Publication of Past Cases Review 2

On October 5th the Church of England published its summary report of the Past Cases Review that has taken place over the last three years.

The project, begun in 2019, has been scrutinised twice by the National Safeguarding Panel, first in October 2020 and again in December 2021


In May 2007, the House of Bishops recognised the need for a review of past cases of child abuse. This followed court appearances by several clergy and church officers, charged with sexual offences against children. What became known as the Past Cases Review 2007-2009 (PCR) was intended to ensure that risks to children were identified, support provided to survivors and lessons learned.

In 2016 concerns were expressed about just how well it had been conducted and an independent assessment was undertaken. This found the Past Cases Review to be well motivated and thoughtfully planned given the limited resources available at the time. However, there were limitations in relation to its execution and recommendations were made to address these shortcomings. These were accepted by the Archbishops’ Council and in 2019 a Past Cases Review 2 (known as PCR2) was designed to help dioceses take a proactive approach in identifying cases of concern and evaluate safeguarding responses.

The aim of PCR2 was to ensure that any file that could contain information regarding a concern, allegation or conviction in relation to abusive behaviour by a living member of the clergy or church officer, (whether still in that position or not) would have been identified, read and analysed by independent safeguarding professionals.

At the completion of the review it would be possible to state that:

• all safeguarding cases have been appropriately managed and reported to statutory agencies or the police where appropriate

• that the needs of any known victims have been considered and that sources of support have been identified and offered where this is appropriate

• that all identified risks have been assessed and mitigated as far as is reasonably possible.

Cases identified

The new review found 383 new cases. It highlighted a number of shortcomings and inadequacies in the local actions taken, including:

• safeguarding risks not being identified nor managed appropriately

• the needs or expectations of survivors or victims not being considered nor met

• cases not being recognised as requiring a safeguarding response

• inadequate record keeping and central coordination of risk.

This number of cases demonstrates that there was a need for this review. I am reassured that all these situations have been assessed and where action was required this has been taken.

Quality assurance

There is no doubt that the project has involved a great detail of work and the process has been taken seriously across the country. When the Panel last scrutinised the programme, dioceses told us that it has been a major piece of quality assurance work. While many of these cases relate to situations some time ago, it has enabled dioceses to understand what action they need to take to ensure safer churches locally.

While the national themes and recommendations are important, the most effective changes are likely to come from these diocesan reports. They are specific and relevant to the local situation and implementing the recommendations will lead to positive changes. The Panel is supportive of regular audits and is being kept informed of the development of the quality assurance framework. It has recommended that the framework takes account of the PCR2 themes and recommendations in order to ensure that there is coherence in the work and that dioceses are not overwhelmed by too many requirements.

Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels

The Church of England comprises 42 dioceses, each a separate entity. The National Safeguarding Panel continues to emphasise the importance of the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels and their role in the oversight of safeguarding. They must be the primary vehicles for driving change in each diocese.

I would like to see greater emphasis given to communicating with the Chairs of Panels, and bringing them together so they can learn from each other. Some groups of Chairs meet regularly, and I am invited to attend the meetings of the Northern Chairs. This approach should be more systematic across the country.

The National Safeguarding Panel recently hosted a good practice webinar where two Diocesan Panel Chairs shared aspects of their work. One presentation shared work on how to ensure children’s views are heard and the other explained how the Panel ensures it is accountable to the diocese. This is a relatively easy way to promote sharing of good practice and I would like to see the Church facilitate more such events.


When the National Safeguarding Panel scrutinised PCR2, we expressed concern about the involvement of victims and survivors in the process. Hearing directly from those affected is a key part of improving safeguarding. While some dioceses have had excellent engagement with survivors, others had not. The team overseeing the project assured us that they had raised these issues with the relevant dioceses. Having examples of good practice in a number of dioceses documented should make it easy to share them with those dioceses where survivor engagement is poor.

The Panel were also keen to be reassured that there would be support for victims and survivors when the final report was published. Such a high profile event can cause those affected to experience a range of emotions and having support available is essential. The PCR2 project management board had plans in place and dioceses were expected to do likewise. I still heard from some survivors who felt that not enough notice had been given and that they had not been informed of available support. Although the Church of England is making progress in its engagement with survivors, there is more to do and the recommendations in the PCR2 report are important for this. The National Safeguarding Panel intends to hold a scrutiny session on this area of work next year.

Focus on children’s needs

Recommendation 2 of the PCR2 report highlights the need for a survivors’ charter and focuses on the importance of identifying signs that a child might be experiencing abuse. It is very difficult for any person to disclose abuse, it is often impossible for children. Being attuned to a child in distress is essential for the early identification of abuse. This is a welcome recommendation.

Accountability and support

Recommendation 16 of the PCR2 report is very disappointing, particularly as I have consistently identified the importance of transparency and accountability in making the Church a safer place.

“The National Safeguarding Team to provide guidance on the reflective conversations that should be considered when safeguarding situations are explored during Ministerial Development Reviews (MDRs).”

While the Church of England now requires employees and volunteers to have regular oversight and supervision as part of its “Safer recruitment and people management” policy, there is no equivalent expectation for clergy. This is a gaping hole in efforts to improve safeguarding and does little to increase either accountability or support.

Ministerial Development Reviews do provide an opportunity to discuss safeguarding, but the minimum requirement is that they take place only every two years. Without better processes of accountability, there will continue to be clergy who exploit the lack of oversight to abuse others.

However, it is encouraging that a number of dioceses are exploring models of supervision, and I hope that the Church of England will commit to develop this approach. It is also important that clergy are able to receive regular support to cope with the many difficult personal situations they meet.


The national report details a significant number of cultural issues, some related directly to safeguarding, with others that show the Church in a negative light, as it fails to respond appropriately to discrimination, bullying and domestic abuse. Although the report notes,

 “The findings of the independent reviewers provide evidence of cultural issues which need to change to ensure improvements in safeguarding and in making a safer church for all.”

there are only two recommendations arising from this section, neither of which relate to the cultural issues affecting safeguarding.

Deceased clergy

The National Safeguarding Panel recommended that the files of deceased clergy should be examined. We were informed that this was not part of the review. Some dioceses have considered deceased clergy files while others have considered them were there was a link to someone alive. The Panel were particularly concerned that the failure to look at deceased clergy files might mean that links between members of the clergy were missed.

Future scrutiny

The National Safeguarding Panel will hold future sessions on the outcome of PCR2. We will be focusing on the implementation of the recommendations and continuing to press for improved transparency, accountability and a change to the culture of the Church.