Wednesday 5 July 2017

Now you don't

Here's a funny thing. Just the other day I was flicking through some recent minutes of English Chess Federation board meetings, and in the ones for April I was surprised to come across this.

and specifically this little bit.

"CCF update"? What's that about, I wondered.

CCF, readers will recall, is the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship, subsidary of the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship, the religious cult in Surrey whose one-time leader was sent to prison for violent attacks on women and children.

Naturally, given the nature of religious cults, and given the possibility that senior members of that cult may have known about Curtis's actions or of allegations against him, this raises the question arose as to whether their chess organisation should continue to host events with children, or have its activities advertised by the English Chess Federation.

Meanwhile CCF, which is of course run by very long-term associates of Curtis, showed no signs of wishing to discuss what anybody had or had not known.

Anyway, as I'll be discussing below, I had no idea that any communication between CCF and the ECF was still going on, and so I sent an email to a director of the ECF just to ask what this "update" was about.

The response surprised me even more. The minutes themselves have now been updated.

They now look like this.

OK, the minute as it first appeared was published in error, these things happen, the "redacted" version is all we were supposed to see in the first place. Still, I have seen it, and now so will everybody else, and some people at least will wonder with me about the nature of the continued correspondence.

I said, above, that I had no idea that this was still going on. After Curtis was imprisoned, and for that matter after Rachel Warner and CCF had declined to make any further comment, I suggested that the official representatives of the chess community should consider declining to have anything further to do with this cult until fully satisfactory answers had been provided.

I said then, and I'll say again now, that I had much sympathy for ECF people, volunteers of course, who had all this land unasked for on their plates and had to deal with it. I continue to think this even if I don't agree with how it was dealt with. Anyway, I thought it had been dealt with, at least in the sense of having reached a point beyond which further progress seemed unlikely. Last June the ECF Board released a statement on the matter.
ECF Board Statement regarding the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship

The ECF Board has been formally approached by a number of ECF members and organisations. While these have approached the matter from different perspectives and different directions, they all focus on matters regarding safe guarding issues at the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship. Further they all arise from a recent conviction of a former member of that organisation.

The ECF takes matters relating to safeguarding very seriously and has a safeguarding policy for events run specifically by the ECF.The ECF Board understands and accepts the concerns of those members who have requested that it intervene in this matter. The ECF is very happy to discuss safeguarding practices, the ECF policy and the implementation of policy. It is also happy to refer members, clubs and organisations associated with the ECF to other sources of advice and expertise. The ECF pays for such support from SAFEcic.

However the ECF will not consider an intervention into specific cases, or allegations of risk in specific settings. In general the ECF has no special or specific standing in relation to child protection matters.

The only course of action open to the ECF is the same as that which is available to any member of the general public, namely the duty to report anything that might reasonably be an indication that there is a risk to a child or children. Our judgement is that there is nothing in the public domain or anything separately known to us, that could be reported to the appropriate authorities that is not already known to them. We have no other data or insight.

We are very happy to discuss this matter further with interested parties; we are also happy to provide guidance and advice in safeguarding matters.


Julian Clissold

NED on behalf of the ECF Board
I disagreed strongly with the statement, for any number of reasons, but to to avoid too much further repetition, let me cut it down to this: it seems very strange to say that the ECF doesn't have any information "that could be reported to the appropriate authorities".

In this instance the ECF is an appropriate authority, and the reason it didn't have any information is that CCF was choosing not to provide it. It's not simply a question of what the institutions of the law do or do not do, but one of whether the ECF is happy with the way another chess organisation is operated. If it isn't, it is perfectly within its rights to wash its hands of CCF and should do so. It doesn't depend on anybody else.

Instead, as I say, it seemed to be left where it was. I confess, I could have made further representations myself, but I didn't, taking the view that I had already written a great deal on the subject, that my views must have been more than clear and that I didn't think I was going to get any further than I had, which had not been very far.

So I left it - until now, since it appears that matters are still ongoing, even if by ongoing we mean "people who prefer not to answer questions currently prefer not to answer questions".

I suppose I find this more encouraging than anything else, and while I can't know from the now-redacted minute what is going on between the ECF and CCF, at least it tells me that something is, and that's it's an issue.

I just can't see that it helps to keep it from the rest of us that the issue remains unresolved. What's the point? What does it achieve? Isn't this potentially important to us as a community?

Incidentally I note from the tournament calendar that we still, as a community, appear to be advertising CCF's events, for example:

Maybe, especially if they're not being entirely co-operative, we could tell these people to sling their hook, until such time as we're actually satisfied that they might be a reputable bunch of people after all?

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