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STATEMENT

Statement from Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc

13 October 2017

Ecclesiastical Insurance Office Plc (Ecclesiastical) has today published a response, dated 25 September 2017, to a letter from the Right Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth, and the Right Reverend Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, relating to Ecclesiastical’s approach to handling abuse claims.

Background

  • In September, Ecclesiastical received a letter from the three Bishops, writing in their own capacity, in relation to a mediation process with a survivor of sexual abuse by an Anglican priest several decades ago. 

  • The survivor, Gilo, brought a civil claim against the Church of England in January 2015 which was settled on a full and final basis in September 2015.  Ecclesiastical handled this claim on behalf of its customer the Church of England. 

  • The Bishops’ letter calls into question the way that Ecclesiastical handles the settlement of abuse claims and asks Ecclesiastical to review the full and final settlement made with Gilo. 

Our media statement

Ecclesiastical statement in response to letter from Bishops following Gilo mediation
13 October 2017

“We have profound sympathy for the victims and survivors of the horrendous abuse carried out by members of the clergy, and welcome the Church of England’s emphasis on putting survivors front and centre when making reparations for that abuse.

“As independent insurers, we are not responsible for the abuse perpetrated by those for whom the Church is accountable.  Our role is to handle insured claims for financial compensation fairly for these acts of abuse.  In doing so, our approach is to treat all survivors with sensitivity, compassion and respect, as outlined in our Guiding Principles.  We are proud our approach is recognised as industry-leading, not least by the survivors’ lawyers who gave evidence to the Independent Inquiry (IICSA) earlier this year.  

“We and other insurers are bound by comprehensive, industry-wide regulation that oversees the way we operate and handle claims, and by the civil justice system.

“It is not in our gift to change civil law, which defines the claims process.  Negotiations between lawyers – characterised in the Bishops’ letter as ‘horse trading’ – are a normal part of that process.  So are full and final settlements, which bring certainty to all parties within the civil justice system. These principles of civil law are understood by survivors’ lawyers, whose role is to explain these to their clients and to protect their rights and interests. 

“We suggest that those in the Church who desire changes to the law look to IICSA to recommend a way forward, as it investigates accountability and reparations across all sections of society, including the Church and the insurance industry.  

“It is, however, in the Church of England’s gift to provide further compensation as well as ongoing pastoral care to victims and survivors of clergy abuse if it so wishes.

“We simply do not recognise the description in the Bishops’ letter of our actions either in Gilo’s case, or in our general handling of abuse claims. Unfortunately, while we welcome the broad thrust of the Elliott Review on Gilo’s case, it is completely wrong about our conduct. We have repeatedly stated that we have documentary proof its conclusions about us are deeply flawed. 

“We call on the Church to examine all the evidence to ensure the Elliott Review is based on facts, not conjecture.”

ENDS

Our letter of reply to the Bishops, in full, can be found here

Summary of Ecclesiastical’s letter of reply to the Bishops

Introduction 

  • We simply do not recognise the description in the Bishops’ letter of our actions either in Gilo’s case, or in our general handling of abuse claims. 
  • The Bishops’ letter seriously misrepresents Ecclesiastical and therefore requires a response and clarification.  

Ecclesiastical’s Guiding Principles 

  • Our approach is to treat all survivors with sensitivity, compassion and respect.
  • Our Guiding Principles for handling PSA claims are recognised as industry leading. 
  • We have been praised for our approach by leading lawyers in the field, including Gilo’s, who have said to IICSA that we are the most progressive insurer in this area.

The role of insurance in PSA cases

  • As an independent insurer, we are not responsible for the abuse perpetrated by the Church’s employees.
  • Our role is to handle fairly insurance claims for financial compensation for these criminal acts.
  • We and other insurers are bound by comprehensive, industry-wide regulation that oversees the way we operate and handle claims, and by the civil law justice system.  

The claims process

  • The Bishops’ letter mis-understands how insurance works. 
  • It is not in our gift to change civil law, which defines the claims process.
  • Negotiations between lawyers – characterised in the Bishops’ letter as ‘horse trading’ – are a normal part of that process.
  • So are full and final settlements, which bring certainty to all parties within the civil justice system.
  • These principles of civil law are understood by survivors’ lawyers, whose role is to explain these to their clients and to protect their rights and interests. 
  • While we're responsible for providing financial compensation for our clients' criminal acts, we're not responsible for survivors' pastoral care.

Gilo’s case and the Elliot Review 

  • As stated previously, we support the broad thrust of the Elliott Review, and welcomed the Church’s progress report published in March 2017.
  • However, it is completely wrong about our conduct. We have documentary proof its conclusions about us are flawed - we did not advise the Church to withdraw pastoral care from Gilo.
  • We call on the Church to examine all the evidence to ensure the Elliott Review is based on facts, not conjecture
  • There is no basis to revisit the settlement agreed with Gilo and his lawyer on a full and final basis.
  • The Elliott Review has led to fundamental misperceptions of how we behave and how we handle claims more broadly, potentially to the detriment of survivors.

What the Church can do

  • We suggest that if the Church wishes to change the law it looks to IICSA to recommend a way forward, as IICSA investigates accountability and reparations across all sections of society, including the Church and the insurance industry.
  • It is within the Church's gift to provide additional financial compensation, as well as ongoing pastoral care, to victims and survivors if they see fit.
Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.