Leader comment: is this institutional corruption?


TUESDAY, an independent panel chaired by Baroness O’Loan concluded that the Metropolitan Police’s catalog of misconduct in the investigation into the Daniel Morgan murder in 1987 constituted institutional corruption. The force had been more preoccupied with its reputation than with the search for the truth. The panel said: “Covering up or denying flaws, in the name of the organization’s public image, is dishonesty on the part of the organization for the benefit of its reputation and constitutes a form of institutional corruption. This is a phrase the Church of England hierarchy would do well to consider. It was only when the Church listened to the experience of its black members and ethnic minorities that it confronted institutional racism. What would be the conclusion if he listened carefully to the clergy and laity who have been marked by his dysfunctional complaints procedures?

This week’s account of the Overend’s experience does little justice to the trauma they clearly suffered in the more than two years since Canon Overend was accused of assaulting a student 22 years earlier. Much of the delay was out of the hands of the Church: The freezing pace of the courts since the pandemic struck means thousands of victims and defendants have been denied justice. As of mid-April, the number of outstanding cases in Crown Court stood at 58,246, up from a pre-Covid benchmark of 39,331. (It has since declined slightly.) But what cannot be blamed on the civilian system is the treatment of Overends, and scores – maybe hundreds – like them. Because what is shocking is that their story is not unique or unknown. Thanks in large part to the work of the Sheldon Hub, where those accused of abuse and misconduct have a voice, similar accounts are in the public domain, most recently in its report I was handed over to the dogs (News, May 25). Perhaps the most common complaint is that the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty is ignored, sometimes reversed, when it comes to protecting. It’s hardly heartwarming to be offered pastoral support from a stranger when your chief pastor, the bishop you’ve worked with – and with whom you’re supposed to work again – treats you like he’s already doomed. .

According to the O’Loan panel, to be institutionally corrupt, an organization must “cover up or deny” its flaws. The use of nondisclosure agreements comes close to this behavior, and it is good to have been so firmly dismissed on the part of the archbishops; but also close is the attitude which recognizes the faults but does nothing to remedy them. There is a new measure of clergy conduct, which will be discussed by the General Synod next month. But it is not yet operational; It’s also not clear if he will tackle a backup system that allows disasters like Lincoln’s to happen.


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