Fr Alan Griffin: Diocese of London publishes independent report and response
The independent review regarding Fr Alan Griffin has today been published by the Diocese of London. External safeguarding practitioner, Chris Robson, was commissioned following the coroner’s inquest in 2021 into Fr Alan’s death, to conduct a lessons learned review. This has been released in full, alongside the Diocese’s response.
Fr Alan Griffin became the Rector of St James Garlickhythe and St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe in the City of London in 2001, in the Two Cities Area of the Diocese of London. He retired from the Church of England in 2011 and was ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 2012. On 8th November 2020, Fr Alan died by suicide.
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said:
“I am profoundly sorry for all that Fr Alan Griffin endured and apologise unreservedly to his family and friends. Homophobia and bias, conscious or unconscious, have no place our Church – the culture has to change. It is heart-breaking to read of the failings that occurred in the lead-up to November 2020, dating back to the lack of understanding and proper pastoral care at the time of his HIV+ diagnosis and non-fatal suicide attempt in 2010.
“Chris Robson’s report clearly identifies our past mistakes, alongside the improvements which have since been made, and the areas where work is still required. I am grateful for his approach and honesty, and for the efforts of the Review Steering Group in informing our response. We owe it to Fr Alan Griffin to ensure what happened to him can never happen to anybody else.”
The Independent Reviewer, Chris Robson, said:
“I would ask that those who read the Review see it as a document that will help the Diocese of London and wider church to improve safeguarding practice. Those people I have spoken to at a senior level have recognised the issues raised in the review and I am encouraged by their response.
“Whilst it is very clear that improvements to practice are necessary, I acknowledge that significant progress has already been made. In particular, the Diocese has a strong leader in Bishop Sarah and I can see she is driving that positive change. It now requires collective effort across the entire diocese with new and improved practice being ‘lived and owned’ by the whole church community.
“I would like to thank those who spoke to me for their candidness, often during difficult and emotional interviews. I have been privileged to speak with representatives of the family and friends of Father Alan during this process. The dignity, honesty and patience they have shown has been remarkable given the circumstances and I thank them sincerely for the part they played in the review.
“Finally, when reading this Review, I would ask that you remember Father Alan Griffin, a much-loved man. It is important that lessons are learned from his death and everything possible is done to ensure these or similar circumstances are never repeated.”
The Diocesan response to the independent report’s recommendations sets out progress made to date and identifies the ongoing priority areas. These include the following, which will be scrutinized by the independently-chaired Diocesan Safeguarding Steering Group:
- Team capacity across the Diocesan Safeguarding Team (DST) has increased from 4.4 full-time equivalent staff in 2019, and 6.6 in 2021, to 9.2 in 2022, including the new post of Head of Safeguarding, to which an experienced safeguarding professional, Martin Goodwin, was appointed in August 2021. Resourcing will continue to be carefully monitored.
- Any allegation referred to the DST is now always triaged by a safeguarding expert, and is risk-assessed, considering the safety, needs, and wellbeing of all parties involved. Case management processes have been implemented in line with national guidance.
- An LGBT+ Advisory Group is being established to focus on the pastoral care and sense of belonging of LGBT+ people and the impact of Diocesan policies, processes and practices on their community. This group will make recommendations for change to the Bishop of London and the Senior Staff.
- Mandatory unconscious bias training for all staff will be updated, including material on the effect of language and the terms we use to describe other people.
- Formal recruitment processes are now in place for all roles, including those appointed by bishops, following National Church guidelines.
- New information-sharing agreements will be implemented nationally, following the publication of Church of England guidance and an ongoing consultation with dioceses.
- Awareness training on the coronial process, in consultation with HM Coroner’s Services Manager, is being implemented for the Diocesan Safeguarding Team in July 2022.
The Diocese’s Head of Safeguarding, Martin Goodwin, said:
“Over the last year, we have made significant practice improvements across the diocese as safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. We have improved the way we review safeguarding referrals and ensure support is provided to all those involved along every step of the way, recognising the profound effect such a safeguarding concern or allegation can have on an individual.
“The Diocesan Safeguarding Team has been strengthened with the appointment of a safeguarding advisor to each of the five episcopal areas, improving the support given to parishes. The implementation of new procedures and the additional recruitment of a case work supervisor ensure that referrals are concluded efficiently and to the highest standards in line with practice guidance.”
Bishop Sarah added:
“I have witnessed the distress, across the Two Cities Area in particular, in the wake of Fr Alan’s death. There is much for us to do to ensure we all learn the lessons from this tragedy. In particular, I am concerned to focus on how we work with each other as disciples of Christ. A culture that evolved over many years will not be transformed overnight, but I am committed to ensuring that change comes. I hope and pray that we can all contribute to that process. We are stronger when united in Christ’s love.”
For further information, please contact the Diocese of London media team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7618 9106.