The Chapter of York is required by the law of the land and Church of England national policy to take its safeguarding responsibilities seriously.

The Church of England’s Practice Guidance: Responding to Serious Situations Relating to Church Officers states that a serious safeguarding situation may relate to a church officer (someone who is paid/unpaid) who has:

  • behaved in a way that has or may have harmed a child or adult;
  • possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child or adult; or
  • behaved towards a child or adult or presented him or herself in a way that indicates they may pose a risk to children or adults.

Earlier this summer, it was necessary for Chapter to take action relating to a member of the bell ringing band on safeguarding grounds.  The matter dates back to 1999/2000 and 2014 when an individual was the subject of a police investigation into allegations of indecent assault against young girls.  The 2014 allegations were the subject of a multi-agency investigation involving the police, social services and the Church of England’s safeguarding authorities.

The case went to court in December 2015.  The judge decided that no sanction would be imposed and the person concerned made certain undertakings.

In line with the Church’s guidance and national law, Chapter commissioned a detailed risk assessment of the individual to decide whether or not Chapter’s safeguarding requirements for children would be fully met if the person was reinstated.  Following a detailed review of the matter and with guidance from national agencies, Chapter felt that the person presented an ongoing risk and that the potential severity of the risk meant they could not be reinstated.

This decision was not accepted by the bell ringing team. There was a reluctance to recognise the Minster’s concerns despite briefings with staff including our safeguarding officer. This culminated in Chapter’s decision to disband the team in October.

Bell ringing leaders from other parts of the county and country have been in contact to explore options for ringing in the next few days and months.  We have also been approached by individuals keen to help and who are supportive of the action Chapter has taken.

However we have learned that many of these kind people have been subjected to intimidation on social media and in the local press.  At least one member of the clergy who has offered to help has been threatened with legal action.

Given the Church’s recent history and safeguarding concerns now emerging in other sectors, the Chapter of York remains resolute that it will maintain the highest standards of welfare and safeguarding for all.

Chapter’s strong preference had been to remain silent on these matters to protect the privacy of those affected.  Given the ongoing interest, however, Chapter has felt it necessary to make this statement.

We are exploring options for ringing at Christmas. As we continue to do this, we hope that people will be able to approach us impartially and without fear of intimidation.