A Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Diocese of Chelmsford was convened to deal with an allegation of adultery against the Revd William Bulloch. It was chaired by the Revd and Worshipful Judge Mark Bishop.
Counsel for the Respondent was Justin Gau instructed by Edward Henderson of Lee Bolton Monier-Williams.
Judgment was handed down on 20th January 2020.
The full charges were:
“ The conduct of the Respondent, the Reverend William Bulloch, Vicar at Leigh-on-Sea , St James the Great, was unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders within section 8(1) (d) of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 in that:
(a) failed to seek assistance or advice from the diocesan safeguarding team or senior diocesan clergy as to how 2 suitable help or support could be provided for her and/or as to how he should respond to her, and
(b) in the course of a number of conversations with her was rude and abusive by using foul and obscene language”
The background was that the principal complainant (‘AB’) approached the Respondent claiming to be extremely unwell. She then formed a pastoral relationship with the Respondent who offered her spiritual assistance in the form of visiting, prayer and the sacraments.
The Respondent was contacted by ‘Julian’ AB’s psychiatrist who explained that AB was dying and that she was in need of spiritual help to deal with her end of life care. The Respondent visited her daily, telephoned her daily, and, inter alia, drove her to visit Hospices. ‘Julian’ persuaded the Respondent to allow AB to move into the Vicarage for a two week period before Christmas when AB’s heating was cut off. The Respondent and his wife cared for her as she was by then, effectively bed ridden.
Some weeks later the Respondent’s wife and daughter spotted AB in hospital when they were visiting there. AB was walking unaided, was not wearing her invariable dark glasses and was talking and laughing without the need for oxygen. When she saw the Respondent’s wife and daughter she ran off.
When challenged about this behaviour by the Respondent AB gave an incoherent explanation. This was followed by a series of emails from a Dr Khokar who gave an elaborate medical account of how this apparent cure had occurred. The Respondent contacted the real Dr Khokar who had never heard of AB.
The Respondent challenged AB about these matters. Her response was to tell him that she was pregnant with his child.
She approached the Complainant with details of an affair but declined to name the Respondent for many months. During that time she made a series of covert recordings of conversations she was having with the Respondent. In these, it was alleged, there were admission by the Respondent to a sexual relationship. During the course of one of these conversations the Respondent was heard to lose his temper with AB who had arrived with an urn purporting to contain the ashes of their stillborn child.
The panel heard from; the principal complainant, the Archdeacon of Southend (Complainant), the Safeguarding Officer of the Diocese, the Respondent and his wife. The tribunal ordered the disclosure of two pieces of medical evidence from AB-her palliative care notes and her abortion act notes. Neither were produced. It turned out that the letter from AB’s GP had been edited by AB before being forwarded to the tribunal. The Chair ruled it inadmissible.
Having heard the evidence and read and heard oral submissions the tribunal agreed with the Respondent’s submissions that AB had created two fake identities and used false email addresses to trick the Respondent into forming a very close pastoral relationship with her by dishonestly claiming that she was dying. They were satisfied that she had also falsely claimed that she was pregnant and had manufactured medical and other evidence to support this false claim.
Of particular note was a video Instagram dated May 2017 at a time when AB was apparently suffering the effects of a miscarriage and unable to attend a meeting with the Complainant. She is seen to cavorting on a bouncy castle cheerful and fit.
Her dishonesty and manipulation were described as ‘egregious’. Her dishonest manipulation of the Respondent by getting him to tell her 7 year old daughter that she was dying when she was not in fact dying was ‘particularly chilling’.
The tribunal dismissed the claim of adultery.
The tribunal criticised failures of disclosure by the Designated Officer in the body of the ruling. It went on, however, to make trenchant criticism of the whole Clergy Disciplinary Measure procedure in these terms:
(i) investigation of all lines of enquiry that point towards the potential Respondent, but also point away from him, and
(ii) a proper disclosure exercise by the DO who prosecutes the complaint.
To view the judgment in full please click here.