To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are planning to give anonymity to sex abuse suspects before they are charged.
My Lords, as noble Lords will be aware, an amendment on this issue has been tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in Committee on the Policing and Crime Bill, which will be debated in early November. The Government’s position is that there should be a presumption of anonymity prior to charge for any sexual offence, but that there will be circumstances in which the public interest means that a suspect should be named.
In relation to allegations of sexual abuse, does my noble friend agree that many people are asking themselves and Members of both Houses of Parliament whether the presumption of innocence until proved guilty is still in existence? Is it not our duty to take action—either by instituting anonymity until the point of charge, as backed by the Director of Public Prosecutions last week, or by other effective means—to reduce the terrible toll of suffering caused by false and malicious allegations against innocent people in all walks of life? Finally, do the Government agree that the institutions of both state and Church need to show much greater concern for the reputations of eminent people from the past who cannot speak for themselves? I refer to statesmen such as Sir Edward Heath, traduced by Wiltshire Police without a shred of evidence, and the great bishop, George Bell, who died in 1958 and whose reputation has been severely damaged by today’s Church authorities as a result of a secret process—a kind of private trial, which was widely deplored in a debate in this House earlier this year.
I totally agree with my noble friend that the strength of our legal system is that people are innocent until proved guilty, and I hope that that always stays the case. I also completely sympathise with his point about the terrible suffering that people can go through when their names are made public but they are not in fact guilty of anything. I will not talk about individual cases but he mentioned people against whom the accusations were found to be groundless. It is important to say that there is a very fine and difficult balance to be struck. The voicing of victims’ concerns and the naming of people in the public interest to allow further evidence or further victims to come forward needs to be balanced with the right to privacy and protection of the person who is suspected.
MORE INFORMATION – LORD LEXDEN’S WEBSITE
Anonymity for sex abuse suspectsWednesday, 26 October, 2016
In a Lords debate on 30 June (see below), Alistair Lexden called for the introduction of measures to protect people suspected of sex abuse from harassment by the media and misconduct by the police which do grave damage to their reputations while they are under investigation without any charges having been laid against them.
He returned to this very serious problem, which has caused appalling personal tragedies, through an oral question in the Lords on 25 October.
He asked the government to give anonymity to sex abuse suspects before they are charged. Follow the link to read the exchanges which followed… Hansard
A retired Church of England priest has been found guilty of a string of sex offences dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.
Vickery House, 69, from West Sussex, had denied eight counts of indecent assault against six males aged 14 to 34, between 1970 and 1986.
He told the Old Bailey he was ashamed of his actions but claimed they were not sexual assaults.
House, of Brighton Road, Handcross, will be sentenced on Thursday.
The former vicar in Berwick, East Sussex, worked under Bishop Peter Ball, who was jailed for 32 months earlier this month after he admitted molesting young men between 1977 and 1992.
Sex abuse priest Gordon Rideout jailed for 10 years
20 May 2013
An Anglican priest who abused children in the 1960s and 70s has been jailed for 10 years.
Canon Gordon Rideout, 74, from East Sussex, who is now retired, was found guilty of 36 separate sex offences by a jury at Lewes Crown Court.
The attacks took place between 1962 and 1973 in Hampshire and Sussex.
Most of them were carried out at Ifield Hall children’s home in Crawley, when he was an assistant curate. The charges related to 16 different children.
Rideout, from Polegate, had denied 34 indecent assaults and two attempted rapes.
He was acquitted of one charge of indecent assault against a five-year-old child.
‘Position of trust’
Rideout was the assistant curate at St Mary’s Church in Southgate, Crawley, from September 1962 to September 1965.
During that time he regularly visited the Barnardo’s children’s home, Ifield Hall, which has since been demolished.
The majority of the offences took place there, although he was also convicted of four charges of indecent assault on two girls at the Middle Wallop army base, where he was a padre at St Michael’s Church on the site.
In 1972 he was accused of three indecent assaults at the base, but was cleared by a military hearing.
He was also the subject of a police investigation in 2001.
Nigel Pilkington, head of the CPS South East complex casework unit, said: “As an assistant curate and then chaplain, Gordon Rideout was in a position of trust which he systemically abused, indecently assaulting the vulnerable youngsters that he met over a number of years.
“He was able to wander through Ifield Hall and the gardens, even visiting children when they were sick and alone in bed.
“One victim recalled how the children would hide under their covers when he came into their dormitories.”
Mr Pilkington said a number of his victims attempted to speak out about the abuse, but were subjected to “brutal beatings” when they did.
“Some of his victims told police in interviews that it simply ‘wasn’t worth complaining’ because of the punishment they would receive in return,” he said.
“Instead the victims hid what happened to them for many years and none of us can begin to imagine the impact that has had on their lives.”
