General articles

Child Protection – Guidelines for dealing with known offenders

In the light of some recent matters circulating regarding offending ringers, the following note is offered to clarify the situation as far as rehabilitation is concerned.

Both the Church of England and police have agreed procedures known as Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) for dealing with offenders returning to circulate in society. Depending on the nature and severity of offences, there may be restrictions placed by court order but irrespective of this known offenders will only be accommodated in church activities under strictly observed arrangements.

The acceptance of an offender as part of a church community is subject to guidelines contained in Section 8 of the House of Bishops document "Protecting all God’s Children". The basic premise is that an agreement is drawn up between the offender, parish priest and Diocesan Safeguarding Officer, each being a signatory to the document. The risk posed by the offender will be assessed and, as a result, limitations may be placed upon the individual as to those activities within the church which they may join and with caveats such as not being in close contact with children. Should the person leave for another parish then police and other appropriate agencies will need to be advised as indeed if the person leaves with no known destination. It should be stressed that offender agreements are kept in very tight confidence within a parish on a "need to know" basis and even the congregation may not be told without permission of the individual concerned. This is part of the pastoral care ethic regarding the rehabilitation of the individual.

The treatment of offenders is an emotive subject and individual ringers will have their own often diametrically opposed views. Each must follow their own conscience as to whom they ring with and what accommodation should be made regarding rehabilitation. Ringers should support their churches stand point and certainly be mindful of any restrictions and supervision which are called for. Unless there is a specific order to the contrary, there is no legal reason why an offender cannot join in a mixed age group provided that appropriate supervision takes place and they are not engaged in what would be an activity requiring CRB clearance (which of course they could not achieve).

Whilst the ringing fraternity is a close knit one and some offenders may be known in general circles, it is quite unacceptable for offenders to be named publicly on social media or other device, an action which could lead to litigation. The confidentiality of parish agreements has already been referred to and it should be understood that any "warning" advice about offenders, for whatever reason, should only emanate from Diocesan, parish or police officials. Tower captains should be advised by their parish officers of any exceptional circumstance which may apply and should not act upon any hearsay.

CHRIS MEW
on behalf of CCCBR
Tower Stewardship Committee

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers