The Church of England “covers up and manipulates and colludes with the abuse”, so Matthew Ineson told the BBC’s Inside Out programme last night (available on iPlayer until 3rd April). His story has previously been recounted on this blog, along with his ongoing quest for justice. Having been sexually abused by a parish priest more than 30 years ago, Matt Ineson knows a thing or two about cover-up, manipulation and collusion. He accused senior clergy of ignoring his disclosures and turning a deaf ear to his pleas. “By lies, by cover-up, the church has gone out of its way to protect them,” he told the BBC.
‘Them’ being John Sentamu, Archbishop of York; Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster; Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield (now Bishop of Oxford); Martyn Snow, Archdeacon of Sheffield (now Bishop of Leicester); Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley; and Roy Williamson, Bishop of Bradford (now retired).
The Rev’d Trevor Devamanikkam is alleged to have abused Matt Ineson over many months while Matt was a vulnerable teenager, and that abuse allegedly extended to multiple acts of rape. Matt never believed that he was the only victim of Devamannkem, and a Data Protection Act request to the church yielded an internal memo from Anna Flower, Safeguarding Officer at Bishopthorpe Palace, to the Archbishop of York, which appeared to corroborate this:
This memo clearly states that Matt Ineson is “one of the survivors of the alleged abuse by Mr Devamanikkam”. Ergo the Safeguarding Officer at Bishopthorp Palace apparently knew of others.
Except that a spokesperson for Sentamu told the BBC that the reference to survivors in the plural “was down to human error”.
The problem is that the document is marked ‘NOTED’ by the Archbishop on 27 June 2017.
So Sentamu noted that Matt Ineson was not the only victim of Devamanikkam, and by so doing (that is, by asking no questions of Anna Flower and by ordering no further investigation) he explicitly accepted what the church is now denying. And that is quite serious, for he expressly ordered that “no action” be taken in response to Matt’s disclosures, as confirmed by a previous internal memo dated 25th July 2016, marked “URGENT request for comment”:
If a child protection officer tells (say) the police that Mr X is one of the alleged child-abuse victims of Rev’d Y, the police would quite reasonably infer that there are multiple allegations against Rev’d Y, and so Rev’d Y might be a multiple offender and a manifest danger to children. They would therefore be immediately concerned to know the names of the other complainants and the nature of the further allegations, or else they wouldn’t be doing a very good job of policing.
And if this child protection officer then said that there were no other complainants, the police might justifiably lose confidence in the professionalism and reliability of this child protection officer, who might then feel the need to reflect on their position.
But Sentamu’s spokesperson told the BBC that the Archbishop didn’t fail to act because Matt Ineson’s claims were a matter for his Diocesan Bishop, who, at the time, was Steven Croft.
But Steven Croft did not act. Nor did Peter Burrows. And nor did Martyn Snow.
One might reasonably escalate a grievance against an archdeacon to a suffragan bishop; and a grievance against a suffragan bishop to a diocesan bishop. But to whom does one escalate a compounded grievance against all three? To whom does one complain about the inaction of a bishop if not to his (or her) metropolitan bishop? A complaint about the Bishop of Sheffield had to go to Metropolitan Bishop in the Province of York. Save for an appeal to the Supreme Governor, it could go nowhere else. Sentamu eventually responded to Matt Ineson’s complaints:
That’s nice, isn’t it?
How could Sentamu be utterly insensitive to the fact that this “testing time” was in large part down to the inertia of senior clergy directly under his authority?
The constant refrain of defence from the Church of England is that Matt’s complaints were made beyond the ‘one-year rule’ for disclosure.
Funny, isn’t it, how the arbitrary one-year rule didn’t apply to ‘Carol‘ (and whoever else has complained about Bishop George Bell), whose allegations of abuse were not merely entertained but acknowledged and compensated for, some 60 years after they were alleged to have taken place.
But George Bell is dead: John Sentamu, Steven Croft, Peter Burrows and Martyn Snow are very much alive.
And all of them were asked if Matt’s complaint should be heard beyond the ‘one-year rule’ (as, astonishingly, was Devamanikkam himself), which is (bizarrely) the usual procedure for ‘out of time’ complaints against clergy.
You might guess how they responded. It is hard to discern what incentive there could possibly be for clergy to consent to an out-of-time investigation into their failings – especially if those failings endangered the safety of children and led to a man’s death.
And Devamanikkam’s tragic suicide after his “‘meltdown’ about upcoming sex trial” is a dimension which no account of this story has yet touched upon:
Trevor Devamanikkam, 70, who had bipolar disorder, was found with multiple stab wounds and cuts at his Witney home on June 6 after he failed to attend the hearing.
..A note by Mr Devamanikkam was found by officers that said he was ‘so sorry for the distress his death would cause’ but that he ‘couldn’t face going through it all’ in relation to the trial.
Assistant coroner for Oxfordshire, Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp, said his mental health had deteriorated due to the upcoming trial, causing a ‘huge amount’ of anxiety, and recorded death by suicide.
Following the inquest, Mr Devamanikkam’s alleged victim, known only as Michael, said: “After a two-year police investigation and getting myself ready to give evidence at trial, it was terrible to find out there would be no justice.
“The last thing I wanted though was for someone to die and my thoughts are with his family and friends.”
‘Michael’ here is Matt Ineson, before his identity was made known. He never wanted his abuser dead: he simply wanted justice, restoration and healing. It is not only that John Sentamu and other clergy who, having failed to act, left an abuser for five years potentially to abuse children again, but knowing of his mental health problems (which they did) months before he died, did nothing to ensure his welfare, such as carrying out a risk assessment. These should always be done when disclosures are made and the alleged abuser is still alive, and when notified by the police that a member of the clergy is under investigation for sex abuse.
Despite Steven Croft as Bishop of Oxford, the Diocese of Oxford Safeguarding Team and the Church of England National Safeguarding Team all knowing for a long time that Devamanikkam was under the care of a local mental health team for his disorder, and despite their knowing that he had attempted suicide before, they carried out no risk assessment and made no efforts to check that he was alright… and so he killed himself.
It is perhaps all too easy to wish paedophiles dead. It is certainly easy to forget to pray for child abusers as well as the abused. But it is deplorable and quite indefensible that the Church of England should fail to ensure the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical welfare of all. In this case, a man killed himself because a psalter of bishops and ultimately an archbishop failed to follow their own procedures. Does John Sentamu not have blood on his hands? Or is that a matter for the Diocesan Bishop?