Barnardo’s director of children’s services, Sam Monaghan, said: “We are extremely saddened by this case and our deepest sympathies go out to those who have suffered; it has taken great courage for them to step forward and relive their experiences.
“We are glad that justice has been served and believe it is critical that abusers are held to account for their crimes, regardless of when they took place.”
Following the sentencing, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said Rideout had caused “immeasurable and destructive suffering over a long period of time”.
“He has also betrayed the trust and respect of many who have valued his ministry,” he said.
But in a statement, Dr Warner noted that the Diocese of Chichester was left with the question of why it had taken so long for “these grave accusations to be taken seriously and brought to trial”.
“What lessons do we all have to learn from this terrible catalogue of abuse about the strength and effectiveness of our communication within and between agencies that have responsibility for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults?
“In the Diocese of Chichester we shall continue to interrogate those procedures and to do our very best to ensure that we deliver the quality and standard that others expect of us.”
Gordon Rideout child sex abuse victims not believed
Jury retires in Gordon Rideout sex abuse trial
Canon Gordon Rideout denies child sex attacks in Sussex
Report into paedophile priests Cotton and Pritchard investigated
19 July 2011
The Church of England is starting an investigation into how inaccurate information was published in a report on two paedophile priests.
The report, by Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss for the Church, looked at how historic claims of abuse by two Sussex priests were handled.
Lewes and Hastings Archdeacon, the Ven Philip Jones, denied there had been a cover-up.
“The Church has gone to great lengths to make sure that is not the case.”
The report followed a review by Baroness Butler-Sloss into the cases of Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard, who abused children in the 1970s and 1980s.
Pritchard served as the vicar of St Barnabas, Bexhill, until 2007 after being arrested over sex abuse claims. In 2008 he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys and was jailed for five years.
The offences took place while he was parish priest at St Andrew’s Church in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.
The court heard that Cotton had been involved in the offences but died in 2006, two weeks before Pritchard was arrested. Cotton worked as a priest in Brede, near Rye, in the 1990s.
Cotton was ordained in 1966, despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choir boy in the 1950s, and went on to abuse at least 10 boys from Eastbourne.
Inaccuracies in the Butler-Sloss review came to light after a BBC investigation.
Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes, told the baroness that he had given Cotton permission to officiate in 1999 to permit him to celebrate communion in the nursing home where he was then living.
But the BBC discovered he was not admitted to the nursing home until September 2003.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Chichester said last week new information had come to light since its publication of the report, adding Cotton had been ill from 1999 onwards and may have spent some time in hospital.
The archdeacon said Bishop Benn “maintained consistently” that he had understood his information he gave to be accurate.
And he said the report was still credible.
“The main thrust of the report relates to safeguarding practice and the recommendations she has made are full and entirely to the point,” he said.
“We have taken the recommendations on board in their entirety.
“Ultimately our priority is for the safeguarding of children.”
Bishop Benn is away on sabbatical and was not available for comment.
Church ‘sorry’ for abuse failings
CofE agreed paedophile ordination
Church criticised over sex abuse
Review into sex abuse ‘failings’
“For many years now I have not always said in public what I think in private…I expect the number of things about which we cannot speak to grow…it is dangerous in these thought-policed times even to make such a confession…Freedom of speech and thought…are very delicate and easily smashed…Watching our current elite’s treatment of liberty is like watching a baboon carrying a priceless Ming vase across a stone-paved floor”
Sir, – A member of my immediate family is one of the young people who were members of the recently sacked bell-ringers at York Minster.
During their time there, they have been welcomed by the rest of the team and not only grown in their ringing ability, but also developed many friendships.
I have dared to hope that this young person would also be able to grow in their Christian faith that our family has always tried to nurture.
Disappointingly, this is what that young person has learnt from the actions of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster over the past few days:
That it is acceptable to mislead people to achieve a desired outcome.
That even when your untruth is discovered it is better to try to justify it than apologise.
That it is acceptable to punish many innocents for the (so far) unproven misdeeds of one individual.
That in the face of overwhelming support for those you have wronged it is acceptable to make no effort to correct the situation you have created.
That freedom of speech is unwelcome if it does not support your own position, and should be punished.
That it is better to build walls of division than extend the hand of reconciliation.
We are called to be Christ-like in our Christian faith. We are called to love, forgive, and reconcile with others, irrespective of where any fault may exist. We are called to show grace and mercy to all.
While many simply love to hear them rung, church bells serve as a reminder to all that God is here, and that many follow their call to worship Him.
The current silence of the bells of York Minster serves only to remind us that God may be so easily excluded from our daily lives.
It is all the sadder that this situation has resulted from the actions of such senior figures in the Church of England; and yet the opportunity still exists for them to remedy this, and correct the surely unintended messages above that they have thus far conveyed.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED