Response to Channel 4 News story
6 December 2018 by Fiona Handscomb

Response to Channel 4 News story

In response to the news report and interview with Jo Kind on Channel 4's news programme (Weds 5 Dec 7pm) we believe that it is important to clarify a number of elements of the story as reported in that instance. 

Most importantly, we need to make clear that the Church of England - Birmingham has never restricted, or sought to restrict Jo from telling her story. This is not the purpose of the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). It was and will always be her story to tell. The decision with regards to the NDA was made to protect the many contributors to the report, some of whom wish to remain unidentifiable, along with the many others whom this situation affects. The suggestion of asking Jo to sign the NDA was also made by the independent reviewer once the report had been finalised. We encouraged Jo to seek legal advice, which she did, before signing the NDA, rather than 'forcing it on her' as reported. 

It is important to understand that Jo was not asked to sign a 'confidentiality clause'. Such a clause would have prevented her from disclosing information contained within the reports that she was already aware of, or where elements were already in the public domain. Jo was asked to sign an NDA with the intention to prevent from sharing information not belonging to her that she was not previously aware of (for example elements within the report that refer to information provided from or by other individuals, along with factors that could lead to the identity of the contributors and others who have been affected by this from being identified).  

Simply put, Jo is and always has been free to tell her story, but we need to protect others who do not want their story to be told. We needed to put measures in place to safeguard the contributions and identities of these others. For us to publically share personal details regarding private individuals, some of whom have requested anonymity, would be irresponsible, unethical and contravening their understanding of what their contribution is being used for. It is not about protecting the Bishop, protecting the Church of England - Birmingham or the wider Church, it is about protecting the identities and rights of private individuals. We have not attempted to cover up our failings in dealing with this case and have publically acknowledged them here: www.cofebirmingham.com/hub/safeguarding/lessons-learnt/.  

Statement

Here is the full statement we sent to Channel 4: 

"The abuse described by Jo, and others who came forward, is harrowing and the Lessons Learnt Review, commissioned by the Diocese, acknowledges that there were significant failings in how this case was handled at the time. We are deeply sorry for the pain and distress that these failings have caused to all involved. We are committed to learning from this and have published the lessons learned from this review on our website, along with an action plan to address issues raised.

"The decision to not publish the full report was not taken lightly and only after a number of factors were considered. One of the main factors affecting the decision reached to not publish the full contents of the report related to concerns regarding the safeguarding of the many contributors - some of whom wish to remain anonymous - and many others whom this situation involves either directly or indirectly. Our comprehensive response has been to publish a detailed statement which outlines the identified failings along with the recommendations that have been made: www.cofebirmingham.com/hub/safeguarding/lessons-learnt/.

"Anyone wishing to view a redacted copy of the report  can do so by request to our Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, as directed on the website.* We commend the courage of all those who came forward to offer evidence and do not believe that publishing the report will serve to protect either those involved from further distress, or others from potential future abuse. The safeguarding of all within our care is of paramount importance to the Church of England – Birmingham and the lessons learned from this review will further inform our commitment to ensuring a safer Church for all."


  * We have since also made a redacted executive summary available on request. Copies of the full redacted report are not available for publication or distribution but a copy can be viewed, on prior agreement by our Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, at our offices. This is still redacted due to our responsibility to safeguard all contributors, as previously mentioned, and is not available for publication or distribution. Those who wish to view the redacted full report will be required to sign an agreement preventing the misuse of third party information.