jersey are not at all pleased with these developments and Bishop Tim Dakin of Winchester and Bishop Peter Hancock of Basingstoke are flying into the Channel Island for an emergency meeting on Monday morning to discuss the issue. The apparent conflict arises out of the fact that the Dean of Jersey holds a commission from the Bishop of Winchester to act on his behalf in the Island, but for everything else (his license etc) he holds a patent from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In order for the Dean to be suspended either the ecclesiastical courts in Jersey (which operate independently from the courts on the mainland, including those in the mainland portion of the Diocese of Winchester) need to suspend him or the Queen needs to withdraw her patent. On top of this, the House of Bishop’s guidelines on the protection of children and vulnerable adults have no statutory force on the island of Jersey, so there is severe doubt that even if the Dean violated them he was in any sense bound to obey them. The bottom line is that there appears to be no legal way that the Bishop of Winchester can remove permission to officiate from the Dean of Jersey in his own right, but there is concern that on the island that Bishop Tim Dakin has been seen to be assuming that he has done as much.

Furthermore, sources on the island intimate that although the Attorney General of Jersey has been contacted by the Bishop of Winchester in this matter, the Proctor’s Office (the Proctor is the Jersey equivalent of the Diocesan Registrar) has received no communication from the Diocese of Winchester on the subject of the Dean’s “suspension”. There was apparently an emergency Jersey government meeting on this matter on Friday (the Dean of Jersey sits by right in the States of Jersey) as the right to appoint the Dean (who has legislative rights alongside his other Senators) is in the Monarch’s gift and not that of the Bishop. For the Bishop to “suspend” the Dean is actually seen as a grave constitutional crisis and strikes to the heart of not just ecclesiastical but also secular polity in this Crown Dependency.

The relevant Canons (download them here) are as follows.

  • Canon A7 – Royal Supremacy
  • Canon C1.3 – Canonical Obedience in all things lawful and honest to the Bishop
  • Canon C16.2 – The Bishop and his jurisdiction as Ordinary except in places and over persons exempt by law and custom
  • Canon C17 – The Dean
  • Canon F3 – The Clergy Discipline Division of the Ecclesiastical Court of Jersey

I’ll try and report back as soon as hear anything more, especially in the light of Monday morning’s meeting with the Bishops.

4 Comments on “Dean of Jersey Suspended? Not Quite…

  1. Those with the authority to appoint have the authority to revoke. The issue is about the authority of the Bishop and the Archbishop. The CofE is not a democracy, it is a heirarchy. Ignore the Jersey constitutional mumbo jumbo, it is just muddying the water. There is no separate Church in Jersey. Elizabeth 1 appointed Calvinist clergy in Jersey even though they really did not subscribe to her Anglican middle way of Protestantism. She did so as no one else spoke French in what was then a francophone island. There is nothing to prevent the suspension or dismissal of the Dean. He must obey.

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