The Church of England has completed a review of more than 75,000 files, some dating back to the 1940s, with the publication today of its national Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2) report.
The purpose of PCR2 was to identify both good practice and institutional failings in relation to how allegations of abuse have been handled, assess any identified risks and respond to these where appropriate, and to provide recommendations to the Church that will lead to improvements in its safeguarding work.
Alongside the national report, the Diocese of Chester has published an extensive Summary Report detailing the findings of its own review of diocesan files that was undertaken as part of the national PCR2 process.
Support for those affected by PCR2
If you or anyone you are in contact with are affected by the publication of the national PCR2 Report or the local diocesan Summary Report want to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056 or visit www.safespacesenglandandwales.org.uk
Alternatively, you may wish to contact the Acting Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Sean Augustin.
T: 07704 338885
There are also other support services available on the Church of England website: A Safer Church | The Church of England
PCR2, believed to be the most extensive file review undertaken by the Church, was commissioned after an independent scrutiny team concluded that the original Past Cases Review (PCR) in 2007 was not a thorough process with particular criticism of lack of survivor engagement. PCR2 was carried out by independent reviewers across all 42 dioceses, as well as Lambeth and Bishopthorpe Palaces and the National Safeguarding Team (NST).
The national review found 383 new cases which are now all being actively managed by local safeguarding leads under the House of Bishops guidance. These are cases that were identified by independent reviewers as requiring further assessment by today’s safeguarding standards and, where necessary, further action.
These cover a range of cases, from those resulting in referrals to statutory authorities, to failures to carry out best practice. Reviewers found allegations were often dealt with informally, without appropriate investigations or records or referrals to the appropriate diocesan safeguarding professionals.
The independent reviewers found that of the 383 new cases 168 related to children, 149 to vulnerable adults, with 27 recorded as both and 39 with no recorded data.
Data on the alleged perpetrators shows 242 cases related to clergy, with 53 relating to church officers and 41 relating to volunteers whose role included engagement with children.
The report lists 26 national recommendations, developed from the 800 plus recommendations in the 45 local reports. These have been set out thematically and are prioritised under three headings: “Keep doing well”, “Continue to do, but more effectively and consistently”, and “Must improve”.
A survivor and victim centred approach was adopted with the guidance for reviewers compiled from trauma-informed safeguarding practitioners and feedback, both positive and negative, from those previously raising concerns and complaints about their abuse allegations.
The recommendations include a charter to ensure the voices of children are heard and for the NST to develop a charter to set out the minimum standards of service and timescales that should be delivered following a safeguarding disclosure or referral.
An overarching area for improvement was for more consistency across the Church’s safeguarding work.
The review in the Diocese of Chester
The review of files in the Diocese of Chester began in 2020 and concluded in April 2022 when the two lead Independent Reviewers submitted their key themes and trends to the National Safeguarding Team in a 124-page report. The full diocesan PCR2 report provides extensive evidence of safeguarding failings in the Diocese of Chester and of a very poor safeguarding culture over several decades.
An extensive Summary Report sets out the background to the review and then details the key themes and includes the full conclusions and recommendations of the Independent Reviewers.
Writing in the Foreword to the Summary Report, the Bishop of Chester, Mark Tanner, the Bishop of Birkenhead, Julie Conalty, and the Bishop of Stockport, Sam Corley, expressed their thanks to all those involved in the process, including the victims and survivors who contributed.
Addressing the review findings, the bishops say: "We are appalled and angry regarding some of the past safeguarding practice in Chester Diocese. We also recognise that despite our shared commitment to changing the culture and practice in our Diocese, we may still make mistakes or fall short of the expected standards. None of this is good enough and we are committed to learning from survivors and victims, from past cases and from independent reviews. We are intent upon establishing a healthier culture and a safer church and most of all, upon being more Christ-like in how we respond to victims and survivors and to those who are vulnerable.
"This report touches upon much that is evil, sinful or inadequate. We rightly feel a deep sense of shame, but above all, we are determined to lead the change that is needed and that has already begun. Safeguarding really is at the heart of what it means to be church and at the heart of our mission."
Bishop Mark, Bishop Julie and Bishop Sam recorded a conversation, ahead of the national report publication, in which they reflect on the PCR2 process and findings of poor safeguarding practice in the diocese and the Church. You can listen to their conversation below.
The Dean of Chester, Tim Stratford, has also offered his thoughts in a recorded video in which he speaks of the shame he feels after reading the diocesan Summary Report and "the failings that are part of our story". You can watch Dean Tim below.