The Diocese of Truro today (May 25, 2018) published the findings of a review that looked at the selection and employment of Jeremy Dowling within the diocese.

In June 2015, Jeremy Dowling pleaded guilty at Truro Crown Court to a number of charges of indecent assaults on boys between 1959 and 1971 while working as a teacher in a Cornish school.

In September 2016 he was further found guilty of indecent assault on one boy over the period of 1973-1977.

In addition, the Crown Prosecution Service left on file matters concerning the possession of indecent images of children on a computer.

Jeremy Dowling was closely involved with the church during these periods, and latterly employed by the diocese.

This case review was commissioned by the Safeguarding Committee of the Diocese of Truro and was researched and written by academic and magistrate, Dr Andy Thompson.

The key findings of the review are:

  • The diocese failed to instigate an independent investigation upon people within the diocese becoming aware of allegations of child abuse made against Jeremy Dowling.
  • There was an unacceptable reliance within the diocese on, and probably misunderstanding of, the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to proceed with a prosecution.
  • There was ongoing knowledge of the situation among senior figures in the diocese well into the 1980s.
  • In line with national policy and requirements the diocese has developed child protection and safeguarding policies. This has progressed and developed through the decades to the current situation overseen by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel which has significant external membership.
  • Current processes are robust and well thought-out but need continual monitoring and promotion. Senior post-holders in the diocese understand their roles and responsibilities and know how to respond to any allegation of abuse they receive.

The report makes six recommendations, all of which have been accepted by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel. The panel also made a further recommendation of its own which has been accepted by the Bishop’s Diocesan Council (See Appendix 3 of the report).

Since the research for the review was concluded, the diocese has further strengthened its safeguarding team with the addition of a part-time safeguarding trainer and a part-time safeguarding governance manager.

In recent years, the diocese has trained hundreds of people in safeguarding at different levels, from basic awareness modules available to anybody who attends church, to people who work in or lead and specific safeguarding training for parish priests, others in ministry, and office holders. Senior clergy and staff have also attended bespoke safeguarding training.

Responding to the report, the Rt Revd Dr Chris Goldsmith, Bishop of St Germans, said: “It was important for us to look into what happened in this situation and consider whether we as an organisation made mistakes at that time, and whether we can learn new ways in which to make the church safer for all.

“It is clear that abusive behaviour flourishes where there is a culture of secrecy, and so it was important that we made the findings of this review widely available. We are committed to being transparent.

“My apology on behalf of the diocese to anybody who has suffered as a result of past failings is abject, sincere and heartfelt.

“It was with a sense of disappointment, sorrow and shame that we read of a failure to act and make any independent investigation of Jeremy Dowling after the initial allegations were made.

“Thankfully, there have been changes in society and attitudes as a whole, changes to the law, and many changes to the structures, culture, procedures and policies of the church, and the Diocese of Truro is no exception.

“We would hope that these days the many policies we have in place, including Safer Recruitment, Safeguarding and Whistleblowing policies and a rigorous, comprehensive, and ongoing, training programme for hundreds of clergy and volunteers will help to make the church a safer place for all, but especially our most vulnerable.

“We have also in the past two years restructured our Safeguarding Committee to become the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel, which in Nigel Druce has an experienced chairperson who is independent of the church, and also now has a significant external membership. In this way we hope to be open to both advice and scrutiny from people who are independent of us, yet who want to work with us to ensure that the church can continue to be a significant force for good within our society.

“It is important that we learn from the legacy of abuse and use those learnings to build a culture in which every part of the church, from the smallest parish to the cathedral, views safeguarding as being an integral part of our culture. Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility and everybody’s business because the more people who are aware and talking about it, the better.”

The independent chair of the diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel, Nigel Druce, said: “We now have a much better understanding that any kind of abuse, particularly against young people, can have catastrophic effects for the rest of those individuals’ lives. We are talking about any kind of abuse which damages the relationship of trust that should exist between adults and children.

“In the past 12 months or so since I took over the chair from Jane Sloan, I have been impressed by the attitude at all levels within the church family.

“I would also like to reflect on the work of Ms Sloan in uncovering this case and the way that she dealt with it subsequently both within the church and with partner agencies.

“The publication of this important review reflects the attitude across the diocese of openness and learning, as was reflected in the recent SCIE report. We don’t see this publication as an end, but as a station on the journey of trying to make every aspect of life within the church family as safe as possible.”

Mr Druce was director of social services for Cornwall from 1986 until 2003. Under his leadership the county won plaudits for having one of the country’s most effective social services departments. It was one of only a few to receive the top, three-star rating in the government’s social services league tables at the time.  Mr Druce was awarded an OBE for his work when he retired from Cornwall County Council.

After leaving Cornwall Council, Mr Druce worked for two years as a national advisor on social services for the Improvement and Development Agency, part of the Local Government Association.

The report’s author, Dr Andy Thompson, was vice principal of North East Surrey College of Technology and assistant principal of Plymouth College of Further Education.

He is a reviewer for the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, a chair of Conduct and Competence Committees at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, a magistrate, and a member of the Bench’s Training and Development Committee. As a private consultant he advises on governance and management and carries out inspections, particularly with paper-based evidence.

Dr Thompson lives in Cornwall and has been involved in his local parish church for many years, and became a member of the Bishop’s Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Truro in autumn 2016.

Dr Thompson said: “My only real condition when I agreed to carry out the review was that I would be given access to any records that I believed were necessary.

“I was disappointed by what I found, but not surprised. Sadly, we have heard numerous examples of people in positions of power and influence behaving in a different way in the 1970s when it came to dealing with serious allegations. Certainly, it is a way that is entirely unacceptable by today’s standards.

“They saw the decision by the DPP not to proceed with a prosecution as meaning that they didn’t need to do anything, but my strong point is that they did have a responsibility to investigate. Because they didn’t take it any further it enabled Jeremy Dowling to reach a position where he made up his own rules, and his position within the church lent him credibility and authority.”

To access a copy of the report click here.