By Peter Ould
The Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 was designed to deal with a range of disciplinary issues concerning the clergy in the Church of England – but to the exclusion of matters of doctrine or ritual.The 1963 Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure (one of whose chief architects was the late +Eric Kemp) retained the jurisdiction inherited from the Victorian era, and ultimately from the middle ages, expressly as a criminal jurisdiction, modelled on the former Assize Courts.This meant among other things that the procedures of the consistory court when sitting under the EJM were those of a criminal trial, that prosecutors had to achieve a criminal standard of proof – beyond all reasonable doubt – in persuading the court to convict – and that the court’s sentences were effectively criminal convictions for what in some cases were relatively trivial offences. Its proceedings were open to the public and to the media.
The CDM was designed to be a civil tribunal and to operate without the full glare of publicity brought by EJM proceedings. The world’s press turned up for the trial of the Dean of Lincoln, Brandon Jackson, and the false evidence against him was published on the front pages of national newspapers. He was acquitted.
Those who preside at CDM hearings rely on a number of sources in determining whether a clerk has committed “conduct unbecoming”. Removal from office is in practice automatic if the person concerned has been divorced on grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. This is provided in the Measure itself. Other forms of misconduct are assessed by reference to a variety of sources, such as the judgement of the secular courts leading to a criminal conviction; and in less clear-cut cases to the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy; to guidelines issued by the House of Bishops or by the diocesan bishop concerned; and to many existing precedents. It is sometimes a simple matter of common sense that such an action as that alleged is simply immoral by any Christian standard.